As I was studying Existential Psychology, I discovered a blog post that offered some insight about another philosopher, Martin Buber. Makenna Berry, on her SayBrooke.edu website, provided this quote by him, “I believe that the key to creating society that is nourishing, empowering and healing for everyone lies in how we relate to one another.” He, much like Viktor Frankl (discussed in a recent article of mine) felt that our existence is reflective of free will and therefore our beliefs, choices and perceptions, whether conscious or not, enable us to live a dysfunctional or healthy life.
Buber’s philosophy about I-Thou and I-It connection is what really resonated with me.
Makenna explained it this way, “In the I-Thou encounter we relate to each other as authentic beings, without judgment, qualification or objectification. I meet you as you are and you meet me as who I am. In the I-thou relationship what is key is how I am with you in my own heart and mind. The I-It encounter is the opposite in that we relate to another as object, completely outside of ourselves.”
To me this is the difference between an authentic connection with another human being or a dehumanizing connection reflective of a relationship that does not recognize a partner as a equal human being. In this off balanced relationship the person is objectified for perhaps sex, or maybe even idolized and treated more like an image instead of a real person.
If you look at the media today you will see how women are objectified for sex, just open a magazine; it is difficult to find an authentic photo of a female because most of what is presented is portrayed in a sexual context. In these situations, a person caught up in such a scenario is likely to have dysfunctional I-It relationships.
Buber’s theory focuses on how we engage the connections in our world; authentically and equally recognizing me as “I” and you as “thou” or unbalanced where “I” have the power and you are recognized as an “it”, causing dysfunction in our families and communities.
It is important for each of us to look beyond labels of populations, past differences and instead we need to embrace our individualities and encourage one another through nurturing heart to heart connections. Regardless of gender, race or economic status of others, we are all in this together, one person is not any better than the next; this mindset is the foundation to Buber’s point and the key to building healthy communities.
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