Article (Greek version): Georgios Fragakis
Creator of Animartists / Psychologist / Psychotherapist
Translation: Harriet Spala
A human’s greatest need is probably the necessity to communicate with others. The phrase “it takes two to tango” often comes to mind. It’s like being in a narrow confined space and you allow your body to touch another person’s body, to feel it, to explore it, to listen to it and to transform it. In other words you wish to swap from one’s persons “self” and to the “other” person’s place. How simple however is that approach?
As we sit opposite another person, observing him/her, his/her gaze, his/her posture, his/her face expression; we feel a need to get closer, to invite the other person to dance a “different” dance… Often, something else, quite weird happens between us. It’s like an invisible being interfering rudely immobilizing us and preventing us to take the necessary steps, it interferes and makes us turn away. What is this relation with this being which influences us so much and what is our real free will? Is it the longing to “dance” or is it the one that places obstacles while on route to communicate with others?
The image we have for ourselves is created by those who surround us and not us. We try to be accepted and positively recognized by those who surround us while we distort or deny almost completely our inner self. Man does not learn to listen to his instincts or inner self to understand what he needs from the environment and other humans but accepts what is “implanted” as sense or outlook from others. This way we cease our connection with our inner self and our instincts and even cease to listen to our body’s needs. The need for acceptance and recognition is so strong that overcomes and alters our own inner feelings. Sometimes though these neglected needs and wishes we have resurface and remind us that they still exist and need attention.
Sooner or later people get tired of playing conventional roles or roles under rules. They begin to realize the unconventional between what they feel and what they are obliged to show that they feel. This realization will lead slowly to the revelation that in order to truly communicate with another person we must first be able to understand ourselves. This process seems to me as a long lasting voyage. A voyage which starts: Facing myself “today” with the personality “of the past”. In other words from the moment I have been genuine with myself. What does “being genuine” means?
Carl Rogers (2006) defines as genuine and congruent the need of an individual to communicate with another as a “being” and not as a “front” or “facade”. This begins when the individual equally and honestly searches his inner self and processes what his instincts and inner self tells him. When the feelings or the stand I take in life are recognized today, then I shall become what I wish, allowing myself to discover the truth within me. To “explore” and process, my own experiences. Thus I do not feel threatened by other intruding “beings”, I am not afraid that I am going to lose myself. Only this way will I be able to establish trust between me and the other individual. When I allow myself to be open minded with my own experiences, that means that I am open minded towards my vulnerabilities and after that I can allow the other person to freely be as he/she is without trying to differentiate or alter his perception of reality. Τhe person who allows himself to crumple also learns that he can remain intact.
Is being genuine and congruent enough? It’s possible. Obviously something more is necessary and I have often observed that this is self acceptance. Through self acceptance the individual can redefine the terms of value that have worn him down or disoriented from his inner self. Self acceptance does not mean approval or agreement to past needs. Self acceptance means to create trust within me and to explore safely more facets of myself without having simultaneously the need to defend myself. This leads an individual to gradually learn, embrace, accept and incorporate all experiences on the personality he has today. In any case to accept freely another person you first have to accept unconditionally yourself. Through self acceptance and by being genuine, that is through the knowledge of my values and prejudices I become receptive towards me and my own feelings and needs. Thus I am not in any danger to feel lost or confused when I face attitudes that reveal my own “weaknesses” or attitudes that vary from my own life style.
Accepting my character enriches me. Makes me remain “open”, to listen to what is going on inside me. It rather makes me trust myself and try not to push myself in the wrong direction thinking it’s for the best. Neither judge nor condemn myself to what compromises I have been taught from others, but to allow myself to live freely. Accepting my character as is, I thus trust in my abilities, evolve and develop towards being a complete human being.
Accepting every aspect of my character and by being genuine I can leave the past to remain safely inside myself and for the first time recognize where I stand and where the other person with whom I want to communicate stands. In order to comprehend what the other person is saying to me I have to feel complete and independent; in other words to react with empathy. A person can only understand the feelings, thoughts and experiences of another only if he/she is independent.
This is how I perceive what the “first meeting” means to me when I carefully and with understanding process what happens inside me. I regard myself as a “complete” experience that requires me to be present and available in understanding my own feelings. Το act with empathy is for me a unique quality, which each time is redefined first through my own temperament and secondly through my communication with any other person. This is the only way I can follow life fully trusting my own abilities. To treat myself as a trustworthy companion that helps progressively little by little to comprehend experiences. The times I embrace myself by being genuine, congruent, by accepting, by feeling empathy and by caring for myself, are the times I can in turn be embraced and accepted by others.
Rogers C., (2006): On Becoming A Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy, Athens, Researchers Publications, Translation in Greek: Zoe Myrto Rigopoulos