X-Ray Vision of the Spirit

A friend of the author’s works as a counselor to the obdurate, lethal men at Arkansas’s infamous Tucker Max prison. She’s well aware that most people look at her clients and see only dregs–”ugly, toothless hulks,” as she puts it–but she claims she can only see “radiant bulbs with these big lampshades blocking the light. I know they’re supposed to be ‘untreatable psychopaths,’ but I feel like, Oh, take that fright-mask off! It could come off in two seconds!” It sounds absurd, but she is remarkably successful. In her presence, the toughest nuts crack wide-open; even their wary, death-row warders let down their guards and cry. She has an x-ray vision that goes straight to the human core.

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“It’s like there’s this horribly thick suit of armor,” the author’s friend explains to him, trying to make him see it through her eyes, “and I know someone’s trapped inside, so how do I get them out?” He asks her why she even bothers. “The joy!” she says, as if it’s the most obvious thing in the world. “Just the joy of being with people when they show up as they really are.”

If we can’t see who people really are, say possessors of the Good Eye, it’s just our ordinary eye playing tricks on us, focusing on differences and defects, blind to deeper connection. If we mistake each other for strangers, it’s just blurry vision. As with the rearview mirror that cautions Objects May Be Closer Than They Appear, we might be closer, much closer than we think.

Adapted from Field Notes on the Compassionate Life, by Marc Ian Barasch (Rodale, 2005). Copyright (c) 2005 by Marc Ian Barasch. Reprinted by permission of Rodale Press.
Adapted from Field Notes on the Compassionate Life, by Marc Ian Barasch (Rodale, 2005).

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Elena T.
Elena Poensgen2 years ago

Thank you :)

Fiona T.
Fi T.2 years ago

This is how we move on

J.L. A.
JL A.3 years ago

good reminder about perception and prejudgments

Rosie Lopez
Rosie Lopez3 years ago


Tim C.
Tim C.3 years ago


Robert O.
Robert O.4 years ago


Robert O.
Robert O.4 years ago


K s Goh
KS Goh4 years ago

Thanks for the article.

Janice P.
Janice P.5 years ago

Oh my gosh! This is so true. Oftentimes, a hard exterior is just a protective covering for a broken and aching heart, sometimes, for a broken life. I usually try to consider why such person would act or talk in a certain way. People are not born with a hard heart or a an angry spirit. Clearly, something must have occurred to cause injury to that person, which has produced the harsh exterior.

When I was still working, I befriended a homeless man, who had been known for outbursts of rage. I often took him out to eat. Ultimately, I ended up helping to support him. We had wonderful, long conversations, and I learned so much from him. A soft human being is usually residing inside every gruff exterior. We just need to take the time to look for that person.

Sallyanne J.

the 5 dimensional model of care encoruages this way of thinking. responding to the person behind the behaviour, helping them build their own ladders out of the pit is hard work, often exhasuting but such a joy to see them reach the light - and all this is not done for thanks! Imagine how you would feel if you were trapped in a body that made people reject you because they saw only the shell, next time you see someone whom upsets you step back mentally and look deeper