Subtle Messages We Give Each Other: The Royal Road To Deep Connection
Julie spoke, as she usually does - hesitantly and haltingly about what has been going on for her. It was, truth be told, not very interesting. Our work together has been really slow because even exploring her day-to-day trivia was all she could tolerate.
Several months into our work together, I started to notice a rather disturbing pattern - I usually saw her after lunch and several times now, I would find myself nodding off as she spoke. This was unprofessional and embarrassing!
In our latest session, this happened again. I had once considered the sleepiness to be post-lunch fatigue, but this time round, I was pretty certain that it was something else. I tried my best to keep awake - I pinched myself, chided myself and coached myself to focus on Julie and her needs. Yet, the harder I struggled against the lull, the sleepier I got!
I started to wonder whether if there was anything in our real-time interaction that was contributing to the sleepiness. Was it the lunch? No, I felt particularly energised that day. Was it something in Julie's demeanour?
I tuned away from the conversation topic and noticed how she was speaking. For the first time I noticed that her eyes very half-closed, and her voice was very monotonous and unemotional. She responded to my questions after a lengthy pause - it struck me then that she was hypnotising me! These very some very advanced techniques that I had once learned when training in hypnotherapy!
I pointed this out to her quickly and noticed a difference - first in myself and then in her. I became awake quickly - as if the spell has been lifted, and then, I noticed that she had started to weep! This was unexpected. Julie had never shown her emotions in our sessions before!
I asked her what was happening for her and she replied candidly between sobs that she wanted to be invisible because people could not stand her when she was visible. She wanted to fade into the background for when she had in the past expressed her self, she felt that she had hurt others. Safe to say our discussion took on a different turn and became a lot more productive than any of our past sessions together.
I felt as if a veil between us had been lifted and there was the clean spark of connection, just between two beings.
This was a poignant lesson from my client - clients are always communicating with us in subtle ways. Words and what is being said is only a tiny aspect of what is being communicate. The majority of communication happens outside our immediate awareness and is conveyed using subtle non-verbal cues.
This is true in therapy and also very true in our day-to-day interactions with others.
Learning to listen to the non-verbal communications has made my conversations a lot more effective with my clients. It has also deepened our human-to-human connection.
So I would also urge for readers to look out for and to wonder about the subtle communication cues you are receiving from another person when you are chatting with them.
What happens if, like me, you took the risk of pointing out the non-verbal patterns between you and someone else, and to reach beyond it to the human being that's there?
Imagine, what happens if you're fighting with someone close, a lover, a friend or family. If you bring your awareness away from what you're saying to each other, and to look (With your eyes) at what it is you're both doing in the moment. Then either point it out, or try to look beyond to the Emotional Self behind. See if you can find some way to connect with this Emotional Self.
What happens to the conflict?
Or imagine, when you're in a social situation and meeting someone new, look beyond the platitudes and the cliche responses about work and weather, to get a sense of the other person.
We all have the capacity to:
1) Step back and SEE an interaction
2) Sense the true Emotional Self of another person beneath the interaction
It just takes practice. Lots of it. That's the beginning of deep compassion and community.