Friday, February 27, 2009

Peculiarities of Relationship



One of my favorite things about restaurants and cafes is that they offer so many chances to people watch. Sometimes I am quite clinical in my observations, noticing the clenched levator scapula muscles, the pulsing masseters, the jittery feet of people who are stressed out and really need a massage. Watching people sit down, and even more interesting, stand up, shows me many things about the functionality of their quadriceps.

Lately what I've been watching in cafes are the energetic relationships between people who meet for coffee or lunch. When they first see each other there is inevitably an awkward moment unless they're already the very best of friends. Will they shake hands, have a hug or just say hello? If one of them is already seated, will he/she stand up? There's always a moment of adjustment, a sense that two worlds have just collided.

Once they're seated, their voices modulate themselves, adjust in tone and decibel level to the other. Within the first couple of minutes, their bodies begin to mirror each other. After a few minutes, often - not always - both people will be sitting, for instance, with chin in hand, legs crossed. When one person uncrosses his/her legs, the other person does, too. I'm sure it isn't conscious.

Again when it's time to go, there's a moment of awkwardness because the two people, through the mirroring and voice modulation, have woven their energetic fields together. Even if they're meeting for business there's a second when it feels like something is being torn apart, as they separate.

The Tribute to Lost Loves I wrote about in the Peacock post, as it turns out, is not an altar but a painting. As with all such endeavors, I am learning so much about myself as I go through the process. Unlike Whistler's Peacock Room, this painting is rather pretty. Who knew?

When it's time for me to bury this painting, I wonder if I'll have an awkward moment like the people in cafes when it's time to leave? Or will I be all the way done with it and happy to shovel earth on top of it? We shall see.


Two seconds after I took this pic, the person on the left put her hands on the table and started fiddling with a piece of paper, just like the guy. Really!

26 comments:

Adrianne said...

Love that bottom picture -- it reminds me of the day that we had coffee and tea together in that very spot. (: )

Reya Mellicker said...

They were sitting at the same table we shared. Let's go get coffee sometime soon!

The Family Julz said...

People watching takes on a new meaning when you decide to do so at a Southern music festival. You should come down and try it some day. You'll laugh like never before.

Chris Wolf said...

I get so much information about a person before they ever open their mouths. My Grandma used to say, "Your actions speak so loudly, I can't hear what you're saying!" I loved that after I figured out what she meant.

karen said...

great post! The mirroring thing is fascinating, I have to sometimes stop myself from doing it when I notice! I love people watching, too. Lots of scope, living in a tourist town!

Amy said...

"Mirroring" is something I learned about several years ago in...er...therapy. (oy)

We not only subconcsiously mirror the actions of others, but we also teach others how we expect to be treated by being a mirror. (Kind of answers a few things about why some people always seem to attract "the wrong type of people" doesn't it?!)

I wish my brain could think like yours does. You're very insightful, and your photographs absolutely rock!

Meri Arnett-Kremian said...

I think mirroring attunes us to the essence of another person. We adopt their rhythms, their hesitations -- quite unconsciously -- as a way of melting souls together for a moment. And there is a rupture, however slight, when we take our leave of another,in the soul fabric we weave when we're together. Thanks for pointing it out. I don't usually think about it. Now I'll notice.

willow said...

People watching is so entertaining! I like to try to guess their zodiac signs, as well.

Lover of Life said...

This is so true. Great observation. Do you notice that we will match voices, as well? In timbre and cadence, we often will match the person we are talking to. My girls say I always talk loud to my brother. He has a "big" voice, so I guess I'm trying to match his.

Ronda Laveen said...

I can almost "see" the energy betweent those two in bottom pic. Yes, pacing or mirroring is fascinating. I like to play with sometimes leading or sometimes following, depending on which way I feel the energy flow or relationship flowing. Nice.

runmotman said...

What happens when you are watching a person who is in turn there watching you...a stare down watching contest!
Cool.
Do we get to see your painting before you lay it to rest?

deborah said...

The way you are 'in tune' constantly amazes me--I read this blog and then opened this:

"In any field of inquiry, the most interesting aspect is always thresholds. Interfaces between two systems.

To an ecologist, mountains are interesting for their alpine forests and vertically oriented fauna. Plains are interesting for their grasses and swamps. But nothing is as fascinating as the foothills, where two ecosystems meet.

One of the most interesting (and useful) fields today is that of “human interface” -- the place where people and their machines meet. And then there is the study of chaoplexity -- the fascinating border between rigid order and total randomness where things such as amoebas, bond traders, Chabad House rabbis and the like occur. In Halachah (Torah law), there is much discussion on the status of twilight -- the gray area between when day stops and night begins. A gateway is one of the most common metaphors of Torah: A place where you are neither in nor out, but part of both.

Torah generally talks in terms of dual systems: Heaven and Earth; G-d and Man; Creator and created; Nothingness and something. So if we want to get into fascinating territory, we can ask: Where do they meet and what happens there?"

Amazing--love you so much1

Steve said...

Body language is so strange...it's funny how people mirror each other without meaning to. I guess way back in our evolutionary days (as if we've stopped) it helped other people understand that we weren't threatening or were "on the same page," you know?

Delwyn said...

As A counsellor I was taught to mirror the body language, tone of voice and manner of speaking of the client in a subtle way in order for the client to unconsciously feel that I was attuned to her and was 'with' her - creating empathy and acceptance in the relationship.
And where there is a power differential in a relationship - and in many there is one or another type, the mirroring effect helps to find a common denominator and begin to build trust.

Reya Mellicker said...

Deborah that is awesome! Where two ecosystems meet - oh yeah! Could say that about every relationship I've ever had. Where worlds collide!

Of course there are the people who get together and never mesh. One person does all the talking, really loud talking, and pays no attention to the figeting of the other person.

I'm not so interested in those non-interactions.

What happens underneath the table is as interesting as what happens above, btw.

Merrim said...

Lovely post Reya ... really interesting , Congratulations!

Rose said...

Very interesting post. I love to watch people in all kinds of situations too.

Mrsupole said...

I love people watching. I'm not sure why. When we wait for any amount of time in a restaurant to be seated, I sit there and people watch. I try to guess if they are related or not. Sometimes you can tell and sometimes you cannot. Nice to see that I am not alone in doing this. It is fascinating.

Have you ever tried the one where you keep looking up and then try to see how many others are doing it too. Just try it sometime and you will be surprised at how many will follow suit.

Some will openly look and others will try to discreetly look to see what you are looking at. The ones who have "connected" with you in any way will openly do it and the others will try to quietly see what it is.

I think we learned about this when I took psychology classes in school. I guess there have been many experiments on this.

Try it sometime, it is fun.

Angela said...

When I see that people watch me, I always look back at them and smile. Some feel caught and look away, and some smile back and even start talking. I like that. I think we take an immediate interest in some people just by watching their body language. Just as by reading their blogs.

Coffee Messiah said...

Back in the day I had a friend who had a tiny little diamond in her nose (she was Lebanese). People would stare, so she bought those Groucho Marx nose/glasses and would put them on. It broke the ice, to be sure. ; )

Loud, obnoxious, non listeners are a bore ; (

Cynthia said...

Beautiful header photo...I have also spent many hours talking over coffee and people watching. I just stopped by and was surprised to see all that text...I read you were a photo blog. Wonderful insights. <3

Single PAP said...

i, too, love people watching.. trying to guess what their story is.

found ya via black boxes!

John Hayes said...

Really found a lot to think about here-- your observations of people interacting seem insightful; am especially thinking about the phenomenon of two peoples' energy disentangling as they part. Perhaps one of the problems we sometimes face with past loves is that the energy never became disentangled even tho there is a physical separation.

Reya Mellicker said...

John, my past loves have become a part of me. I bet there are traces of them on my DNA. Every time I sit down for coffee with someone, it becomes a part of my historical record. Even if it's a small piece of my history it's there with me.

Very cool thoughts.

Bee said...

I like to watch people, too, but I don't think that my eye is nearly as observant as yours is. Obviously, some of what you notice is related to your professional eye . . . but I'm also wondering if the process of taking photographs has also developed your ability to see more. When did you start taking photographs, Reya?

Patty said...

Excellent shot. It speaks volumes.