08 Mar The True Nature of Reality: Relational Experience – Part 26

Relational Experience:

Concepts are ideas we form about ourselves, others, and our environment. Just like Labels are single word Identifiers for a long list of Attributes, a concept is a simple abstraction of the interactive relationship between two or more Identifiers.

Relational Experience is the third component of conceptualization. While Labeling and Attribution work together to identify various entities in our environment, Relational Experience moves deeper to include our interaction with those entities, creating a type of relational context between us and an object.

“Relational Experience moves deeper to include our interaction with the world around us.”

In a previous journaling exercise, we examined the label “dog” and listed its attributes. Now, Relational Experience examines what happens when we interact with a dog. This experience can be learned many different ways like socialization, cultural norms, or education. Or, we may hear a story from a friend about what it’s like to own or play with a dog. The strongest level of experience, however, comes from personal experience, the relationship we perceive while interacting with an actual, live dog

So how does Relational Experience affect Conceptualization? It affects the objectivity of the concept we create in our minds.

A Myriad of Possibilities:

Experience can be extremely fickle and full of apparent circumstantial evidence that we tend to view as undeniably proof of a preconceived idea. We do this because we have a hard time denying how real an actual experience feels. If it happens to us, and it is something we can see, hear, smell, taste, and touch, then we are going to believe our experience is direct proof of our reality.

The problem with this line of thinking is not that what we are experiencing is false, but our unwillingness to admit our experience is just one of myriad possibilities. Our natural tendency is to feel like our personal experience somehow cancels out all other possibilities and presents itself as the one real truth. It is more accurate to say, however, that there are many possibilities with many different outcomes when we interact with an object. We can test this by examining the varied experiences of different people.

“Our natural tendency is to feel like our personal experience somehow cancels out all other possibilities and presents itself as the one real truth.”

In the example of the dog, we can think of several different relationships that might become part of a person’s concept of a dog. A small child who holds a cute puppy in a pet store is going to have a different Relational Experience with a dog than the child who is viciously mauled by a large pit bull. One child will view dogs with complete adoration while the other will view the same object with complete fear.

While the  label and attributes of a dog remain more or less static, a person’s experience is vulnerable to circumstance and chance. And yet, as individual thinkers, we find it difficult to dismiss our personal experiences as near-random. The effect of Relational Experience shapes the way we see the world and creates strong mental and emotional concepts that stay with us our entire lives. Even as adults, you can bet we will base our decision to get our small child a dog on our own experience, estimating this direct interaction with life as the most reliable proof of knowledge we possess.

Write about your personal experience of interacting with dogs at a young age. If you didn’t interact with them, they write about why. If you have another favorite animal, you may choose to substitute it for the dog.

We have identified other labels in the past few journaling sessions. Write a few sentences about your most vivid personal experiences with the following concepts: Milk, Father, Blue

Think of your philosophy about life. What is it? Write about what direct experiences shaped this belief. Why do you believe this concept to be true?

We previously journaled on the objectivity of a Label and its Attributes. How does Relational Experience change this objectivity into a more subjective practice?

Write about something you once believed to be true that you no longer believe. What experiences lead you to form the false belief? What experiences caused you to abandon your old way of thinking and helped you accept a new way of thinking?

Write five different experiences someone might feel about one object. Ex. If the object is a “car”, then one person’s experience might include a toy car they received for Christmas, while another person’s experience might be having lost a limb in an accident. Still another might have built their own kit car, won a car in a sweepstakes or had their car stolen.

How does Relational Experience alter one’s view of seeing the world. Are theses changes desirable or undesirable?

What is the difference between experience that helps us make wiser decisions and experience that clouds our ability to choose wisely? Why does this difference occur?


Michael Ken