Attention as Becoming

Attention involves concentration on what is not me. If we can witness without having to control the patient, we can experience the reality of the other person as she is.

“It is not so much a matter of looking without or within. It is a matter of looking rightly or wrongly.” Saraswati

Whether looking at others or ourselves, we are attending to reality. But can we be open to something mysterious without imposing upon it our own internal dogma? What if our actions have more meanings than we are consciously aware of? And what if we are accountable for them?

We do not know where we are going or what we will find in the therapy journey. But it is an act of faith that together we can discovery what is needed to be known. We are always traveling along the edge between the known and the unknown. As Bion pointed out, we have faith “that there is an ultimate reality and truth.” And that truth can emerge within meaningful human experience in the here and now.

The purpose of attention to the other person is precisely to break us OUT of our preconceptions, our defenses. This is why the poet Goethe suggested that,

“Man knows himself only to the extent that he knows the world; he becomes aware of himself only within the world; and aware of the world only within himself. Every new object, clearly seen, opens up a new organ of perception within us.”

Imagine. Every patient, more clearly seen, opens up a new organ of perception within us! This attention is how we grow as therapists and persons. So we should never think of ourselves as “finished” or “complete” or understood, Goethe said, but “as evolving, growing, and in many ways as something yet to be determined.”

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