The greatest gift we can give one another in a relationship is the gift of our true selves - being who we are. For some this is not difficult, but for most it takes practice to take off the masks and becomes real. It might seem frightening or dangerous to take off our masks, put away games and just be. However, many times difficulties arise in relationships, because who we truly are is not available.
Our need for real contact with each other is so strong, that when it is not there, our partner can easily feel lonely, rejected or as though they don't matter much to us. We need the real contact as well - and yet most of us draw back and play games.
This kind of behavior goes on in the dating world as well. Instead of finding out who someone truly is, we meet a person and immediately label them. Instead of looking at them as person, they become an object, a stranger, or opponent in some way. We very quickly decide whether or not they are worth knowing, and so often, before we give a person a chance, throw them away. In this way we constantly separate ourselves from others and then wonder why we feel so alone. We need to build bridges between ourselves and others; stop our games, trust who we are, take a deep breath, realize that each person we meet contains a whole world of wonders. We must decide to allow true communication between to take place. So often we come away from each another filled with misunderstanding and confusion. Although we may not realize it, this is often simply a defense against being known.
Games We Play
In order to give and receive the greatest gift in our relationships, to become real, we can start by looking closely at the roles we play-at the identities we so cherish. These roles, dreams and images are often exactly what get in our way. Roles can be hypnotic. We can fall in love with a role or fantasy and begin to believe it is whom we truly are. Or, more commonly, we can fall in love with the role someone else is playing, become hypnotized by it. When that happens, then we are not falling in love with the person, but with the fantasy they create for us. It can then come as quite a shock when the person drops his role and we are face to face with who they truly are. Many relationships get into real trouble at this point.
The biggest danger of being lost in a role is that we can lose touch with the reality of what's happening, both for ourselves and others. An incredible amount of misunderstanding and lack of communication comes about through this kind of game playing, through being glued to a particular fantasy or role. Unglue yourself a little.
There are other reasons as well that it may feel dangerous to let go of a role or image we present. For many of us the idea of being true has become confused with the idea of being selfish, not caring about the feelings of others. Oddly enough, just the opposite is so. When we are able to respond truthfully, real caring can begin to arise. On the other hand, when we act from our roles and games, we are implicitly demanding this kind of false response from others as well. This way of relating can be deadening; take our enthusiasm, fun and aliveness away.
Another way to let go of role playing is to experiment with some roles that are opposite to the ones you usually play. There is no better way of bridging gaps, acquiring understanding and relieving tension than by stepping into another's shoes. As we do this, our understanding of others increases and stereotyped reactions cannot help but melt away.
We constantly need to broaden our horizons and see our behavior in new ways. Sometimes the things we are most afraid of saying or doing are the things which will bring the greatest help and clarity. If we do not experiment, we can never be sure. If we do not expand and grow, we begin to atrophy. As we become real, respond from the truth of who we are, we begin to have a fresh sense of increased possibilities, flexibility and aliveness. This a sure fire way to bring the greatest gift both to others and to ourselves.
Discover the surprising truths about love that will
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Dr. Shoshanna is a psychologist, relationships expert
on iVillage.com, speaker, and author of many books,
Anger Diet, (30 Days To Stress Free Living), Zen And
The Art of Falling In Love, (Simon and Schuster), Why
Men Leave (Putnam), and many others. You can contact
her, or visit her