It wasn’t just a glance. It wasn’t even an extended moment of connection. It was a long and deep gaze into the eyes of the person stood in front of me.
I had joined a workshop about connection and authentic relation. I imagine the vagueness of the content was deliberate. Had I have known what I’d be doing – I may have not attended. Sometimes jumping into the unknown pays off.
We were instructed to find partners in the room, hold hands and look into their eyes for around four minutes. Afterwards, we thanked each other in whatever way we saw fit and moved on. Next, we were encouraged to share whatever came into our minds while gazing. These were some of the most intese, raw and authentic moments I’ve experienced.
How odd that it’s something I’ve never done – not even with those closest to me. Not my ex lovers, not my friends or not even my own mother. Intimacy scares me. Putting the real me out in the open terrifies me. It’s a fact that continues to cause me a lot of pain.
Today I confronted it, and it moved me to my core. To stand exposed and vulnerable, my insecurities laid bare – no dialogue to conceal them or jokes to lighten the moment. Just the person I am inside – the one I bury so skillfully – flickering in my gaze. I felt stripped to the bone.
In these moments as time stood still and the uneasy giggles subsided, I saw the same thing flickering back at me in the eyes of the other. I got a rare glimpse at what rests behind their mask, and so mine too fell away. It was humbling, overwheliming and most of all; it was genuine. A rare quality in our world.
It exposed the fear of authenticity so many of us silently carry around. The fear of making our true selves known, the fear of vocalising that little voice in our head that we go to sleep with every night. But more importantly, it exposed how deeply connected we are and how much we share in common at our core beyond the show we put on for each other. The tears in the room spoke a million words.
I’m hesitant to share this experience. Why? I’m a man, so the emotional realm is not something I’m permitted to experience let alone talk about, right? How many of us suffer in silence when just a little honesty could save us?
Emotional expression of any depth is forbidden in the role this society has assigned me. I feel as if I’m making a sacrifice anytime I admit how I actually feel. Maybe it makes me less masculine, less desirable to women or less respectable among other men. But honestly, I’m past caring.
Even in writing this so publicly I know I’ll be judged, and that’s fine. I no longer want a part in the fallacy that men don’t experience emotions or that they are something to be ashamed of. I’m popping the cap off this bottle.
To conclude the workshop, we were instructed to get on all fours, look down at the floor and scream as if we were the only people for miles. I haven’t screamed like that in a long time. It was crystal clear the damage that holding so much back is doing.
Of course I’ll be judged . My culture tells me to make light of my emotions, or to channel them only through aggression and bravado. I shouldn’t dare take them seriously or express them truthfully. So let’s see where this goes. If these words inspire even one person to feel moved to investigate the parts of themselves they repress, it’s worth the judgement of anyone else.
“When eye contact between two people is initiated and maintained, an invisible energetic circuit is established between the two participants, dissolving the barriers that ordinarily separate them from each other, drawing them ever closer into a shared awareness of union.” Will Johnson