Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Removing Our Masks in Relationships

I found this post over at The Art of Intimacy, and I liked the message. I have some thoughts to add (below).

Be Who You Are...

be who you are, the art of intimacy, be true to yourselfThis morning, in a conversation discussing the importance of valuing our individuality, the gentleman with whom I was speaking made a statement that really struck me.

He said, "If you aren't true to yourself, you are not allowing someone to love the person you truly are."

This lovely man gave an example from his own life... he is a well respected physician and as such, presented an image of what most people expect a doctor to be... but the woman he married came to love the image rather than the person he truly is and the relationship withered and died. After a divorce, he came to understand his own truth and allowed himself to reflect his uniqueness. He doesn't exactly appear as the brilliant doctor he is, and might be mistaken for a guitarist in a rock band, nevertheless, his next partner was able to love him as he truly is. And their relationship is strong and healthy.

Typically I have been a rather vocal advocate for being true to oneself for the sole reason that it is in the very uniqueness of each of us, where we can bring forth our beauty and gifts.

But this simple statement broadened my awareness as I reflected on how we love each other and the importance of intimacy.

If we are living in a way, not in accord with who we truly are, and we are loved, who is it that is truly being loved? It is some pretend person, or some false image of us.

And, when we are living a lie, we are denying our beloved to love our true self.

Yet, if we show ourselves as we are, the love we receive is love that is real and alive.

The more we are real, the deeper the love. The more our lives are a pretense, the more the love we receive is based on non-reality.

If our partner is disallowed to discover our true self because we are not willing to be who we really are, we do her/him a disservice because it is in the very act of sharing our self that we elicit the closeness and evoke the love of another. We deny them the gift of loving who we are.

I believe the more we share our true selves, the deeper the love and the stronger the connection between two people.

The very act of opening our hearts, revealing who we are, and exposing our very soul, is exactly what we need to allow the love to enter into our awareness.

And, the gift we give to our partner as we reveal our true self is a real person to love.

I think there is some important truth in this. And I think this is part of an informed integral relationship.

When we are courting and falling in love, we tend to only show our best selves, our perfected image of who are or who we want to be. I know I'm guilty of this, and I think many other people are as well. But this cheats the person we love of truly knowing us.

In order for there to ever be real intimacy, we need to be able to be vulnerable, exposed, and open -- and this is hard for most of us, but especially for men. Without that openness, however, we are doing a bait-and-switch with our partner. S/he may later come to resent us for not being open about who we truly are.

This is not to say that we should not strive to be our best selves -- we should, most of the time. But we also need to show our partner who we really are -- fears, doubts, insecurities, dreams, ideals, and so on, the whole beautiful mess that most of us are at our core.

Most importantly, if we are living behind a mask, we are not only cheating our partner of truly knowing us, but we are also cheating ourselves. It is impossible to extend ourselves fully to another if we are wearing masks, or hiding behind an image we have created and perpetuated. If we cannot extend ourselves, then we are also unable to let in the love with which our partner wants to gift us. Everyone loses in this situation.

But if we are authentic -- and if we can overcome the fear of truly being seen, which is what wearing masks is all about, fear of being vulnerable -- then our partner can love who we are and not some image we have created. And if we can be authentic, we can tap into the deep well of love we all carry in our hearts and share that with our partners. This is true intimacy.

My sense is that this is not easy for anyone who has not reached at least the level of the sensitive self (Wilber's Green altitude), though it certainly is not out of reach for lower altitudes. However, it requires a definite ability to identify when the ego is involved in generating images as self-protection and a fearlessness to override that impulse. Which is to say, it takes an observer self to act as gate-keeper on our actions and motivations -- something that is often developed in meditation and therapy.

A truly integral relationship requires honesty and vulnerability, not masks and created images. This has been a hard lesson that I am still trying to master, but awareness is part of the puzzle.

No comments: