Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Maintaining connection & composure

It can be almost impossibly difficult to remain self-possessed while connecting with someone else. Strategies for identifying the state you want to enter and maintaining it are almost always geared to being able to control your breathing, rhythms, gestures and expressions. None of these things is completely within your control while you are connected to someone else.

In order to connect, we make choices that serve relationship more than they do our individual state. We change our tempo or tone to enter rapport, and trust to our outcomes to allow us to lead others into the tempo or tone that suits us better. Sometimes, our purpose itself requires that we change elements that might be important in maintaining our state. It does not always matter if I feel best standing up and moving around: sometimes I have to sit still in a meeting, or even during family night around the television.

We become aware of the tension between maintaining connection and maintaining composure - between relationship and state management - when we do not like the state suggested by the relationship. The tension is always there, however. The price of relationship is paid when the lines blur between personal state as an expression of identity and personal state as an indication of relationship. This is why it seems like we are different people at home in our living rooms than we are in our offices or in public spaces like restaurants, malls or parks. Each of us is a single, unified self expressed through a myriad of states and relationships: only the interweaving of all of them constitutes a self that is stable enough to seem authentic.

When we step back from relationship, we draw new lines around self and "not self." We allow ourselves to be composed: we design a state that reflects those lines just as an artist composes a picture or a musician composes a song. We pull different elements within ourselves into relationship by loosening our relationship with other people. We give up possibility in favour of stabilty. At least for the moment.

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