Most of us wear a kind of mask, a persona that hides our deepest thoughts and feelings, and presents a polished, controlled face to the world.
Much of the time, we interact mask-to-mask with other people. There’s a place for that. But remember times when someone saw through your mask to the real you, the person back behind your eyes. If you’re like me, those times were both unnerving and wonderful.
Even though it’s scary, everyone longs to be seen, to be known. Besides the ways that seeing the person behind the eyes benefits others, it’s good for you.
And it’s good for others, too. When someone gets that sense from you, that he or she exists for you as a person – not just as a pain in the neck or as someone to manage to get through this meeting, dinner, bedtime routine, phone call, or sexual experience – then it’s much easier to take care of the matter at hand, whatever it is.
Sensing the deepest layers in people can nourish you in other ways, too. For example, I had a relative with a big heart but a difficult personality that drove me a little crazy. Finally, I started to imagine that being with her was like looking at a bonfire through a lattice covered with thorny vines. I focused on the love shining through and warming my own heart, and didn’t get caught up in the vines. That helped both of us a lot.
This week, with different people, get a sense of the person behind the eyes. It’s not a staring contest; it can actually help to look away so you’re not distracted by surface details. (While I’m using the word “see,” of course you are also hearing the person behind the words, sensing the person embedded in the body sitting across from you.)
Take a moment to relax and set aside your case about the other person, and open yourself to the person down in there somewhere, maybe rattled and defensive and acting in ways that are problematic, but really just yearning for happiness and some way to move forward in life.
Notice how this recognition changes the course of an interaction – perhaps softening it, making it more authentic, leading to a good resolution more gently and quickly.
As an advanced practice, you could even raise the subject with someone, of the degree to which you feel seen (or not) as persons by each other. That kind of conversation can transform a relationship.
Last, enjoy being a person yourself, the channel through which your life streams – with some of the richest streaming being the other persons all around you.