Friday, 14 October 2011

Balancing our perceptions of others

My daughter has just left home to go to university - so she hasn't left for good but it's still been a bit strange.  I don't lead many services, one or two a year.  Last Sunday it was my turn again.  I was restless trying to find a theme, and as I said at the service, I kept circumnavigating the elephant in the room.  Once I recognised this I led the service on change, loss (including loss of role), comfort and healing.  We have had a quite a few bereavements between us over the past three years and we are still dealing with these as individuals and as a community, so I tried to tie this all together.

I used a lot of recorded music - when I am low or thoughtful I turn to music.  I thought that I might cry but I didn't - I think it had been very therapeutic preparing the service.  At the end I thanked them for bearing with my self-indulgence.  However the response that I got was fantastic - many had been through the same and gave me a big hug reassuring me that it would be fine.  I had an interesting exchange with someone who was struggling to find a role.  A previous service that I led last year on families brought a flood of revelations and confidences.

In our own communities we often recognise each others' struggles with life.  We want to reach out but sometimes don't know how. The telling of our own stories can reveal our own vulnerabilities.  This may encourage others to feel sympathy and perhaps empathy.  It may also touch some some nerves and enable a greater sharing of the self.  The more we get to know each other the more we can strengthen our network of relationships.  

This article in the Guardian is about how the general public seem to be viewing Amanda Knox, who has just been found innocent on appeal of Meredith Kurcher's death.  It talks about what one psychologist. Emily Pronin, has called, 'the illusion of asymmetric insight'.  This is essentially about when we communicate with others - our experience of them is their outward appearance and what they say, whilst our experience of ourselves is our own minds.  Which the article says leads to a situation where we think, 'I am infinitely subtle, complex and never quite what I seem; you are predictable and straightforward, an open book'. 

This certainly rang true for me.  How often I have been surprised as I have learnt more and more about people.  Surprisingly we find that they are as complex and interesting as we ourselves are!  To get more symmetry into our relationships we need to know each other better, spending time to get into those complexities of thought and personality.  Being together in open, honest and respectful community is one way to move towards balancing our perceptions of others and of ourselves.

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