What does it mean to look at another and see that person? Not as a mirror of what we want to see, but of what is simply reflected back to us? Some of us make it a practice of reading faces, knowing that the truth is often hidden from us through words and other actions. We search past the lie to read the nuances of the face that might offer the tell-tale twitch of discomfort. Or, maybe we read to know. To really know who the other is.
I grew up reading faces. I think I learned to read faces before I started reading books. It’s likely we all did, as babies are masters of the craft. During my own turbulent childhood, the craft of reading faces became a method of survival. I knew in an instant if I had upset the fragile psyche of another before the mouth could form words, because I simply had to. I lived with a very volatile father figure.
Not everyone has, though, and I am sometimes amazed that we are not all adept face readers. Or, perhaps we simply choose not to see what is mirrored back to us. Sometimes we choose to see what we want to see, and not what is expressed. Even the masked face tells a story. I know a woman, who is a psychologist by trade, who is quite good at donning the mask. It’s her natural affect, and when I look at her I see the mask of her profession, and even though it is not unkind, it is hardened around the edges. You will not penetrate my mask. You will not truly know me, her visages mirrors back to me.
Even the mask wears a story.
I’ve always been told I have a very expressive face. I don’t often try to don the mask. If I am allowed to read your face, then it’s only fair that you are allowed to read mine. Yet, sometimes we don the mask for self-preservation, or in our efforts not to damage another by what they might find in our visage. The adept face reader will always be able to find what is hidden, though. If he wants to.
It’s an interesting study. One can learn not only a lot about another, but a lot about oneself, by observing the face of another, along with our personal reaction to that observation. There have been moments when I have wished I had not seen what I have in the face of another. The cruel eye of disdain…the lover’s lust for another..the haughty reproach of the one who feel superior…the list could go on…
How often do we choose to see, though, what we wish to see instead of what we want to see? It often surprises me when someone tells me they see something in my face that is not there, or that I do not feel in the moment of telling. Happiness, when I am not happy. Sadness, when I am feeling fine…
Years ago, when I frequented an energy healer, she would often greet me with the words “You look sad.” I found her welcoming jarring and unwelcoming. And, if truth be told, I didn’t actually feel sad until she said those words. Certainly she had a way of digging out that hidden sadness when I was on her table. But she never dug out the joy along with it. What I eventually came to realize is that she was seeing in me what was hidden in herself. I also realized that if I want to find that well of joy, I needed to go elsewhere, or more specifically, within my own true self.
Sometimes we see ourselves in another, and sometimes we simply see what we want to see. But, as we truly learn to see another, and ourselves at the same time, we can realize that what we are seeing might teach us. Even if it is something we didn’t want to initially see. If we really look and each other, with all the joys, fears, pain and beauty mirrored back at us, we might uncover a deeper understanding of ourselves and each other. We might begin to bridge the gap of divide, no matter how wide it seems to separate us.