This week I’m going to get a little personal, and tell you about an experience I had with seeing more.
I have a brother who has a mental illness. It’s easy to judge him; to see the many ways he “doesn’t cut it” and the things he should be doing (the things that make sense to me, the things that I would do).
Last week we got into an argument, which doesn’t happen often. I was asking questions about a new girlfriend (What’s she like? What does she like to do? What is she interested in?) and the answer “I don’t know” caused my eyebrows to raise. That’s when my brother got angry, because I also got a tone in my voice as my questions became judgments.
In the ensuing heated argument, he told me, “I don’t remember”. When I pointed out that not remembering was a very different answer than not knowing, his response was “Would you believe me if I said that?”
Sitting on the couch afterwards, I realized many things, but the one that caught me the most was that it sucks when you don’t feel seen. I know that feeling. And it gave me an entry point.
That awareness prompted me to ask if we could talk, and we did. I started that conversation with an apology, and an acknowledgment that not feeling seen is a terrible thing.
In the hour that ensued, I got to know my brother a little better, and to understand his life a little more. I heard what this new relationship meant for him – which was a completely different conversation than the one that ended in an argument just 30 minutes before. I didn’t learn much more about his new girlfriend, but I learned a lot more about my brother. And since then, I hear from him more often.
When we think we know someone, we see them through that lens – and, we judge them and their actions through that lens. The magic that night happened because I took the time to see more – more of my judgments about him, more about myself, and then more of what is actually going on for him. Which meant he got to show up, and I got to really see him.
It was eye opening and heart opening – and, I hope, the beginning of a different relationship for us. One where I can support him better.