Friday, September 21, 2012
At the end, or sometimes in the middle, of each class of writing I teach, I ask the students to consider what in each others' writing they'd like to hear more about. Sometimes they are silly or sweet parts, but often they are "hotspots" - places where the writer touched on something very hot, very potent, and backed off. A place where a writer, where a human, is hiding something.
Once, earlier this year, a few students caught on that I alluded to "hiding" itself in my writing - and someone blurted out "How many other times did you hide in your childhood or were you lost?" This makes a great prompt for anyone - not just me - but it stung. Wow. Yes. A lot. It didn't take much for me to make a list a page long - all the ways and means, the situations and inclinations of hiding and losing myself/feeling lost in my life so far.
Just recently, I had a conversation with my spouse where she noted that it takes more energy to assert herself. This was coming from a place of exhaustion, a place of suffering, when she said it. I noted that that sounded suspicious to me, like something a defensive part of the self would say. Something a threatened and frightened ego would say. She nodded.
"You remember how you had that post-it on the TV for a few months from your therapist?" I asked.
"It said something to the effect of 'Self-Hatred takes a lot of energy.'"
She nodded again.
"I think hiding is pretty similar, especially if it is being used as a form of self-hatred."
She nodded and sighed.
It can be so hard to tell, especially in the midst of depression, anxiety or panic, what is wearing you down. I made a pact for a few years - suggested by my therapist - that I always tell myself I didn't have to teach whenever I freaked out.
"Be gentle and accommodating," he told me, "never aggressive or defensive."
It worked. Eventually I could recognize I was feeling self-conscious, vulnerable, like if I taught I'd have nothing left for me which is almost never true and certainly not true after a two-hour class. But it took being super loving to myself to even get to the point where I could see that.
A gently supportive relationship encouraging all the hidden parts of ourselves to come out is crucial, I am realizing more and more. With Brene Brown's new book Daring Greatly, another lesson I have learned - from my students - that true courage comes in truth, it is again clear that the only way to conquer shame is to expose it to the clear light of day. In hiding, shame and struggle take their strength.
Out in the light, it takes less strength - the courage of exposing what's hidden is well over half the battle.