Much has been said about the holy trifecta of human interactions: family, friendship and love are essential needs we cannot do without. Two is always better than one, and even the most closeted person is still minimally reliant on others around him. We are hardwired that way, and though we can’t completely give up human interactions, is there anything wrong with trusting ourselves more than we trust others, or choosing to armor ourselves against our lovers and friends?
It’s cathartic – perhaps even therapeutic – to confide in others, to open up fully to a significant other, and to invest more trust in them than we do to ourselves. Margery Williams’ The Velveteen Rabbit makes a compelling argument in favour of loving (and being loved) unconditionally, with a simple but evocative story on the joy of being truly believed in by someone such that no matter how we change, they will always stay around with us. But the story misses out a vital point: the more vulnerable you are to a person, the more keenly the blade cuts when they disappoint or hurt us, intentional or not.
In HBO’s superlative television series, The Sopranos, long time mafia captain turned boss Tony Soprano, intricately (and manipulatively) controls everyone around him so that no individual can claim to know him well: his wife only knows the bare minimum and is merely a tool for reproduction; his mistresses are for pleasure and enjoyment but he never confides in them; his friends and remaining family members see different sides of his masks without ever getting a full picture on him; and his mafia captains / thugs that he is surrounded with can never figure out what he’s thinking so they are always second guessing him. Even if everyone came together, no one truly knew what Tony Soprano would do next.
To many, this may seem pathological, senseless and almost criminal to build up such a deceptive portfolio. However, this level of guard and detail meant that when Tony’s wife wanted a divorce, she had little to use against him, and when certain members of his mafia conspired against him, he was always many steps ahead of them. It’s not that Tony is shrewd (that’s also true of him) but rather he simply avoids the trap of falling too deeply into a friendship or relationship. After all, isn’t the start of anything always pleasurable and memorable? But when other things come into fray, perhaps money, work or power, disappointments and sneak attacks can become par for the course. Better to expect injury than to hope for joy. That way, you are immunised if people do worse, and when they do better, it’s just a minor bonus.
When you rely on yourself more, you are less likely to be affected by those around you. The existence of others, or lack thereof, is of no importance. What matters is your own fulfillment and the tending to of your own needs – something that’s surprisingly easy to see to. There’s a price to be paid for such a choice, and it denies us of something humane, and though this can quickly become dysfunctional as seen in Tony’s repeated dependency on a psychologist, when all is said and done, do we not ultimately answer only to ourselves?
So, have you thought about (HYTA) why it is better to rely on ourselves than on others?