I am in the Lake District, staying by Coniston Water. As we walk the fells and woods, every so often, one comes across a stream or river of ice cold, clear as sunlight, rushing water. The rocks, stones and pebbles that form the bed of the watercourse are completely visible, only distorted by the movement of the fast flowing water. There is a stream running into the Lake next to the cottage we are staying in and that provides a running and rippling commentary on such clarity.
Such clarity is to be emulated, I believe, in human discourse, to be aimed for in our relationships. It is a facet of our state as human beings with a complex psyche to be a mystery to our selves, to have so many unconscious currents that we are often only dimly aware of. However it is in our interactions with our families, our friends, those we work with that these currents become apparent as well as the more immovable elements of our character, the rocks and stones directing the flow.
What clouds the waters, what stirs up so much sediment that we can no longer offer the world the lovely clarity that is so winning to those we love, to those that love us? It is when we suddenly feel the raw power of one of those currents we are dimly aware of. Usually in response to something that someone has said or done and we find ourselves caught in a vortex of feelings we did not know we had. However, instead of owning the sudden cataract, we project it. We blame others for what is essentially our own inner torrent.
This appears to lack jeopardy in the metaphor I am employing of the river’s flow. In reality it can be gruesome even even fatal to our relationships. We may well think we are leaping to the defence of someone else, we may think we have every right to our reactions and the blistering feelings that accompany them. We may not be immediately aware of the emotional wreckage we are creating until the heat cools, the dust settles and we have the time to reflect.
It is then we realise that those around us are either subdued and look at us with wounded eyes or they have distanced themselves from us. When we feel the power of those unconscious currents the practice of withdrawal and the generous discipline of forgiveness and self compassion are our friends. It is so hard to calm the savagery of our hurt feelings that are very likely wounds that we experienced in our past rather than in the heat of this moment. We may be experiencing a real assault in the present but even then the willingness to hold all our paradoxical emotions with a peaceable disposition will bring goodness to the field.
When we are able to employ the disarming dynamics of apology the waters clear more quickly and others are able to see all those currents and the architecture of the stones and boulders on the river bed of our psyche. It is a willingness to hazard ourselves into our relationships with a robust vulnerability, allowing people to see us as we are not as we think we ought to be seen, that makes us people of clarity.