Over the course of my emotional principles blogs, I’ve outlined some of the laws of emotional mechanics that govern our lives. One of the laws that eluded me for a long time—there are no doubt more—is that every interaction happens as a quid pro quo.

Every time something happens that isn’t consciously what you want, there’s an unconscious part of you that is getting what it wants.

What is quid pro quo?

Quid pro quo is a Latin phrase that literally means ‘what for what’, which could equally be rendered as ‘like for like’. Wikipedia describes it as “an exchange of equally valued goods or services.”

The term has been used since the 17th century to describe a conscious, agreed exchange where each party values what it gives and what it receives as equal.

We tend to think—if we think of it at all—that such exchanges are rare. Most of the time we feel we’re trading in an unequal market. The buyers and sellers we’re dealing with are all trying to get as much as they can while giving away as little as possible.

After all, this is probably what we’re doing, consciously or unconsciously.

Buying and selling life

This doesn’t just apply to financial arrangements. It applies to emotions, personal power and status, sexual exchanges, social media exchanges. Every interaction that we have involves an exchange of something for something. Usually, it’s more than one thing.

A job contract. A marriage contract. Ordering a meal off a menu, whether it’s at a Michelin-starred restaurant or a McDonalds drive-through. We’ve agreed to exchange a fixed sum of money for a Bic Mac, fries, and a Coke. In exchange, we expect to be fed. (I was going to say ‘nourished’, but that’s something else.) We also expect intangibles. We expect a certain taste, a certain high from the meal.

All that is an implicit part of the interaction. And it’s all quid pro quo. Somewhere, an invisible handshake takes place.

Jobs and lovers

We can apply the same logic to our jobs. We agree a certain income in exchange for working certain hours, delivering certain services. We agree to the best working conditions we can. Reducing our commute time. Remote working. Pensions, bonuses, flexible hours.

Again, there are intangibles. We want a nice working environment. Good tech. Decent coffee. Colleagues that we enjoy working with. Friday night drinks. None of that is in the contract, yet it’s all part of the quid pro quo.

Same again with our significant others. I’ll leave you to figure out what’s being exchanged, consciously or otherwise, in your most intimate relationships. It’s all ‘what for what’.

The jump

The jump comes in realising it’s all quid pro quo, even when we don’t get what we want.

Again, let’s start with financial transactions. That pay cut you accept. There’s a part of you that not only feels it has no choice to accept it—but actually welcomes it because it’s an accurate reflection of your low sense of financial worth.

That feeling of low worth has to be there. Otherwise, you wouldn’t accept. You’d walk away.

It’s the same with every area, every aspect, and every moment of your life.

Every time something happens that isn’t consciously what you want, there’s an unconscious part of you that is getting what it wants. It’s validating its own sense of disempowerment.

Understanding this principle helps you fire up your own conscious evolution.

To take ownership of your life, take ownership of the moments that don’t work for you. That involves accepting emotional responsibility for them. By recognising the underlying quid pro quo, you can identify the places where you’ve got work to do.

Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

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