March 25, 2021

Perception of Presence

     Skillful authors can, in a relatively brief space, convey a character’s effect on others.  Here are examples.

       Detective Chief Inspector John Crow left the train. The ticket agent flickered an interested glance at Crow as he passed through the barrier. Crow wore no hat and his domed skull drew the man’s attention; his deep-set eyes and curved, jutting nose held the man’s curiosity; and Crow had no doubt that as he walked away across the echoing hallway his height and general scrawniness would retain the man’s interest until he had vanished from sight.        

       “There’s one thing, John,” his wife Martha sometimes said, “people don’t forget you easily.”

       She meant he was often remembered for his kindness to old folk in the area where they lived, and for the quiet warmth of his personality, but he was not blind to the effect his physical appearance could have on those he faced for the first time. (Roy Lewis, Murder for Money, 1973)

     Thomas Stone had a reputation at Missing Hospital for being outwardly quiet but intense and even mysterious, though Dr. Ghosh, the hospital’s internal medicine specialist and jack-of-all-trades, disputed that last label, saying, “When a man is a mystery to himself you can hardly call him mysterious.” His associates had learned not to read too much into Stone’s demeanor, which a stranger might think was surly when in fact he was painfully shy. Lost and clumsy outside it, inside Operating Theater 3 he was focused and fluid, as if it was only in the theater that body and soul came together, and where the activity within his head matched the terrain outside. As a surgeon, Stone was famous for his speed, his courage, his daring, his boldness, his inventiveness, the economy of his movements, and his calmness under duress. (Abraham Verghese, Cutting for Stone, 2009)

      The literary examples show that a person’s presence is composed of some elements that are external and some that are internal.  There is interplay between the two, so that sometimes the internal and the external reinforce the other, and sometimes they seem to be in contradiction. 

     The presence is not fully realized until it interacts with another person, whose own strands of experiences and perceptions create effects that vary with each audience.

     In the routine flow of life we often underestimate how much we are affected by the presence of people who cross our paths. They affect our moods, shape our decisions, fashion the themes that we follow.

     Generosity, kindness, empathy, accessibility, calm, optimism, enthusiasm are all aspects of positive energy. Some people seem to access it naturally, while others must work harder to cultivate a positive outlook on life. 

 Negative energy is simply verbal and non-verbal signs that you are not in a good mood, pessimistic, and doubtful. (Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. clinical psychologist) 

If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.  Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.   (Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854)
    

  1. When did you first notice that just being around a particular person affected the way you felt?
  2. Whose presence made you feel uneasy or awkward?
  3. What was there in appearance, behavior, demeanor that was off-putting?
  4. Who had a presence that made you feel good?
  5. What did they do or say that made you feel good?
  6. What aspects of other people have the most effect on you?
  7. What feedback have you received about your effect on others?
  8. Did you trust it the refection that was given?
  9. Did it match you self-perception?
  10. How can sharing your presence be important?

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