• kari

Why Soulmates Don't Exist

Updated: Nov 17, 2020

If there was only one question I could ask everyone I meet, it would be:

Do you think human beings are inherently good or inherently bad?

And, should this hypothetical restriction be so kind to allow me a second question, it would be:

Do you think the Nazis were inherently evil?

There is no possible way one can answer these without being endlessly fascinating.

I reckon such answers provide incredible insight into your psychological worldview – more specifically, whether you believe in the dominance of nature or nurture. A person who believes in the dominance of nature might believe that personality is fixed – that a person thinks and acts a certain way because they’re genetically (or spiritually) predisposed to.

But we know just from observing human behaviour that personality is extremely malleable. A personality is nothing but an abstract generalisation of repeated behaviours. Take this… you might say that someone is extraverted because they repeatedly choose socialisation over time alone, or you might say someone is kind because they let you play with their puppy whenever you want. Therefore, change your behaviours, and you can change your personality. You might feel like you are x or y but that is a self-imposed limitation, or conditioning. The person who constantly says they are terrible at remembering names will continue to be terrible at it – it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If you’re not convinced, take the famous Stanford Prison Experiment. You for sure know about it so I’ll spare a lengthy description, but for those who don’t -- Basically it was an experiment centered around a mock prison, and 24 volunteers were either assigned as guards or prisoners. Although the study only lasted 6 days, participants internalised their roles and changed their personalities to suit their duties. A few of those assigned to be guards started exhibiting sadistic & cruel behaviour even though prior to the experiment they were tested to be psychologically healthy and neurotypical.

Sidenote: A big, big criticism of the Stanford Prison Experiment was that the participants behaved sadistically because they thought that’s what the researchers wanted. If that’s the case, that’s even more amazing. It’s proving the conclusion of the Stanley Milgram experiment, that found that people will commit horrific acts under the instruction of blind authority. Both of these studies speak about the malleability of personality, behaviour, and identity.

So what I’m saying, and to answer the questions I posed earlier, is that no one is inherently good or bad. And supposing you fulfil all the requirements (i.e. you’re not a minority, you resemble a Hitler Youth poster), you probably would’ve been a Nazi had you been raised in that particular zeitgeist.

Okay, you’re saying, cut the crap kari, why are you talking about evil? When are you getting to the part about soulmates?

To be committed to the idea of a soulmate, you have to be committed to the idea of a soul. And to be committed to the idea of a soul, you have to believe that there is some part of you – a spirit, an essence, an agency – that transcends your doughy body.

Although this is a Christian idea, it’s not super hard to see this in a secular lens. It stops being secular once you view the soul as immortal.

Through a secular lens, a soul is a fatalistic identity. That somehow your soul is a fixed personality – a spiritual destiny. Your soulmate, then, is a romantic destiny.

So if you believe in the concept of soulmates, you believe that there is one perfect person out there with a personality that is perfectly compatible with yours, and that you are destined to be with them. But this is a very fixed-personality mindset. Just like one might believe that people are inherently good or evil, one can believe that there is one person out there that is inherently perfect for them.

There have been studies that show that this kind of thinking is detrimental to relationships.

If you believe that your partner is your soulmate, and you encounter some kind of problem early in the relationship, you might feel a strong urge to sever the relationship because they have failed to meet up to your “soulmate” expectations.

Think about it like this – let’s say Jack has some weird-ass belief that he’s a naturally talented guitarist, BUT ONLY IF he finds the perfect guitar that complements the size and dexterity of his fingers. He takes a trip to the local music shop, picks up his first guitar. Finds out he sucks at it. Picks up another. Sucks. Picks up 5 more, all the same. Instead of being a normal goddamn person and practising every day until he is a great musician, he instead concludes that he just hasn’t found the right guitar for him.

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