Learning to Live Together

Reciprocity – the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit – is widely recognised as an important feature of successful co-operation but how does reciprocity between ordinary people actually work?

Mary hits Joan.  Joan is angry so she hits Mary back – repaying her in kind.

An eye for an eye.

Tit for tat.



Positive and negative, it’s a if there is a hidden balance that must constantly be maintained.  Impulses like revenge solve nothing of course but this striving for reciprocity appears to be deeply rooted within us. It’s naturally occurring and is neither good nor bad in itself – only in its application.

If we look at our instincts as tools to help us survive and develop, rather than tie ourselves up in knots either suppressing or exalting these naturally occurring impulses, then maybe it might be easier to use them properly.

Instincts are simultaneously wonderful and problematic – like any tool. Even a humble hammer is all about application – it is enormously useful and – literally – constructive, if you want to hang a picture or build a cabinet or a wall but in other circumstances it can also be used to destroy or kill.

The solution is not to get rid of hammers but make sure we use them properly.  Just like our instincts.

12 comments on “Learning to Live Together

  1. I’ve struggled with balance and with trusting my instincts (especially lately when they seem to be influenced by my changing hormones).

    • Well, the thing about instincts (hormonally based and otherwise) is that they exist. The other thing is that they arrive outside our conscious control and they can get the upper hand unless we take them into account – we shouldn’t obey them necessarily – sometimes we need to over-ride them, in fact – but we always need to acknowledge them. Thanks for the comment – much appreciated.

  2. Tilly Bud says:

    We saw it in SA in the Eighties. Once someone had the courage to say, ‘Let’s talk’, things began to change.

  3. nrhatch says:

    When we learn to accept the what is . . . we are less inclined to lash out at the slightest provocation.

    “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Viktor E. Frankl

    It is in that space that we live our lives.

  4. granbee says:

    Wonderfully reassuring photo of Malagas market. Thanks for sharing. Your essay on “aiming” our instincts in the correct directions is very much on point–and very much needed. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  5. Patricia says:

    Our attitude has a lot to do with how we use are instincts. Usually good attitude wii allow good instincts to prevail–bad attitude and the baser side of nature shows.

  6. eof737 says:

    reaching out… always bears fruit. 🙂

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