Monday, February 27, 2017

You Fool!

The fool, the joker, the slapstick. Throughout history, these are the characters we associate the ridiculous. Their roles are suitable because the role is considered a profession. Today we have comedians who often fill the same roles as their historic counterparts. They are allowed, accepted even, for their excessive use of farce and joviality. Their place is to entertain the court whether that court takes place in Medieval Europe of modern day social media.

Apply that ridiculous insignia to a member of the court, however, and the atmosphere shifts. A declaration of fool as applied to a person's demeanor, belief, profession or status causes the glittering image of courtly affairs to crumble and the person is left publicly shamed.

Disgust may fear vulnerability but her true fear is of that declaration: Fool! To have her voice laughed at and dismissed, to be seen as unintelligent and uninformed, to be called emotional and unhinged is ultimately the proverbial branding of the scarlet letter. She fears external critics, like Anger, who appoint her image or weigh her weakness. Those critics control her aspect and determine what is and isn't "gross." They are, in a sense, the lawmakers of her life; to stray from their established system would be considered treason.

She does not want to be found guilty by those external critics so she works to conform her being into the structure of what is safe and acceptable. Even her appearance conforms to the order. Her glasses denote intelligence. The straight, cropped hair is no-nonsense and without whimsy. Her clothing is overly modest, covering more skin with her turtleneck acting as almost a gag. She is the embodiment of control, aloofness, and intelligence. She abstains from all foolishness. No one would dare call her "Stupid."

Because she must maintain this image of intelligence, she must never make a mistake. This fear is what stalls my writing and freezes my creativity. The fear of vulnerability, in this case, is not necessarily a fear of making a mistake (I recognize we are all human and not perfect). Rather, it's the fear of being declared wrong. Somehow misquoting a fact or misinterpreting an event halts my writing process. I get bogged down in piles of research, ranging from the tiniest details to the overarching scope. The stack of "To-read" material grows until the research is too overwhelming, too daunting to face and the project that wants to be born gets thrown to the back burner, to simmer until the "opportune" time.

The only hope I have to silence the drone of anxiety and panic when I'm faced with that stack of knowledge yet unobtained is a gentle whisper that reminds me that it's okay to thaw the fear slowly.


Friday, February 24, 2017

A Broken Image

I stand to the side, arms still wrapped softly against my torso, staring down at Disgust. She hasn't moved from her huddled position in the armchair. Her head hangs low, resting against her knees, her hair acting as a veil across her face. If she had more room, I'd swear she would rock back and forth, but she doesn't move. Not even to twitch or adjust her position. "That can't be comfortable," I mutter softly.

"Let her feel the discomfort," scoffs Anger, strolling across the carpet. She eyes Disgust with a slight hunger, like a lioness waiting to devour her prey.

"That's not very kind," reprimands Joy, sitting on the couch between Fear and Sadness.

"Kind?" Anger laughs. "Why should we show her any kindness when she props herself on her high pedestal, the grand judge of all?  Kindness..." she trails off, stomping into the kitchen.

"She is kind," a quiet voice says, "in her own way." Sadness lifts her mug as in solute. "She tried to comfort us when Fear was so bad off." She shrugs. "She tried."

I nod, glancing back to Disgust. This was why she didn't want to share with us. Anger with her justified smugness and Sadness, though truly compassionate, is staring at Disgust with pity, lips pouting and eyes water soft. She didn't want to have these eyes on her, assessing and labeling her state. She didn't want to appear weak, but even more so, I realize as I too watch her small form, she didn't want to look like a fool.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Just Do It

Do you remember a show called Fear Factor? A group of six people would submit themselves to an onslaught of disgusting or terrifying trials in the hopes of winning a grand prize of $50,000. Some of those trials included being covered with scorpions, eating bull testicles or jumping out of a helicopter. As an audience, we would watch with bated breath, wondering how in the world did they manage? From my observation, they never stopped being afraid or disgusted. They simply barreled ahead, mind focused on one phrase: "Just do it".

Defeating the fears that have frozen your progress can be thawed with the same mindset. In my case, I have had to stop avoiding their existence. Shoving them into a box and locking the lid doesn't defeat them, that merely muffles their cries. They still have power over me. I know because if that lock becomes broken, I'm anxious for them to appear. Like the Bogart in Harry Potter, the potential for fear sets me quaking. "What will they say this time? How will they have grown, transformed?" Out of sight, out of mind doesn't work.

Disgust attempts this tactic but Myths breaks the lock divulging her deepest fears to the other aspects, aspects she sees as inferior. She sees herself as the "strong one" because she doesn't break form. Her image is pristine. She is always calm and collected, never giving anything away. In my mind, she is the perfect PR representative: informed, intelligent, cold. She doesn't allow herself to feel.

No matter how much denial she uses to coat on a smirk and feign disinterest, the underbelly of her existence is fueled by the desire to never appear foolish. That's what disgust is, after all, "a feeling of revulsion or profound disapproval aroused by something unpleasant or offensive" (Google definition). The things that make us go "ew" are often morally or physically offensive and we elevate ourselves to be "above" those who would stoop so low as to engage in such an act. Mind you, there are gross things out there, like Hawaiian pizza, but the superior status stands even in this.

The act of superiority separates Disgust from the other aspects, but it also disconnects her. When we fear vulnerability we essentially cut ourselves off from our community. Covering up our mistakes and failures to appear perfect makes us less human. (Do you know of one person who has no regrets?) Lack of vulnerability leaves us with a pristine image of deleted blemishes. With that appearance, people assume we can't relate. We are too far removed from the dirt of life. Isolation begins. Before we know it, we are an island unto ourselves. The only way off this island is to build a raft out of our true identities, both good and bad combined, so we can rejoin our tribe.

It's a Catch-22 situation. The only way to defeat our fear of vulnerability is by being vulnerable. We have to let the mask(s) fall to reveal our scars and we have to engage our hearts. This is best done with a trusted member of your tribe, someone who loves you unconditionally and has your best in mind. You can begin with a small trickle of truth or relinquish the dam you've built all at once. The process isn't so important as is the willingness to accept yourself for all your imperfections and share it with another. The telling is what keeps us connected and honest. The how is just window dressing.

Fear will try to talk you out of it, but remember that the grand prize of connections and community is worth it. Barrel ahead and just do it.

Friday, February 17, 2017

To Be Vulnerable or Not?

Vulnerability is a four-letter word that is whispered in the dark. It's a nebulous mystery that appears dangerous to most, inciting a reverence and fear. When we are presented with an opportunity to be vulnerable, however, that reverence quickly evaporates. We often freeze, assess and quickly escape. Why? Because vulnerability is "the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally" (Google definition). We might be harmed, so our survival instincts rage in and we decide: Do I endure possible pain or do I choose to self-preserve? More often than not, we choose the latter.

I am no exception. My desire for self-preservation may exhibit itself a bit differently than yours. We all have our own manner of dysfunction. Mine presents itself through avoidance, denial and distraction. Generally, this looks like keeping my mind and/or body busy so I can't think or feel. Successful avoidance activities include marathoning Netflix shows or completing a to-do list of chores; or better yet, both at the same time. No time for reflection means no time for confrontation. Denial is simply a catalyst for continuing to avoid and distract myself from a problem.

Unfortunately, the problem is usually born out of a fear, often times illogical or easily "fixed." For me, the problem is usually connected to a lack of knowledge. Questions arise."How do I do this?" and "What way is best?" start the train rolling, but they are quickly followed by, "What if I make a mistake?" causing all other questions to stop.  Not knowing how to accomplish a task doesn't stir in me a fight or flight response, but more of a freeze. That last question echoes in my mind and I'm frozen, unable to move forward or backward.

But how then do you thaw the fear?

Answer: You confront it.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...