Depth perception

We’re used to seeing in 2D. Social media, TV, newspapers (if anyone still reads them) crush humans onto a 2-D medium. And often not simply their visual image; also their character, their values, their stories.

Of course, there is a lot of pressure energizing this crushing into 2D. Our prejudices, griefs and arguments can be reinforced quite easily. Our worldview remains intact. The terrors of real intimacy and freedom can be held at bay. The uncertainty of never really being able to predict - let alone control - what another person does is silenced. So, I suspect we nudge others and let ourselves be nudged towards maintaining these reductions. After all, they make life simpler. But we too are crushed, reduced to simplistic cartoon characters we have learned to accept, maintain and present. Characters that can only be, think, feel, react, connect in certain ways. Characters that see others as only able to be, think, feel, react and connect in certain ways.

Discovering depth

And then there comes moments where we discover depth. Perhaps someone says or does something that pierces our 2D images, or offers another perspective, and we discover much more than emptiness behind. We see new dimensions.

These are moments of authentic relational contact. These are dimensions where our fundamental loneliness and isolation in the world can be soothed. For, inasmuch as one person’s depth is perceived, all of our hidden and denied parts, lurking in the dark corners of our being and awareness, find acknowledgement.

They are also moments of freedom. The edges of the 2D images are broken outwards and we are all far more than the mere possibilities of a cartoon; we can interact, relate, understand ourselves, choose and respond in so many more ways - and still be ‘us’. This invigorates a sense of agency, possibility and hope.

The depth dimension

So what is this depth? One reason we see ourselves and others as 2D is that our depths don’t feel appropriate, acceptable, or valuable. So we keep living at the forward facing surface not realising or acknowledging all that is going on behind and within. Our depth, then, can be everything we became ashamed or afraid of in us, everything that was hidden from us and that we hide from others (and even ourselves).

The problem with this is that we have an internalised scale that sets everything behind our cartoon face as negative: untrustworthy, irrational, threatening, perhaps even evil. But is it all bad? Well, the scale was probably not set so accurately; what others can tolerate isn’t a good measure of worth. There probably needs some recalibration.

But more than this, the depth dimension goes both ways; both the ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ are found in the person. Jealousy, envy, passion, indifference and love. Shame, guilt, pride and humility. Trust and betrayal, hope and despair, hurt and joy. Emotions, thought, actions. The desire to act and the desire to hide. Aggression, assertion, passivity. This doesn’t mean a person is good or bad, but both, always. We are complex: freely ambivalent and the one doesn’t discount the other nor reduce it to meaninglessness. It can all be held together in ‘us’.

As we get more acquainted with our depths, we may even find that these evaluations become less and less relevant to us; we become less concerned with judging us and others or parts of us as good or bad - judging what we need to keep 'down there' and what we can let surface - and find ourselves more curious and accepting about what is.

Finally, the depth dimension is a dimension that seems to keep going. Not simply to our past experiences, but to our family’s, culture’s and even humanity’s past experiences. All bring themselves to bear, with wave after wave of energy, on the front we display. All is held, squashed and distorted in that 2D face we portray.

This can help undo our sense of badness that can tie up any attempts to get in touch with this dimension in us. For, when we stretch ourselves out again, we can start to perceive what is ours and what we inherited. When we perceive our depths, we can start to see the weight of our lineages that have made us who we are and see ourselves with greater compassion.

Furthermore, when we see the lineages our being is part of, our inner loneliness and sense of identity can be nourished. We are part of something which others, too, are part of. We have a lot that we share. And, the ways others have lived in or outside of those lineages become possibilities within us, new ways of being held within our history.

Learning depth perception

So, perceiving depth connects, de-shames and empowers ourselves and others in new, life-giving ways. We learn to dig for the precious jewels that were lost, to notice the edges we are bigger than, to non-judgmentally wonder what more there is to discover, and to see our stories in other people.

And so we learn that we are much closer to others that we thought; that much of them comes out from them, to right there next to us. Close enough to touch. This brings freedom: to authentically present new sides of ourselves to the world; to gently touch the closeness of the other and connect in novel, before unseen, ways; to no longer try to manipulate, control or keep others safe; to shed outdated cartoons that do justice neither to all we are or all we could be.

For we all hold within ourselves far, far more than our old faces portray.

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