Sonder: The profound feeling of realizing that everyone has a life as complex as one’s own

This is a neologism created by John Koening. (See the CBC article What does it mean to ‘sonder?’ Author invents new words that resonate during the pandemic.)

This can be taken as a pointer and not just a description.

WHEN I USE IT AS A POINTER

As a pointer, I find it profoundly transforming to the extent I take it in and allow it to work on me.

What happens when I take it in?

No matter how well I think I know someone (including myself), I find that…

My images and ideas of the other are questions about them. They seem almost pointless. The other is so much more than any of those ideas. They are necessarily very different from those ideas. My assumptions are almost certainly wrong, and superficial, and say more about me than them.

No matter how much I get to know others and myself, I hardly know anything. And that’s beautiful. That helps me hold my ideas more lightly and recognize them as questions. We are all far more and different, and most of it is outside of what I (tell myself I) know.

IF I KNEW MORE ABOUT THEM

There is a related insight here:

If I knew more about them and their life, I would see them very differently. I may have far more understanding and find far more empathy for them. I would likely genuinely wish them the best. 

If I also knew more about myself, I would see myself in others far more easily. 

So why wait? Why not go there right now, even if I don’t know so much about others (or myself)? 

Why not recognize that my stories about them are incomplete, likely quite wrong, and say more about me than them? Why not find curiosity about them (and me)? Why not realize that we are immensely complex and rich and live rich lives? Why not find empathy for others and myself? Why not genuinely wish them and me the best? Why not find in myself what I see in others? Why not see in others what’s in me? 

HOW TO INVITE THESE SHIFTS

How would I do that?

The reminder itself may be enough. When I remember that the experience of others is as rich and complex as mine, I can easily imagine it. (It’s an intentional use of projections.)

Otherwise, the obvious one is to get to know others more thoroughly, especially the ones I see as quite different from myself. For instance, I can take in stories about others – through conversations, books, movies, theater, and so on. (John Koening is an author, and writing books is another since it requires us to imagine into the rich lives of several others.)

There is also a range of structured explorations that invite in these shifts as a side-effect: Inquiry (The Work of Byron Katie, Kiloby Inquiries), projection and shadow work, parts work (Voice Dialog, Big Mind process), and heart-centered practices (tonglen, ho’oponopono, metta).


INITIAL DRAFT

This is one of the pointers that our mind may dismiss and obvious and not so important, and that can be profoundly transforming to the extent we take it in and allows it to work on us. 

What happens when I take it in? I find that my images and ideas of others seem almost pointless. They are so much more than any of those ideas. They are necessarily very different from those ideas. The assumptions I have are almost certainly wrong, superficial, and says more about me than them. 

If I knew more about them and their life, I would see them very differently. I may have far more understanding for how they are and how they live and have far more empathy for them. I would likely genuinely wish them the best. 

If I also knew more about myself, I would see myself in others far more easily. 

So why wait? Why not go there right now, even if I don’t know so much about others (or myself)? 

Why not recognize that my stories about them are incomplete, likely quite wrong, and says more about me than them? Why not find curiosity about them (and me)? Why not realize that we are immensely complex and rich and live rich lives? Why not find empathy for others and myself? Why not genuinely wish them and me the best? Why not find in myself what I see in others? Why not see in others what’s in me? 

How would I do that? There are many ways to support these shifts, including inquiry, projection and shadow work, and heart-centered practices. 

How is it to realize and take it in? How is it to allow my human self to soak in it? How would my life be different? How would I relate to others differently? How would I relate to myself?

….

SECOND DRAFT

This is a neologism created by John Koening. (See the CBC article What does it mean to ‘sonder?’ Author invents new words that resonate during the pandemic.)

This is as much a pointer as anything else.

WHEN I USE IT AS A POINTER

As a pointer, I find it profoundly transforming to the extent I take it in and allow it to work on me.

What happens when I take it in?

No matter how well I think I know someone (including myself), I find that…

My images and ideas of the other are questions about them. They seem almost pointless. The other is so much more than any of those ideas. They are necessarily very different from those ideas. The assumptions I have are almost certainly wrong, superficial, and says more about me than them.

No matter how much I get to know others and myself, I hardly know anything. And that’s beautiful. That helps me hold my ideas more lightly and recognize them as questions. We are all far more and different, and most of it is outside of what I (tell myself I) know.

IF I KNEW MORE ABOUT THEM

There is a related insight here:

If I knew more about them and their life, I would see them very differently. I may have far more understanding and find far more empathy for them. I would likely genuinely wish them the best. 

If I also knew more about myself, I would see myself in others far more easily. 

So why wait? Why not go there right now, even if I don’t know so much about others (or myself)? 

Why not recognize that my stories about them are incomplete, likely quite wrong, and says more about me than them? Why not find curiosity about them (and me)? Why not realize that we are immensely complex and rich and live rich lives? Why not find empathy for others and myself? Why not genuinely wish them and me the best? Why not find in myself what I see in others? Why not see in others what’s in me? 

HOW TO INVITE THESE SHIFTS

How would I do that?

The obvious one is to get to know others more thoroughly, especially the ones I see as quite different from myself. Taking in stories – through books, movies, theater, and so on – is one way to realize that others have as rich a life as myself. (John Koening is an author, and writing books is another since it requires us to imagine into the rich life of several others.)

I have also explored other ways to invite these shifts: Inquiry (The Work of Byron Katie, Kiloby Inquiries), projection and shadow work, parts work (Voice Dialog, Big Mind process), and heart-centered practices (tonglen, ho’oponopono, metta).

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