Friday, December 23, 2011

Invisibility and Inauthenticity

It is not good for man to be alone … but my o my does he go out of his way to Be Alone.
In the case of our God-created need for visibility, understanding, and companionship, many choose to remain invisible. The thinking here is that loneliness is far better than revealing a self that we believe will probably be rejected. One of the ways we do this is by pretending to not be ourselves. Rather than increasingly becoming the person we were created to be, like actors on a stage, we take on pseudo – personalities.
We are like Kirk Lazurus (played by Robert Downy, Jr), in Tropic Thunder:  I know who I am! I'm the dude playing the dude disguised as another dude!

My parents insisted I become this person and, so as to garner their approval, I became that person.

My mother or father are like this-and-that and, in reaction to their shortcomings, I build a persona around the intent to Not Be Him or Her. What role is being taken on here? “Not-him!” (Bad news: when I do this, I cannot help but become whom it is I am focusing on.)

No one will love me as I am, so I have to pretend to be the kind of person others will love. Or, if I believe no one will love me, period, I go out of my way to reject them before they reject me. In this case, I take on the persona of the lone-wolf, or the perpetually misunderstood victim who must connive and manipulate others to love me.

And the award for Best Actor goes to … the Lonely Guy!

We are the dudes playing the dudes disguised as other dudes. So, which dude are people relating to? And are any of these dudes actually the real “me”? No. Therefore, as I know people are relating to a role I am playing, I know without a doubt the relationship is not real. However many people may appear to be in my world, because I am not being real, my world is not real, therefore these friends are not real.
I say we know, but, with some, they have forgotten what they knew: that the self they are projecting, what people are seeing, is not real. They have been playing a role for so long that they are invisible to themselves!
Interestingly, one of the ways we can discover that we, in fact, are pretending to not be our true self, is feedback from the individuals in our lives whom we know are authentic. Real people spot role players fairly easily.

Role players are seldom comfortable in their own skin

Dudes playing dudes are constantly calibrating for approval, where, if they sense they aren’t performing as expected, they morph into another role, not understanding that what an authentic person is looking for is … authenticity!

Actors are all buttoned up, perfectly put together, with just the right lines. Even the disheveled look that The Victim takes on is perrrrfectly cast: tears flow just so, and guilt-manipulating phrases are spoken with Academy award winning timing and pathos.

So. When you are ready for some reality, ask the authentic people in your life about how they experience you, as well as the “you” they see behind your mask. And, Yes: you DO know who these people are, for as soon as you read that sentence, he came to mind; she popped up on your radar. 

Next post will follow-up on other ways to reengage and reconnect with your true self.

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Friendship and Psychological Visibility

Some years back, a man whom I had known for about 10 years was describing me to a new acquaintance of ours. It was all very positive and complimentary, but with one small problem: he wasn’t describing me. In fact, the more he waxed eloquent about the attributes and personality of Monte Wilson, the more invisible I felt. All I could do was sit there thinking, “You really don’t know me.”
A friend responds to me the same way I would if I were seeing and sensing myself through the mind of my friend. In other words, he acts as a mirror that reflects the image of how I see and experience myself. He sees what I know to be true of myself.  She senses how I experience life.  In other words, true friends are psychologically visible to each other.
Of course, friends also help us discover the, heretofore, unseen aspects of our true self. You’ve had this happen before, when a friend complimented or criticized you about something and you instantly intuited that, yes, “That’s me!”
            This is how Nathaniel Branden defines psychological visibility in his book, The Psychology of Romantic Love. “Human beings desire and need the experience of self-awareness that results from perceiving the self as an objective existent, and they are able to achieve this experience through interaction with the consciousness of other living beings.”
            But it is not just visibility that we desire. We also have a desire to love and to be loved.

It is not good that man should be alone. (Genesis 2:18)
There is something about the way we are made that needs relationships where there is a large degree of mutual visibility. My own thought here is that there are a number of reasons this is so. Two come to mind:

External validation and affirmation “You really are you!” However self-aware I am, however brutally honest with myself that I seek to be about the nature of my true self, I need feedback as to the veracity of my self-evaluation. Caveat: I am not referring to a craving for the approval of others, as if I were asking permission to be myself. I am referring to the acknowledgment that my evaluation of my self is, indeed, legitimate.

Mutual support I know that I need the love, gifts and wisdom of others to make my journey in this life. I instinctually know that it is neither right nor wise to be “alone.”  Think back to the stories many of us grew up reading: Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable, Frodo and Samwise, The Three Musketeers, Harry with Ron and Hermione, Robin Hood and his Merry Men, King David and his Mighty Men, and Jesus and the Twelve.

            Certainly, the mere fact that we are visible to someone doesn’t mean that we are going to be good friends. However, there can be no true emotional connection and companionship where there is little or no visibility. How can you say," I love you," if you are blind to the “you”? Am I really going to believe someone loves me who doesn’t Get Me, get who I am (“warts and all”)? And sometimes, even where an individual does see me, there is still the possibility that this person does not have the capacity for mutuality or desire for companionship with me. "Yes, dear, I see you. And I can't stand what I see!"
Of course, there is the experience of people who love us for whom they wish us to be. I am not referring here to those who truly see us, and the person we can become: I am speaking of those who project or fantasize or idealize the person they wish us to be. In these cases, we know that there is no reality, no substance, and no foundation for a true friendship. Where such blindness exists, we know that, sooner or later, the individual will “see the real me,” and the “relationship” will end.
True friendship requires visibility and mutuality.

When we encounter a person who thinks as we do, who notices what we notice, who values what we value, who tends to respond to different situations as we do, not only do we experience a strong sense of affinity with such a person but we also can experience our self through our perception of that person. This is another form of objectivity. This is another manner of perceiving our self in the world, external to consciousness … The pleasure and excitement that we experience in the presence of such a person, with whom we can enjoy this sense of affinity, underscores the importance of the need that is being satisfied. Branden
While Branden is specifically referring here to the basis for Romantic Love, it, nevertheless, applies to friendship, as well.
            I believe we were created with an innate desire to be with people who see and understand us, and with whom we share mutual beliefs, values and visions: people who understand our journeys, our struggles, and our achievements, and want to be a part of our lives, as we wish to be a part of theirs. These are the people whose empathy is most real to us and whose applause is most meaningful. These are the people whom we call friends.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2011