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Saturday
Apr242010

See The Person Behind the Eyes

This week's post is an excerpt by Rick Hanson, Ph.D. ( www.rickhanson.net ), a psychologist who is particularly interested in the intersection of neuroscience and mental health. I feel this piece will be of value to all of my clients, whether they are primarily focused on life coaching, career counseling, couples counseling, or the general pursuit of a happier life.

"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.

To be sure, a persona is a good thing to have. For example, meetings at work, holidays with the in-laws, or a first date are usually not the best time to spill your guts. Just because you're selective about what you reveal to the world does not mean you're insincere; phoniness is only when we lie about what's really going on inside.  

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. To have your hopes and fears acknowledged - the ones behind a polite smile or a frown of frustration. To have your true caring seen, as well as your positive intentions and natural goodness. Most intimately of all, to feel that your innermost being - the one to whom things happen, the one strapped to this rollercoaster of a life trying to make sense of it before it ends - has been recognized by someone. 

This goes both ways: others long to be seen by you. Besides the ways that seeing the person behind the eyes benefits others, it's good for you, too. Being seen is often the real stake on the table, the top priority, more important to other people than whether you agree with them about something. 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. 

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 to the being 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." 

A deeper level of interpersonal communication is of immense benefit in any situation imaginable.  I hope you agree that Dr. Hanson's take on how to do that is inspirational.


 

 

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