It’s a common occurrence for me, doing the work that I do, to talk to someone about a problem or difficulty they are having with someone else. And of course, because it IS life, I often have my own difficulties with other people. In a recent situation, I had someone who is very close to me send me an angry and disgusted note, saying that I hadn’t been a very good friend and hadn’t been very responsive to their needs. My first response? “What!? Of course I am a good friend and responsive…. Look at what a nice person I am!!”
Then, I quickly went into the Interested Observer mode I talk about in my work. Playing the role of Interested Observer allows us to emotionally step outside of what we are experiencing, let go of our own triggers, and view a situation as if we were a clinical detective, rather than the emotional respondent that we are most times.
In Interested Observer mode I was able to see the pain that this person was in – a pain actually unrelated to me. I was a catalyst for this person because they believed that I could “fix something” inside of them, if only I was different.
If only I was different…. Hmmmm, how often does it happen in our daily lives that we believe that if someone else just made a change, did something differently, or was a different kind of person then WE would be different in response? We like to see others as the problem, but in fact they may be waiting for us to make a change. And the cycle just continues.
There have been countless times in my life when I was experiencing difficulty with someone and was apprehensive about dealing with them, or felt judged or angry by their response to me. In some cases, I had the presence of mind to stop being triggered and see the person for who they were, too. And that was often a scared individual who had never learned better coping approaches for their lives. These glimpses would humble me and allow compassion to rise up within me. Now that I understand the dynamic, I can bring this about more quickly – but even in past years when I didn’t understand what was happening, I could still catch a glimpse every now and again.
As you go through the holiday season, try to see the person BEHIND the filter in your interactions and conversations. Unfortunately, we can never totally see life through the other’s filter, but we can catch glimpses of the real person behind the mask that each of us wears every day. When we can see the real person, it gives us a chance to relate as a real person, too. See how many glimpses you can get that might change your view of someone, or give you another way of interacting with them.
It isn’t easy – many people don’t necessarily want you to see their pain, they don’t want you to see what hides underneath the filter they have. So to make it easier, you don’t have to let anyone know you are doing this. Just practice getting a glimpse whenever you can become conscious enough to do it.