Showing Off – Yet Hidden From View

RJR: The modern-day dating scene absolutely fascinates me. My patients share regularly their experiences and, as I hear them, I observe how our culture is transforming almost on a month-by-month basis. Dating is nothing like it was, even this time last year. How can norms be considered norms, if they are forever changing?  
NS: The only norm in most relationships, at any time in history, seems to be a lack of understanding between those involved; people seldom really know each other. They create images of themselves and of the person they hope to have – or have – a relationship with. And the images are fantasy. Doesn’t modern dating – ie online and fast-moving – simply supercharge this process?
RJR: I find that a sad perspective. I would like to hope that not all relationships are so challenging for people and that some share a mutual understanding and terrain within which to grow intimate and close – with plenty of love and light to bathe in and nurture each other. Perhaps at the start, there is only projection, fantasy, desire… but in time one would hope for a whole lot more than that if the connection endures – for the connection to endure. But how to create that in the modern world I wonder?
NS: It may be sad, but how many relationships are there in which this mutual understanding flourishes? And does the “modern-day dating scene” facilitate this kind of development? In some ways, it is not that modern, since there have for a century or two been “lonely hearts” ads and agencies. The one thing that such systems make clear is that both people are looking for a relationship – whereas out in the world things may not be so clear-cut. But again, is this a good or bad thing? Hitting the ground running may not be as productive as two people gradually getting to know each other. What do you think?
RJR: I would like to think that a mutual understanding flourishes in most relationships – otherwise we are all in unhealthy ones! But I think relationships built on texting create no end of misunderstandings. It is not about ads and agencies – the way people meet now or in the past – but HOW we communicate. And of course there is the never-ending choice within our throwaway culture. No one is indispensable. Even the role of partner, lover and best friend is up for grabs when the going gets a tiny bit tough… after all, the internet shop is always open… even when your partner is sleeping next to you… Hitting the ground running gives us a hit – a temporary fix – for sure. But how does a relationship ground itself if not with time, shared experience, and good real, authentic, face-to-face communication?
NS: Honest communication must be the key. But the text, the email, the phone call, even the letter, can almost encourage the wearing of masks – and the engendering of misinterpretation. Does face-to-face communication encourage us to be more honest? One hopes so. But are we sometimes frightened to be honest – whatever the means of communication?
RJR: I guess the primary person we need to be truly honest with is ourselves?
NS: Absolutely. We need to be truly honest with ourselves – and not try to fool ourselves about what we are and what our needs are. And we presumably also need to NOT worry about what others may make of our true selves?
RJR: What we are? I wonder what you mean. I think it is very easy for us not to be in touch with our own needs, don’t you think? And what do you mean by “true self”?
NS: I think I mean the ugliness as well as the good bits. I agree that it’s not easy to be fully aware of our own needs. But deep down, we must be. And deep down is where the true self, or true nature of us, is. I suppose that for a relationship to have a chance of survival, one must be willing to expose one’s complete picture – the dark and the light. It’s quite easy for two people to form a relationship between both of their light sides – but that can’t be honest, can it? The question is: when and how does one reveal the rest?
RJR: I guess it depends what lies in a person’s shadow, and how significant it would be for the person with whom they are forming a relationship. Everyone is different. I think it is fair to acknowledge that we live in a very fast-moving culture now when it comes to sex, and I think its early introduction into relationships, for people of all ages, does not encourage honesty and depth of feeling. What do you think?
NS: If sex enters the relationship immediately or quickly, then it is little more than sex. If sex happens between two people who have got to know each other well over a longer period – and who love each other (including what they may have seen of each other’s shadows) – then it may be more intense and have more meaning. It may be out of sync with the present times, but it seems that sex should be something to move towards, not to seize immediately. Does that make sense?
RJR: I would like to encourage a counter-culture, where all communication and connecting is undertaken thoughtfully and slowly. Do you want to join me?
NS: I think that is completely counter to the prevailing culture – and so is extremely appealing! Because everything is moving too fast…

RJR: Is that just because you are a rebel at heart? My wish is to empower the people with whom I am working who are finding themselves stuck with the consequences of our fast-moving culture… to slow it down – and that kind of energy is being received well. What do our readers feel about this?

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