Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Counseling Session with Sharon

I dreamt last night that Gary and an old boyfriend were kind of interchangeable. They wanted to do things with someone: Charlie with Nancy, the woman he’d been involved in before me; Gary his mother. Maybe there was a bit of John D. in there too, with that woman he was interested in at a restaurant we used to go to. Scott needed something and Gary/Charlie wanted me to take care of him while they took out Nancy/Darlene. In this dream I wanted to go with them; I didn’t want them going somewhere with these women without me. And one of the men asked me why not? And I said, Because I’m jealous. And I realized in the dream there was a time I would have rather died of shame than say that. I would have self-censored it; I would have tried to keep daylight between me and it. I felt good in myself saying I was jealous. Not relieved, particularly, but the sense of integrity from telling the truth. I said, “I’m jealous” and I let it stand. I may have even thought about it a little more in the dream, comparing the term with my insides and checking its accuracy. ...After I’d told him I was jealous, I ate a blue m&m off the floor.

There was another part of the dream too where I’m out in my yard and there is an azalea plant. There was something I was expecting from it—maybe some pretty foliage or something. Instead, it was studded with buds and beginning to bloom—beautifully. It surprised me because it was not what I’d thought was the normal bloom time of an azalea. It seems it was blooming—what, later, or earlier than what’s usually expected. Maybe it was early, because I remember having an idea in the dream that it must be a plant that’s meant to provide winter color—and it was gorgeous. A prize and point of pride. I was proud that I had this plant and proud to show others this unique and beautiful thing, growing in my yard.

Sharon said that it seems kind of funny that we humans have developed this great big brain, ostensibly for thought, and then choose feelings, Feelings, as our guide. Yet, the brain developed so we humans could figure out how to live with each other, because we had to, for survival. Our brains are about ‘how to get along’ with other humans. For safety. It’s not about Truth.

That surely makes sense. I mean, it kind of explains my whole upbringing and the unspoken ideas I was supposed to absorb and implement. There were certain forms of ‘getting along’ that I was supposed to comply with. Necessary hypocrisies, like pretending deference to adults who were being unreasonable. Denial of self. What I’ve been coming up with in terms of ‘erasing’ myself fits in to that model of the brain developing as a means to figure out ‘getting along’. It makes sense that I would be considered the faulty one if someone stepped on my feet and I called their attention to it. I was not supposed to notice, and if I did, I was not supposed to let the offender know, meaning I wasn’t supposed to let the offender know I knew. I was supposed to protect the offender’s sense of everything being right in his/her world.

So, at least intellectually I can see that I am going against a Pattern of being with other people; this is counter not only to the way I was raised, but to something that’s almost genetic in humans. To go against, to not get along, to not fit in, with other humans, to say no to them, declare one’s own Self as distinct from the group—is dangerous. Witness Galileo.

I think I’ve spent a lifetime denying my Self my feelings—such as the jealousy I mentioned in the dream. Basically these feelings were assertions of myself; a demand that my needs and priorities come first. And I could not insist on that and back it up, because I was ashamed of feelings that supported that impulse. I’ve spent a lifetime beating them back.

Certainly ‘getting along with others’ is very different a goal than that of being True.

Something here reminds me of the military. The way that the men in a combat unit aren’t fighting for an ideal, at least not in the heat of battle. They’re fighting for each other. Something about that seems kind of horrible. It’s like that natural impulse of humans to care for each other is being exploited. That’s what the cutting edge looks like. To a military strategist the fighting troops are the cutting edge in achieving their goals. Taking a key piece of ground; denying the enemy some need. For a blade to be able to cut it needs to be sharp. The love of these men for each other is what sharpens the blade, so they can act as a cohesive unit. This seems very wrong. To the strategist it looks like lines on a map. On the ground it looks like men loving each other and trying to protect and help each other as they strive to advance that ‘line’ a little bit forward.

So I guess that one of the socializations that human beings have taught each succeeding generation is that getting along with each other is the key to survival. I suppose some of us learn it more forcefully than others. I see what Sharon means about the Conscious Mind and the Heart. Very different agendas, one toward getting along in the world; the other toward the Truth. Religion and the traditional socialization mechanisms would become very important here: church, respect for Authority. Perhaps these conventions functioned to protect the person with an erased self. If there are strict rules guarding, say, one’s sexuality, then the person who’s been taught to submit their will toward others isn’t as likely to be ‘persuaded’ by the demands of someone who hasn’t sublimated their own sense of self quite as much. The erased self then feels an entitlement, indeed an imperative to resist the Other's persuasions. And these imperatives have to be backed up by Something or else they’re meaningless. So God becomes helpful. Interesting to conceive of religion in the service of socialization, rather than seeking the Truth.

There are people who don’t seem to be ashamed of demanding their own way. There are others who permit them. There are people who aren’t at all ashamed to say no, and have none of the phobia about doing that.

Is it possible that this conflict between my inner truth with what I was taught about what it takes to ‘get along’ is the core of the pattern that has run my life?

I do find, in my reading back over what I’ve written, that there is some terror of not-belonging in the phobia about "No" (not being able to tolerate that moment afterward without struggling shamefully to fill it with apology, with promises, or reasons). There is also some kindness, too, motivating that. There is both.

I also see in my writings a lot of turmoil, and a desire to erase my own feelings. Feeling unentitled to ask anything for myself, let alone demand it. That’s because I couldn’t, not without all those parts of me that had had to go dormant, because they wore such an ugly mask if they surfaced. I see now they weren’t monsters at all. And, I see that they were what was sacrificed in my effort to ‘get along’, which was pretty highly valued in my family. And I see I blamed my feelings for 'telling' me the pain of being erased. I wanted to erase the pain, and I blamed myself for having it.

So, if mainly all the years of writing I’ve done is to get me to here, to "claiming my disowned parts" without shame or apology—to acknowledge their truth…do I have as much need to write? If a great deal of grief in my life has come from the dynamic of taking seriously doing whatever it took to get along, and I’m unwinding that, then what? Do I start to move past the fierce need for such solitude? Do I move past the need to write?

All my life, any situation that involved me asserting my preferences and priorities put me into a huge bind because I’d really come to believe that I shouldn’t. I was dependent on Others to grant them to me, but I couldn’t insist on it. So when it came to a conflict between “me” and “thee”, the default setting was for ‘me’ to accede. Anything different from that was just crippling with anxiety. And it certainly meant a leakage and hemorrhage at the interface, the microscopic interaction of personal boundaries. There was a permeability of boundaries there. To define mine was to state that my preferences in that area were more important than the Other’s. Sharon and I talked about my perplexity about where I really do end and begin in my interactions with others, if it’s true that everything that comes into me is filtered through…me. If I say I’m feeling something from another person, is it just my projections, or is it for real? If I feel a sense that someone wants something from me, does that mean that they do? Or is it me filtering all input through my history, selecting out certain elements to form a pattern that I then identify a certain way? Where if I was different, the same set of circumstances might find me selecting other elements out of the Ground and perceiving an entirely different pattern? Does this invalidate my feelings?

Guess I was well socialized.

I wrote this in January of 1982; 27 years ago. It’s an example of a dynamic of accusation I unearthed a couple years ago. To rise, to accomplish something, to do something new and different that required some courage—it loosed an avalanche of self-accusation in me, because it seemed that to rise beyond my family was to somehow accuse THEM. There was this hint, or ghost of that:

I realized a dilemma, earlier, thinking about writing to John and telling him the things I’m doing lately. And cringing because I feel I’m doing it from a smug, self-satisfied, bragging, conceited motive. A fear of stepping outside of my bounds by saying, “I’m important” (For who would do or talk about these things unless they would think these things are important, and they for doing them—I feel like I haven’t a right to say “I’m important.” And I don’t know—how to let myself say, “I’m important" without being uncomfortable—or feel like I’m pushing on other people. When I consider my accomplishments & imagine talking about them I see a picture of me getting bigger, spreading out, and impinging on people’s space. Shoving them aside. I feel I’m putting them down ...

OK, so there’s a concrete example of how that dynamic worked in my life. The thread of the pattern definitely weaves through here. I accused myself of self-aggrandizement, even in talking about the things I was learning and doing. Because there was a ghost of a feeling that I was accusing the people I was talking to, in daring to emerge from the usual, do something that distinguished me. Highlighted the ‘not-me’. Which seemed exceedingly disloyal; so disloyal I had to accuse myself. It’s kind of amazing I kept going.

Because, painful as this thing was, I was on the cusp of a brand new life; the start of an amazing life, actually, of adventure. And of seeing myself rise to its demands. Where I met some very important friends, some who I still have today. Who influenced who I married which gave me my children.

So, beauty came from this. As Sharon once said, years and years ago, “You’ve managed to carve out a good life for yourself.” So, despite the very hampering effects of the pattern, I was able to lead a life that gave me great pleasure and satisfaction.

And if the dream is any indication, my life is beginning to bloom.


niobe said...

it's not about Truth

These words leapt off the page (screen?). I'm going to be thinking about them for a long, long time.

excavator said...

That was wonderful to receive, Niobe. Thanks for the comment and for dropping by.

Martha said...

This post is incredible, thank you. Blessings on your blooming.

excavator said...

Thank you very much, Martha.