How to be Interesting.

When I went to see my analyst Chuck for the first time it was on the understanding that he’d work with me or not based on that session. He was getting on and not particularly looking for new customers.

I was nervous and gabbled a lot. One of the things I mentioned, almost in passing, was a dream I’d had the night before of being on a narrow path in a dark and tangly wood. An old lady had lost her chickens and asked me to help her find them. They were all nesting in the undergrowth and it was quite a process to get them out.

When we got to the end of the hour he said he’d take me on. I asked what made up his mind.

‘you helped the old lady. I don’t work with people unless they are interesting’.

‘How do you know from that dream that I am interesting?’


‘Interesting people are those who are interested in others, those who are involved in more than their own small world.”

I had never thought of it like that. On the way home I reflected on people I knew and it seemed to be universally true that whether they were interesting or not had to do, not with their attributes, but with a certain quality of being.

that was interested in others.

Perhaps who you’ve met, how smart you are, where you’ve been, and the clever musing is all garnish. I once new a man who was an adventurer and made documentaries for telly. He was terribly clever, a master of technology and machinery, brave, committed…

but not interesting.


Because his adventure was all on the outside and so he was not interested in any one else’s adventure because they were mostly happening on the inside..

He was oblivious.

He already knew it all.

Despite his fabulous travels all over the globe and  the fact he’d just bought you a pint you’d soon be hatching an escape plan, or perhaps just seen a long lost friend at the far end of the bar, or felt in might be the perfect moment for a fire drill.

We seem to have forgotten what one another are for.

Describing the Xavante log races in the Amazon rainforest, anthropologist David Maybury-Lewis comes up against his own unconscious western prejudice that the point of the race is to win.

Whole communities crashing through the jungle, loudly urging on the runners, leaping in to give moments of assistance…

you really could be forgiven for thinking it was a competition..

One day he’s watching and notices that one of the logs is way bigger than the other but no-one seems to care…

and in fact some of the runners with the ‘winning’ log peel off to help the stragglers..

and… in fact… it is not a race at all but a ceremony..

”linking the realm of nature with the realm of culture and to stress that these antitheses need not tear the world apart.” D Maybury-Lewis.

The ideal was for the teams to arrive together and the loud after race speeches praised those who ran , not fastest, but most beautifully.

North American Indians played Lacrosse in this spirit, the game ending when a tie was reached, sometimes stretching the match over several days. This spirit of co-operation reaches even into warfare in tribes that Linnaeus’ very scientific Systema Naturae of 1735 describes as ‘Homo Monstrous’.

Traditional Trobriand Islanders in the Pacific had no war. They would all meet on a certain prescribed day of the year and have a ritual punch-up. If anyone was unfortunate enough to get killed the battle would stop immediatly, aplogies made and everyone would eat and go home.

Many North American tribes made war armed only with ‘coup sticks’, it being sufficient to touch your enemy with the stick to be victorious over him.

How we veiw others and what we consider people to be for is crucial to the question of whether those others are going to find us interesting. My adventuring friend’s escapades and their long recounting were actually defences against intimacy. It was all a competition.

Chuck was a wise old guy. He once told me that the secret of transformation was to do what you always did, deliberatly. Its too much to just change yourself all at once. Even a narrow stream benefits from a stepping stone.

So we have to become aware of that streak in ourselves that likes to take a hold of conversation…

”We infallibly run into things that thwart us, first, the thing you have no wish to be, the shadow. Second the thing you are not, the individual reality of ‘You’, and third the Collective Unconscious.” CG Jung

We experience all these three in pretty much the same place, each other.

which is why,

”Hell is other people.” JP Sartre.

Those for whom we might be intesting are going to be in receipt of all our assumptions, projections, prejudices and unresolved issues.

you can go off a person.

So the trick is not that you mustn’t do it. That’s just more conflict.

The trick is to be slightly embarrassed about it.

”Only a humble person can be kind, because, not playing any game of one-upmanship, she is able to enjoy a relationship in which no one triumphs, and therefor all win.” P Ferrucci.

For this we need internal dialogue, I talking to me, let alone to one another.

So there was this granmother trying to take a photo of all the family and there’s a lot of discussion and shifting and instruction till eventually she mutters under her breath, ‘oh, just take the picture, Edna.’ You immediatly warm to her, want to know.

Though it is perhaps best not to tell yourself off out loud overly much….

an’ put the pegs back on the line.