Trying to be present for another

This last week I had an interesting juxtaposition of experiences. One was a series of emails and other a live conversation. The email conversation was with a woman I knew a little school. The conversation was with someone I have known for a good chunk of my adult life and whom I consider a friend.

The friend and I had a conversation and I┬ásimply could not get the essence of what she was trying to communicate. That evening as we parted, it struck me – that that part of the conversation is never actually about me. It is her projection of what she thinks it would be like to be me. But it isn’t me. And it never will be.

In the email conversation the experience was really quite different. It revolved around the telling of a particular story in my life. As I opened and read one of the last emails in that series of exchanges. It became clear to me that what was important to me in the exchange was not her response (although much of it was very useful) rather it was in her loving careful attendance of my story. Her communication was very much along lines of ‘I don’t know what to say, but this is how I held it, and these are the things occurred to me’.

These two situations have struck me as noteworthy. In one sense we cannot have human relationships without a certain degree of projection, but sooner or later the big projections need to be dismantled if real relationship is to ensue. And think that is not a once off process, but the first time it is recognised it can be quite shocking.

But the value of having someone who is willing to stand with you as you are truly present to yourself cannot be underestimated. As I see it now, everything else follows from this. Authenticity, that great buzzword of our time, is not just about being truly ourselves. It has to be about allowing our illusions of who others are be gently torn down. So that they too can be fully themselves with us. (In as far as that is ever possible in the moment!)

Can I let this person standing in front of me be truly other?

The more I journey, the more I realise that this may be the real invitation, and it is neither as easy nor as obvious as it sounds. My ego keeps constructing others in my own image.