A client exhaled, relaxing the corners of his brown eyes, and said, “Thank you. I feel seen.” This compliment melted me. I started thinking about what it really means to see and feel seen. I thought about my own eyes, just your regular set of brown dots sitting atop the mask. My father called them muscadines.
You don’t know much about me by looking only at my eyes because 75% of the world’s population has brown eyes. I could be just about anyone from anywhere with any backstory if the only thing you saw of me was the iris. I could be any gender. I could be from any continent. I could be any race. I could be any religion. I could even be any age because the eyes stop growing at three months old.
The brain seeks to understand by recognizing patterns and sorting clues. We categorize, profile, stereotype and bucket by clues that support a conscious or unconscious bias. Our skin, our god, our gender, our accent, our school, zip code, attire, weight, the way we love—all serve as clues that get filtered through a bias.
But, what if the only clue you had about someone was that the iris was brown? You’d know really nothing at all about that person except that the iris is brown and not a color other than brown. You’d then have to go into exploratory mode to start to know that person, to really see that person.
Whenever I see brown eyes, I am going to remember that those eyes represent 75% of the world’s population, and that’s all. There are no other conclusions to draw from that one clue until the work is done to know the individual behind the eyes. And what about blues and greens? My husband has green eyes which are 2% of the world’s population. I’ll have to think about what this all means for him.
I’m not sure what I’ll do with this iris observation, but I do know the greatest compliment I can receive from a client or a friend or basically any person in my orbit is, “Thank you. I feel seen.”
I’d like to learn what makes you feel truly seen.