If you have ever asked a friend: what do you think of me? Then you know the tension that can hang in the air while you wait for a reply. We long for some appreciation or awareness of how good a friend we are, how “just” a human being, how interesting is our character, and at the same time we quiver with apprehension that our deepest fears and doubts about ourselves are about to be exposed. Well this blog is not about that — in the blunt words of one of my friends: “Enough about you!”
Hard as it is to ask the question above, I am asking you to imagine asking instead: How am I doing with you? This question opens the door to our interactions — to the other person. It reveals the largely out of awareness dance between us where we alternate leading and following, teaching each other new steps and co-creating a dance that could evolve only out of we two in this place.
In the words of some scientists, philosophers and elders we are “mirrors” for one another. But when we look into the mirror of the other what we tend to see is only our own image reflected. If we look deeper into this mirror of the other we see something different – we see how we are doing with them in their flow of responses to everything about us – our voice and stance, our language and emphasis, our facial expressions, our gestures, our emphases, even our breathing. If you want to know how you are doing in the world – look at the people with you in any moment of time and place.
We have a story about ourselves that is partial – the view from the inside. When we leave out the response of the other we can’t know who we are becoming, only who we have been.
Research into child development indicates that parenting of infants has a dual role – one is to respond adequately to each gesture, sound and movement of the baby and the other is to translate the intention and meaning of each gesture, sound and movement for the baby through our responses to them. Only through the responsiveness of the other does our life have meaning.
Somewhere along the line we forgot the interconnection from which we made our major developmental leaps. In doing so we replaced the pain of sensing the other with self-focus, and became hypnotized by our idea of ourselves, finally growing bitter and resentful when others fail to see our good intentions. Despite our technological toys and games, we seem to be stuck side by side in repeating patterns of isolation.
Gestalt theory says the way back to growth is to court the novel. Otherness is always present. We know it is present through our irritations, our trying hard, raising our voice, explaining more, turning our back, and all the subtle gestures of reaching out to one another. When we let in the dance steps of the other, the dance of interconnection comes into awareness and the next steps will always be novel and not yet known.
Copyright Jay Tropianskaia 2017