For the most part, whenever someone would mention my sister to me, invariably they would say: "She ignores me" and I would respond:"Yep, that's my sister: if she has no use for you...she's not interested".
I felt there was something intensely de-humanising in treating people this way, as if they were mere pieces of machinery. You always felt sort of lifeless after interacting with someone like that, whereas with other people I felt energised after spending time with them. I remember discussing this with various friends and acquaintances, but I seemed to be the only one who was aware of this "effect". Most of my interlocutors would look at me as if they hadn't the faintest idea of what I was talking about. I had started wondering whether I was "imagining" all this, when I found an explanation in the book ("When You're Falling, Dive" by Mark Matousek) that I was reading at the time.
It seems to me that certain books have a way of "finding" me instead of me finding them. At times when I was feeling really stuck and not being able to move forward, I would either be browsing in a book shop and some book would catch my eye, or someone would come along and lend me a book; and in that book there would be something to help me move along in the path. This was one of those books. (It is not an easy book to read. Some of the stories are brutal and Matousek does not shelter the reader from them, but although harrowing, it has a raw honesty that you don't find in many books. He tells you the truth that you don't want to hear: that there is no way around pain but through.)
In one of the chapters in the book, "The Net of Indra", he interviews Dan Goleman, who discusses some points of his book "Social Intelligence". Dan Goleman explains that "the brain itself is social" and "One person's inner state affects and drives the other person. We're forming brain-to-brain bridges -a two way traffic system- all the time. We actually catch each other's emotions like a cold". He then goes on to say that "If we're in distressing, toxic relationships with people who are constantly putting us down, this has actual physical consequences. Stress produces cortisol, a chemical that hinders cell health." So there it was: the explanation of why some people would make me feel ill, literally. It is so reassuring to the soul to be validated, and to realise that all those feelings that you had, you weren't imagining them: they were an actual process taking place. That was validation 1, now for nr 2...
As the chapter continues, Goleman goes on to describe two types of relationships: "the I-It and the I-YOU (first described by the philosopher Martin Buber). I-it relationships happen when we treat people as objects or functionaries because we want something from them. In I-YOU relationships, there's a human connection. There's feedback, a loop, because who the other person is, and what they have to say, matters."