The book by Christine Gross-Loh and Michael Puett called “The Path” is more than a self-help book. It’s also part of a course that Puett teaches in Harvard, which is known as the “Classical Chinese Ethical and Political Theory.” Currently – the course is ranked the third most attractive and engaging one at the University.
The book – Classical Chinese Ethical and Political Theory – is loaded with ancient insights and wisdom that can aid a person into rethinking the choices they make daily which will lead to content and happiness in life.
The most unusual and revolutionary idea from the book is based on Confucian’ teachings. It’s a series of conversations between Confucius and disciples. One of the things that Confucius shared via “Analects” was – “Overcoming the self and turning to ritual is how one becomes good”.
The book’s authors – Christine Gross-Loh and Michael Puett – uses examples from real-life for illustrating the meaning of the above quote to today’s readers. People involved in intimate relationships – they write – are constructing them on a constant basis and creating new realities. They are doing so by telling simple white lies. And one of them is the phrase, “I love you!”
Couples who constantly say “I love you” do not mean it because they don’t feel love all the time. However, nurturing such relationships via these rituals come with a greater good. These rituals help them in breaking from the reality and entering a zone where they feel in love and content. At that moment expression of love is on the way. In a committed relationship, you have to behave on other’s conditions and that is not artifice.
The books says:
But there is a greater good in nurturing the relationship through such rituals that let them break from reality and enter a space where it’s as if they do love each other fully and at every moment. At the moment that they express their love in an as-if way, they are really doing it.
The authors’ interpretation is based on the teachings of Confucius. They talk about the concept of “True Self.” True feelings are part of a misguided idea. What we are is part of our behavioral patterns. We are the way we act – according to Confucius. And since there are different ways to perform, we humans have many possible selves.
Breaking free of our rote behaviors, and replacing them with new “as-if” rituals, is a way of recreating our self.
“A Confucian approach would be to note your patterns and then work to actively shift them,” the authors write. “Over time you internalize a more constructive way of acting in the world instead of being led by your undisciplined emotional reactions.”
Change your behavior, Confucius might say, act as if, and your feelings and role in the relationship will likely shift accordingly.