The Beautiful Risk: Self-other encounter

One of the best descriptions of relational encounter you will read, by therapist James H. Olthuis, in The Beautiful Risk:

So when time and again—no matter what I throw at you or how I test you, no matter how I attack or pull back or digress—you continue to announce your availability without defense or without aggression, I receive that message, even when I try to hide it. At some point, even if only briefly or partially, I—myself—make an appearance and reach out. At that moment there is the spark of connection across the gaps between us. Love comes as a response to the presence of the other. As that spark across the gaps happens more often, the connection deepens and the trust grows—a gradual and painful process, to be sure, as together we discover and explore our patterns of vulnerability and invulnerability, our hopes and fears. Still, the healing connection is deepened and nourished as I bare my wounds and let my frightened self find voice, feel heard, be seen, and be consoled. That is the beginning of the miracle of love: being open to another, guards down, and—no questions asked, no demands, no judgments—being respected, received, affirmed, and blessed. To show oneself as the person we are—wounded, blemished, hurting, longing—and to feel welcomed and accepted is to experience grace.

And then? No longer hidden or invisible, not taken advantage of or used or rejected, but rather seen, heard, and honored —what then? I don’t need to defend or resist or attack or run. I don’t need to do anything (Olthuis 2006, 207).