Relational Beings

Humans are relational beings. We experience personal growth through relationships.

A relationship is an interaction with another person where you perceive that person as being different from yourself. The growth happens when you find a way to attach to each other in spite of this irreducible difference. You can’t grow through relating to yourself because that’s narcissism. Narcissism is a deeply infantilizing condition because it is incapable of accepting that other people, their feelings and thoughts are as important as yours. A narcissist is stuck in early childhood where other people exist only as a function of the self.

A small child learns to accept that other people are just that, OTHER people, with their own needs and desires through an interaction with what’s called a transitional object. The transitional object is a favorite toy or a blankie that the child drags everywhere and imagines as being alive. As parents know, it’s very important that the favorite toy or blankie never gets washed. It’s the lived-in look of the object that makes it precious.

Klara’s transitional object is a formerly white Arctic fox toy named Snowie. Snowie is absolutely real to Klara. She’s no longer white and looks kind of ratty but that’s what makes her valuable. She changes together with Klara and has marks of shared experience on her fur.

Snowie is a transitional object because ages not actually real. Klara enacts with her the possibilities inherent in having real relationships. The kind that are deep and survive any change, adversity or disappointment.

Now let’s think about the contrast between a relationship that a child sustains with the transitional object, with its physicality, fragility, complexity, and the much shallower experience of “relating” through text message, Snapchat and social media. I’m not even comparing the Snapchat mode of relating to the mature adult relationships. Even the transitional stage that small kids are supposed to is richer and deeper than the completely flat, self-referential existence of selfies and texts.

2 thoughts on “Relational Beings

  1. Do you remember yours transitional object? Don’t think I had one, or may be have completely forgotten about it.

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    1. Not only do I remember it, but I still have it. It was this small pig toy. I called him Чистюля and made beautiful, complex wardrobes for him. When my sister started teething, she bit off some of his nose. I nursed that symbolic wound for a long time. 🙂

      The toy traveled with me all the way across the world, the chewed up nose and all. 🙂

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