Then who am I?
Is this a vase, or a face looking at a face, or a face looking at a mirror? It is all these things at the same time, and the one image that is most relevant to the particular situation is what will emerge in the moment of looking.
If this is how human beings make sense of the world, then how do we experience our selves in the series of involvements that eventually become a life? I was thinking about this after writing the previous blog. That image of the lady who appears either young or old, depending on how she is perceived, reflects my own experience of myself as a mature woman. Sometimes, when I look at my face in the mirror I see the fresh-faced miss with the jaunty feather, other times, it is the fleshy-nosed grandmother wrapped in a shawl. Likewise, the way the world reflects my self back to me varies. When I am patronised by the dental hygienist as she descales my gum-line, I feel like she sees the crone. When the guy who runs the local organic grocer’s looks interested when I discuss ordering milk in glass bottles with him, I feel seen as an equal adult.
In my work I am privileged to hear others speak about the way they experience themselves in the world. For example, there is the middle-manager who tells me she has difficulty believing the positive comments she receives from her director because she is so aware of her own uncertainties and lack of confidence, or the young professional who is confused about how to relate to his female colleagues, conscious of the dynamics of privilege, yet sometimes feeling disadvantaged himself.
So what is real? Am I young or old? Is my female client an effective leader or a bumbling incompetent? Is the young man privileged or disadvantaged? It depends on who is looking, and how circumstances shape what is seen. Yet, there is always the possibility of having a fresh perspective, and that could change everything.
Posted 16th March 2018
Transformational Change – It’s how you look at it.
Do you see the young woman, or the old?
Like this image, the way we perceive the world changes according to how we look. And one picture can dissolve and re-organise into the other quite spontaneously. This is how a Gestalt approach considers that we experience the world: as a series of impressions that take shape, become compelling, then fragment, ready for a fresh figure to emerge. Sometimes it is only the focus of attention that changes, which is what happens in this picture. Other times, the whole thing can re-configure because the background details that shape the way it is organised change sufficiently for a whole new understanding to become possible. We are looking at a completely different picture.
This can happen all at once with a new awareness but, more likely, it will take time. In my life, sometimes it has taken years. I remember wanting to make the transition from British Gas into a smaller work environment where I could concentrate more on people development rather than systems development. All-in-all it took about 10 years of planning and longing, But, when the time was right, everything fell into place and I had a redundancy package, a new part-time job and a place on a prestigious Gestalt training, all in a matter of weeks.
Similarly, when I wanted to be a writer, it took years of reading bad poems at open-mic nights, writing short stories that told rather than showed, and scripts full of ‘on-the-nose’ dialogues, before I found the right genre for what I need to be writing about now, which is, fundamentally, about how it is to be human, negotiating with a world that we both create and find.
Like the picture, experience presents us with an outline, then we make of it what we can…
Published 1st March 2018