>Image or presence

>My father was one of those larger than life individuals. It was just the way he was. he would walk into a room and commandeer it. I am not sure he would do it on purpose, I used to think it was a natural outgrowth of being used to give orders and being obeyed.

I often think about the encounter with Jesus and the centurion where the centurion admits that he is used to authority, and he recognizes such a thing in Jesus.

Just say a word and it will be so. Like is known to like in a way that is obvious, though not always welcome. you get two type A personalities in a room and it is likely there will be attrition.

But I have begun to wonder how much of this commanding presence is really presence and how much of it is self-image? To clarify: self-image is how we perceive ourselves as objects of others’ attention. Presence is different from self-image in that presence is purely subjective, I am this. I am what I am. Self-image is worried about how one is seen by others. For me to be aware of how you see me, requires that I create a fantasy, an abstraction – I have to generate an object of myself to myself so I can observe it.

This mechanism is useful because it is the same mechanism which allows us create an abstraction of another person and “read their minds”, to realize that other people have different intentions and motives than ourselves.

This mechanism is dangerous when the self-image becomes identified as our egos. When I say “I am this” or “I am that” and I begin to relate from that abstraction as the real me. Then when anything tries to harm that self-image we respond with the same mechanism we use to protect our physical bodies – that is fight or flight.

I wonder where we got the idea that defending our self-image required the same tools and strategies as defending our physical selves?

Presence is indefensible. Mostly because it is not dependent on external factors, and a subjective state.

These two elements are not mutually exclusive. A strong presence will perhaps create a strong self-image. A strong self-image will probably create a strong presence. But the approach to it is different. If you develop a strong sense of presence, then you will not be too concerned with protecting self-image, but the reverse is not necessarily true.


About spaceloom

An urban monk, and an experienced spiritual director with a Masters in Psychology. Married with two children. Want to know me better? Read my thoughts.
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