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understanding human relationships

In life, we have our internal experience, our behavior, and the other person’s behavior. That’s all. Out of these three, we want to form rewarding relationships, relationships that make us feel good and happy. The gap lies in the missing element: the other person’s experience. We can’t know the other person’s experience, only our own when understanding human relationships. When we get upset it is a giveaway that we don’t even know the depth of our own experience either.

Understanding Behavior & Experience

Experience is simply what goes on for us in the physical body. For example, a throbbing head, a runny nose, a queasy stomach. Behavior is how we translate the physical experience into actions and conduct, toward ourselves and others. So a runny nose might make me tired and impatient. A queasy stomach may make me stay home. The physical symptoms are as close as we can get to facts. We interpret our facts with our minds and out pops behavior. While we recognize that our own behavior is related to the internal experience we don’t have that benefit with the other person.

relationship behaviors

A few weeks ago my car was hit from behind while I was at a stoplight. I was jerked back, my neck and shoulders tensed up, my body froze briefly as my brain sorted out what happened. Then, my mind kicked in, “Oh great, the car is damaged. This will be time-consuming and inconvenient.” The other driver got out, apologized, and said it was her fault. We pulled our cars off the busy street. My behavior was courteous but wary, wondering if her story would change before her insurance paid for my repair. Just as we finished exchanging information she apologized again and added, “I’m on the way to see a friend in hospice. I haven’t been there since my husband died two years ago.” In the few seconds, for her to say those words, my bodily experience changed. My chest, arms, and back relaxed. The muscles of my face softened. My behavior went from guarded courtesy to sorrow and compassion.

My experience of the accident was real. My assumptions and concerns were not. At the end of our conversation, I still did not know her experience but her behavior changed my bodily experience and my demeanor.

Communicating with Loved Ones

communicating in relationships

The opaque nature of another person’s experience extends to people we have known long and intimately, including family. I know my husband’s behavior very well after 36 years of marriage. But, truthfully, I have no idea of his experience.

I have allergies and when I sleep on my back to more easily breathe, then I snore. My husband has worn earplugs to sleep for at least 20 years. A few weeks ago he commented in passing on the discomfort of the earplugs. Twenty years of experience. I had no idea. So I asked him to nudge me to turn on my side so I stop snoring and he doesn’t have to wear the earplugs. I reasoned I could learn a new behavior and he could have a new experience. The first time he did this my experience on being wakened from a deep sleep was confusion and irritation. Now I just turn over. Hopefully, he’s having a new experience.

Communicating in Personal Relationships

personal relationships

Recently, a longtime friend got really angry and verbally attacked me. It was unexpected; I couldn’t breathe (shock); I was speechless (dismay). Then the thoughts arose (unfair and vicious) and the emotions (hurt and anger).

All I had in this situation was her behavior, my experience and my behavior. I could make no sense of what happened. It’s never possible to ‘figure it out’. Mental gyrations only fuel the hurt and anger. All I had to work with was my own experience. My behavior was the emotional response to my experience.

For a few months, I meditated using the hurt and anger to evoke the bodily sensations. Why would the verbal explosion of another person affect me so deeply? As children we chanted a rhyme: “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” It isn’t true, words can be terribly hurtful, but in some deep place in my heart, I believe in the ideal.

What came out of my memories and the cells of my body were all the times I was attacked as a child and my attempts to be heard raised no protective instincts from any well-meaning adult. The time a bigger kid knocked me off my bike and into a ravine. The time a teenage boy trapped me and I almost didn’t get away. The times I was punished without being allowed a defense. On and on the memories and sensations were there to be retrieved and they poured into my consciousness.

close relationship

Although a current event triggered my hurt, the deeper wounds are the many unresolved and unfair attacks of childhood.

As for my friend I don’t know her experience. It lays hidden within her. Only she can access that. For my part, the more I am aware of my experience, the more I grasp in my being and with my heart that nothing she did or said is unforgivable. Relationships can be repaired and healthier. That can’t occur if I remain stuck in the conviction that her behavior is what matters. Her behavior is her business, not mine. I may choose not to be around her as a result of her behavior but what matters is that I am in touch with myself.

Using Experience to Change Behavior

psychology human behavior

I can’t effect a change in my behavior at the level of behavior. I must delve into my experience and change will come from the experience of myself. As Joko Beck observed, the rug just lays there quietly on the floor. We take its’ behavior for granted never considering its’ experience. A powerful microscope can reveal the truth: atoms vibrating and dancing at breakneck speed. We must turn the microscope on ourselves to appreciate our own experience as well.

All of spiritual practice is about returning to our true experience. Then we will know what is the ‘right’ behavior and action to create the rewarding relationships we seek.


If you’re looking for spiritual healing in Scottsdale, reach out and contact Dr. Sandra Egli at Center of Intention to start your holistic journey. Call 480-582-3374 today!

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Meditation: Sandra Egli
Music: Torey Ronhovde

The wisdom of a thousand generations guides you today. Only listen. Without a sound their voices reverberate in your cells. Settle within and choose your path.

All of us come from strength, fortitude, perseverance. No matter how difficult their lives, our ancestors made it through and passed on life for the next generation. Over and over, until it came to you. The intelligence that guided them has also come to you.

To Thine own Self be true.

If I could present you with a single blessing, it would be the gift of Mindfulness. Awareness of yourself: body, emotions, and self-talk, all the time. Our immediate experience is the ultimate exploration that only grows richer with time. What we do or don't do, and the roots of our behavior, are accessible with the simple practice of noticing immediate experience. It is this practice that makes it possible to know and be true to ourselves.


Sandra's graceful way of listening & non-judgmental demeanor allowed me to open up effortlessly. I was certain, as I left her office, that I had received precisely the healing I needed.

Female client, age 44
Phoenix, Arizona