What if we all had unconditional permission and privilege to be curious;
To ask the question "What if?"
To ask this question from a lens of exploration
And genuinely wanting to know the answer,
Rather than than the familiar lenses of anticipation, anxiety, perfectionism,
And fear of not being enough.
What if we each had the courage to be compassionate?
Toward ourselves, as well as toward others.
What if we led with confidence that we are enough;
That being enough is not equal to stagnation or having nothing left to learn.
What if we didn't hide behind the identities assigned to us from others?
The labels, expectations, obligations, groups to which conditioned to subscribe and maintain.
What if the jock and Gothic loner allowed themselves to be vulnerable with each other?
If only for an hour.
The same for the hyper-religious and atheist; the CEO and the blue collar.
The democrat and republican; the white and non-white.
An hour where each could be truly open and honest with themselves
in the presence of the other.
Thereby being open and honest with the other.
What if we all had unconditional permission and privilege to be curious?
To ask the question "What if?"
What would be revealed?
Would they discover they have more in common as humans than differences as members of social groups assigned to be at odds? Is this even possible? What if the others in their respective groups found out what was said, what was related? What if the "facts" each thought they knew about themselves and the other turned out to be inaccurate? What meaning would their carefully preserved identities have, then? Are they, now, different people, or simply more complex? Can they be released from the unconscious agreements they continue to make, due to those made by society? What if they simply saw each other as humans, felt each others experience, lower their respective guards protected for fear they'll be injured. Beyond this fear is truth, honesty. Beyond this guard is the information we all need to realize we are enough.
The fear of being judged often leads to a protective and deflective judgment of others. This transaction is reciprocal. If is automatic and quite often unconscious, as much as it is limiting. I have the invaluable blessing of knowing people in ways they may not allow themselves to be known outside the safe container of the therapy session. This fear and protection goes so deep that even acknowledging one is in therapy feels far more risky than advantageous. I've been witness to personal exploration, resilience building, lowering of guards, strengthening and dissolving of relationships, avoidance and revelation of truths, aftermath of suicide and murder, grief, fear, and a spectrum of emotional, mental, spiritual, and physiological experiences. At the root to so many of these experiences is one's belief about themselves in the face of others, what expectations and obligations come with their perceived identities, stories and levels of resilience to vulnerability.
One may easily assume that men are the primary participants in avoiding vulnerability. It's true that men are often categorically conditioned to be strong and counter weakness. However, it's naive to think that women are immune to this crisis of identity. In many ways, women avoid vulnerability to similar levels than men. This level of avoidance or discomfort can manifest differently between genders. My assumption about what you think or how you feel may lead me to respond or preemptively strike in a particular way, which may confirm whatever assumption you had about me. And, the cycle perpetuates.
What if there was no risk, no consequence, for authentically and genuinely being "You" with someone different than you, someone you don't know? Would you do it? Would they let you? D you need their permission?
I have an invitation for everyone reading these words. Before you fall into your typical patterns of social interaction, whether with someone familiar or a complete stranger, Pause. Consider what is actually happening. Are you responding to stories about this person or situation? What are the facts? If you don't know, allow yourself to be curious. The information about this person, you in the presence of this person, and the situation, lives in the experience itself. Perhaps, you learn something new - about the other person, the situation, or even about yourself. There is a caveat... this goes without saying, but work addressing, anyway. The process and invitation is not a substitute for taking care of yourself and staying safe. Again, the information about the person, situation, etc. lives in the experience. If you genuinely feel unsafe, you can use this mindful awareness to take care of yourself. The invitation is to see what is actually happening, rather than react to stories without understanding where these stories come from, or if they have any relevance, now.
As you practice this exercise, like anything, allow for self-compassion and curiosity. There is no expectation to get this "right." Practice can be messy. That's why we practice - to get better. You are already enough when you start, you simply get better by adding to your experience.