The Duel After The Masquerade by Jean-Leon Gerome
“It was strange to see someone you have only known alone begin interacting with other people, for that somebody known to you disappears and is replaced by a different, more complex, person. You watch him revolve in this new company, revealing new facets, and there is nothing you can do but hope you like these other sides as much as you like the side that seemed whole when it faced only you.” ― Peter Cameron, The Weekend
From the amount of words I use in my posts you may get the impression that I am talkative. From the way I express myself using those words you may get the feeling that I am rather aggressive and confrontational. That impression and feeling is not incorrect. It is part of the picture of me, it’s just not the whole picture.
That is the way with most people. We see facets. The facets which they allow us to see.
Masks, but not masks. It is them, but not all of them. A filtered, socially appropriate version. Often created because of previous experiences which have made them believe that certain aspects of who they are must remain hidden.
Sometimes we see the facets they may be trying to hide. Perhaps we see those because they are within us too and we recognise the signs and language of them.
Much of what we see in another depends on our focus. Our focus relies on our motivation. Our motivation may be conscious, as in we are scanning those we meet for traits which we like, which we consider good and acceptable, or it may be subconscious, as in we are scanning those we meet for traits we don’t like, which we consider bad and unacceptable. Some people do it the other way around, but most seek to see the best in others first, we are looking for friends, and we often ignore the tug of intuition, which is the subconscious trying to let us know that it has spotted something – a red flag perhaps – which is inconsistent with our ideal image of the person we are looking at.
Our ideal image is not necessarily the one the person is projecting of themselves, it is more often the one which we are projecting onto them. We see them, but we don’t see them. We see a part of them and we build an entire person out of it.
We all do this to some degree when interacting, especially if we have only just met the other person, because we are rushing to fill in the blanks, to know them as quickly as possible. What’s the hurry? I think, as almost everyone seems to do this, that it is a mixture of our survival instincts – which need to know if we are with a friend or foe – and the pace of modern life. There is a pressure in the social air which pushes us to make the most of interactions right here and now. A Carpe Diem with relationships.
We hope when we meet someone new that they are a friend. So we tend to fill in the blanks rather optimistically, which can lead to disappointment later when the person lets us down by not living up to our image of them. If we weren’t in such a rush to fill in the blanks we might have less heartache in our relationships. If we took our time and allowed the person to reveal themselves to us bit by bit, opening up like a flower in slow motion, we might actually get to know them, who they are rather than who we think they are and want them to be, and be pleasantly surprised by the discovery that they are far better, far more interesting than our ideal of who they could be for us.
Just as we are in a hurry to get to know them, we are in a hurry for them to get to know us. That is one of the most compelling experiences of meeting someone new.
With those whom we already know, we feel locked into a role. They think they know who we are and we think we know who they think we are, and because we are secretly afraid of being alone, abandoned and rejected, we play that part. The part may be close to who we are, but it’s missing some details. Sometimes those details which are missing drive us crazy, they feel ostracised from the relationship and long to be included. A new person gives them the opportunity to be accepted.
So when we meet someone new we get very excited and we tell them too much all at once far too soon about ourselves, then get upset when they can’t recall a thing about us. So we clam up and wait for them to draw us out. When they make the effort, we pull away, testing to see if they truly care or are just going through the motions. If they don’t make the effort we feel hurt. We made the effort with them, they should make it with us. But did we really make the effort with them? And are we sure they didn’t make the effort with us?
Hard to tell sometimes because there is so much going on in a short amount of time. And there is so much white noise in our minds interfering with communication.
If you were to meet me in person you may get the impression that I have nothing to say. From the way I say that nothing you may get the feeling that I am rather shy and reserved. That impression and feeling is not incorrect. It is a part of the picture of me, it’s just not the whole picture.
“I love the way she projects two facets: a visible persona and a subterranean one. She keeps her thoughts to herself; she seems to suggest that her secret, inner life is at least as significant as the appearance she gives.” ― François Truffaut
wow…this is a really great post. It hit home in so many ways – “Much of what we see in another depends on our focus. Our focus relies on our motivation.” – I think this is true so much of the time. We project what we want to see onto the other person. I know that I am often guilty of that – I build a fantasy of that person or of the life/relationship/friendship we COULD/SHOULD be having and then become disappointed when they don’t live up to that. But how could they? They didn’t even know they were supposed to???? I’m working on living in the moment, letting people reveal themselves to me through actions and not just words. It’s difficult when, as you say, the pace of modern life pushes us to make instant connections and..for me right now there is this urge to figure things out NOW, which I know is unrealistic. I think that if we learn to be patient (NOT my strong suit) and present ourselves as authentically as possible, then you allow others to meet you on that same level. The problem comes when you are honest and open and vulnerable and authentic…and you are interacting with or are targeted by someone who has no compunction about exploiting that openness.
Oh I’m very impatient, which is why I prefer to take my time to get to know people. Slowly like a character striptease. I know that sounds like a contradiction, and sort of is, but it isn’t too. I get impatient with listening to people telling me who they are when what I really want is to experience who they are in living colour. So I totally agree with your idea of seeing people reveal themselves through their actions. It’s an old saying but it is very true, actions do indeed speak louder than words!
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