Interesting piece from Mandy Len Catron in the New York Times, about Arthur Aron’s study a couple of decades back – and her modern application of this.
This concerns how we come into intimate relationship with each other – and how we can avoid or limit this.
‘We all have a narrative of ourselves that we offer up to strangers and acquaintances, but Dr. Aron’s questions make it impossible to rely on that narrative. Ours was the kind of accelerated intimacy I remembered from summer camp, staying up all night with a new friend, exchanging the details of our short lives. At 13, away from home for the first time, it felt natural to get to know someone quickly. But rarely does adult life present us with such circumstances.’
The Aron study involves 36 increasingly personal questions – which lead participants into stepping outside the ‘narrative’ she refers to – followed by four minutes looking silently into each other’s eyes:-
‘….the real crux of the moment was not just that I was really seeing someone, but that I was seeing someone really seeing me.’
One of the interesting features of this is that Arthur Aron’s process is not a million miles from the therapeutic process of relationship-building. That is also about creating trust and intimacy, albeit in a different context from ‘falling in love’. We agree with her that:-
‘…..love is a more pliable thing than we make it out to be. Arthur Aron’s study taught me that it’s possible — simple, even — to generate trust and intimacy, the feelings love needs to thrive.’
And this is a two way process, about empathy, trust, connection, seeing and being seen – whether the context is a therapeutic relationship, friendship or partnership (although there are clearly also differences).
Palace Gate Counselling Service, Exeter