Sunday, September 18, 2011

Poor Backslider*

I've been deeply ashamed of my fear of what others think of me.  Being afraid has caused me to do things I didn't particularly want to do, in order to not risk displeasing someone else.  When Shannon asked me once when I'd lost connection with myself I assumed it was because I'd given up something I wanted in favor of what someone else wanted in order to avoid them thinking less of me.  Something about the prospect made me feel so horrible inside I just couldn't face that feeling and it was easier to  give in.

Then culture changed on me, and all at once we were supposed to be able to say no. Enter the shame of not being able to say no or set limits (remember the assertiveness training fad?  "When I Say No I Feel Guilty"?).  All at once, in order to please others, I had to show some spine, and not just go along.

Now there was a bind.

I see now, as I've written before, that there was a very real fear that if I displeased someone, if I disrupted their own fragile sense of self (ego), they would blame me and break connection.  In order to maintain connection with them, I'd see myself the way they saw me (selfish, small, mean, etc), but at the price of staying connected to my own perspective.

My history of Christian fundamentalism predisposes me to think of life in a "Pilgrim's Progress" sort of way.  One is going forward, or one is backsliding.  Last week, on the roof, my discomfort with the woman parking herself within my family circle was compounded by my thoughts that the whole episode  represented backsliding in the progress I've made.  I felt that familiar feeling of bind.  Was my inability to resolve the situation without removing myself from it undermining this new Self I've been working so hard to build?

So I took it in to Shannon as grist for the mill.  I told her that whenever I'd imagine any means of getting what I wanted that involved personally asking the lady to go, well, it just felt impossible.  I couldn't imagine doing it without it being hurtful and humiliating, no matter how gently I asked.  I'd feel a wall of horror at the prospect.  My dilemma was that in this situation I was able to stay in complete connection with myself and my desire to separate (at least that's progress--in the past I would have blamed myself and put away those feelings and forced myself to engage), and I couldn't do that and be one with her.  How do I "be one" with someone I desperately want to go?

Shannon wanted to know if there was anything inside of me that reminded me of this woman.  Yes, I suppose it would be the me who's felt humiliated when I'd thought I was a wanted presence and instead the opposite was true.  Or I'd thought something was true and found out later that everyone but me knew different.  That's when I realized--those feelings I'd have whenever I imagined telling the woman the truth--that was me, this part in me, connecting to that part in her.  But, I was resisting the connection.  That's what felt like the dilemma.  I was afraid I was reverting to my old history of fear of displeasing someone.  I think it may be different now.  I think the real discomfort came from my empathy with her--or, with the part of me that she reminded me of.  Maybe when I feel resistance like that in company with other people, it's a signal to me that I'm vibrating to something in them that is true of something in me, but I'm complicating it by resisting.  Shannon said, "You'll have to play with this.  But I wonder if you'd find that if you stayed one with that part of you in her, if the resonance from vibration at that shared frequency might resolve the whole dilemma."

Now there's a challenge.  I'm not very adept at staying self-aware in 'field conditions'.  It's going to take a shift to experience resistance as resonance instead of as dislike or self-recrimination.

But I like the idea that maybe there is no backsliding.  Shannon said, "You can't go back."

*from the song "Poor Backslider" by Greg Brown

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