“A meeting of two: eye to eye, face to face.
And when you are near I will tear your eyes out
and place them instead of mine,
and you will tear my eyes out
and will place them instead of yours,
then I will look at me with mine.”
Jacob Levy Moreno, founder of Psychodrama
Human evolution was forged by relationships. For millions of years, our ancestors were raised in community life, bonding and interacting with their peers. From birth, our brains and nervous system are wired to engage in social connection because, as newborns, we are unfit to survive without the nurture of another being.
From a psychological perspective, to leave our mother’s womb is like coming from a primordial state of chaos and non-separateness. Within the first years of childhood, we go through a process of separation, leading us to higher levels of self-awareness which lead to individuation. Paradoxically, there would be no ME without YOU. Self and other are two inseparable phenomenon, co-creating their individuated inner and outer realities.
During the individuation process, there is a developmental stage where the child experiences a healthy narcissistic state, where self-affirmation determines most of his/her behavior.
In a child with a “normal” development, this stage will be integrated and, eventually, give rise to a more empathic and altruistic behavior. The child realizes there are limits to his/her pleasure seeking impulses and accepts that other people’s needs must be taken into account. From this balanced interplay between the Pleasure and the Reality Principles, children grow into mature, empathic and resilient adults.
However, as we look at the history of humankind and witness all the suffering, violence, warfare and abuse taking place on a collective and individual level, we must question from what place are we connecting and relating with the world. How we relate with other human beings, other animals and the planet itself.
On a collective level, our relationship with the world is often based on power, violence and abuse. This violence varies from extremely raw forms of expression to subtle energetic abuse. When doing so, we objectify our relationships with other human beings, animals and Nature in order to satisfy personal momentary needs. This immature, narcissistic behavior, coined by the philosopher Martin Buber as an I-It relationship, causes separation and pain.
All spiritual traditions bring a message of non-duality, a reality imperceptible to the mind and accessible only from the heart, where we merge in unity with God, the Universal Consciousness or however we would like to call it. These transcendent experiences are not limited to spiritual practices. In many different situations, we jump into a state of flow where the limits of our physical body fade away, giving us an experience of being merged with the world around us. You may have felt it when playing a music instrument, walking in nature, playing sports or holding your newborn baby for the first time. Whatever the catalyst, one factor is common: the inner state from which we connect and relate with the world.
An Encounter, I-Thou, me and you, Self and Other forms of relating, brings us to the present moment. Time ceases to exist and the space of interaction becomes sacred. In this place, our being shows itself in all its potential, becoming authentic because its originality and uniqueness shines through. We resonate with the other as he or she does with us, both giving in to a deeper listening and allowing a fine tuning to take place. The quality manifested in such Encounters unfolds the potential of healing and allows creativity to flow freely.
In such moments, we become leaders of our own life, empowering ourselves to freely express our life energy and allowing it to be seen by the world. By embracing our vulnerability, we connect with our biggest strength and our heart becomes the door from which we perceive and step in to the world.