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0 Understanding ourselves helps us to understand others

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Of all the skills we need to be happy and successful in life, getting on with others has to be among the most important. In order to get on with other people we need to understand them, and the best way to understand others is to understand ourselves, because as we will explore, beyond the screen of our awareness, the human mind functions in the same way in everyone.

Physically we think we are unique because we look different but scientists say that 99.9% of our DNA is the same, so biologically we are very similar.

Psychologically we feel we are even more unique. We may speak different languages, come from different cultures or countries, and have had different experiences. These are the contents of our memory. We identify ourselves with this content, which is unique, and this creates the sense of us being separate individuals.

Behind the scenes however, despite our apparent differences, our minds function in the same way.

Take the example of a couple who are arguing about what they should spend their money on. She may want a new phone and he may want to go on holiday. Each is attached to their own desire which creates conflict. If they explored that more deeply they would realise that the feeling of desire is the same in both of them. It is linked to an anticipation of pleasure and as soon as the desire is fulfilled the pleasure ends and they would feel empty again. If they understood that the nature of desire in both of them is the same, their conflict would end immediately. The other reason that their discussion can get quite heated is that each is attached to their view. They do not understand the mechanism behind this and so there is conflict. Without realising it we become attached to the content of our memory, because it becomes part of our identity. We then want to defend our opinions and beliefs and invent increasingly clever arguments why our view is correct. Any assertion of our identity brings us pleasure, because it strengthens the ‘me’. If both people understood the mechanism behind how our opinions are formed and how we get attached to them, the arguments would end.

In this way if we explored any feeling we would realise that the mechanism behind it is the same in all of us. We are all shaped by our past experiences, we all want to be happy and we all get hurt.

In the background, our minds function in similar ways - just as computers run the same operating system even though they have different contents stored in their memory. This ‘operating system’ is the same in all human beings.

If we can understand this fact, it can be life changing and has been for me. We might feel less alone. Realising that our minds function in the same way as in others may allow us to accept ourselves as we are and that may bring a sense of peace. It may allow us to understand and accept others, though they may look different and have different opinions from us, and that may lead to compassion and harmony in our relationships.

It would also allow human beings to come together and explore whether it is possible for us to change deeply, and live with less conflict in our lives, which would make the world a more peaceful place. We owe it to future generations to find out. This understanding is not complex, and is open to anyone who is willing to look within, accept what they see and question themselves. The book Understanding Me Understanding You is part of the non-profit Human Enquiry Project and enables everyone to understand themselves and how their minds work. You can find more details at humanenquiry.com, or on the Facebook page @humanenquiry. Please join us, to help make the world a better place.