Can we know the deep truth within, most especially if has been painful in a society that often teaches us that there is no more depth than the surface of what we see, or rather the surface society would have us believe we should see or will allow us to see?
This is a question that came to me this evening while watching episode four of The Affair which centres around two characters, male and female who begin an affair. The woman, Alison has lost a son to drowning two years before, her lover Noah is already married with his own family and is unaware when he first meets Alison that she is married, indeed Alison like many people who have gone through loss is keeping many secrets. In time, with great guilt and difficulty they launch on an affair, shortly after it begins an argument ensues when Noah discovers a cut on Alison’s leg. Her deep pain has caused her to self harm and when Noah sees the scar Alison acts in an abrupt and defensive fashion. Noah has no idea of what he has triggered by touching the scar but a short while later the painful truth comes out. Alison fully expects to be abandoned after she reveals her pain and that occasionally she self harms in order to ‘feel better’. As her pain breaks and just before they are to say good bye Alison says to Noah ‘what do you see?’
This question seemed so poignant to me. It spoke volumes of how we struggle with loss, with how we must appear, with the silent wound that suffering and loss bring, with the fear of revealing our pain to others, with the fear of being vulnerable and even with our right to have our authentic deep feelings in a society which often shames deeper more vulnerable emotions.
In my last relationship when old pain over losses came out I was often savaged. One most painful incident was following a visit to see my ex partner’s father who was dying of cancer. I had lost my own father quiet a few years before but the wound was very sore. When we had to leave I cried most of the long trip home. After we arrived home I received a blast for playing sad songs and crying. I was then told that I needed to put all of my grief behind me if I wanted the relationship to continue.
Luckily for Alison she doesn’t receive this treatment, the extent of her vulnerability deepens the intimacy between her and Noah. When Noah looks at Alison he doesn’t see something ugly that he wants to change or reject. The mirror of his eyes can reflect back her suffering. For those of us who suffer we so badly need this mirror, without it we get so lost and our pain has nowhere to go, so it gets stuffed back inside, maybe for years until we can find after a long journey someone who can see and provide a mirror of love for our wounded soul.