"I seem to see my self from his eyes while i have always possessed the
intelligence and politics to know or perhaps i should say interpret
who i am as a woman. But this knowledge i cannot assimilate in me, the
experience is of being in ruin, ............ "
mail from a dear friend to me, in response to an anguished mail sent to her.
Says another vivacious, lively, intelligent, perceptive woman, to me, on her first meeting with me as a therapist:
" I am so sorry that I have cried.... I mean this is a first meeting with you and all that".
"Why the shame?" I ask her.
"shouldn't I be calm and composed and not really show my emotions at all? I mean isn't this what the world wants from me, from you, from all of us?" she responds, albeit a bit surprised that i am even asking her this question.
"well you are here to meet a therapist, and you are talking about your distress and while you share all that, you would feel emotional - most of all, this is not a social visit" I try to pose another exploration point.
She pauses for a while ... and then she talks about her aspiration of wanting to be someone who should take all the shit coming her way and not flinch, not react but remain calm. and her "role model" is a person who actually looks down upon the whole world and their cousins, has cholesterol problem, not able to have a healthy conjugal life and so on.
when i point this out to her, she agrees quickly but is not really convinced about being who she is really.
As I look at two of these instances and many others including myself at times, I often wonder, do we really have an idea of who we really are? Or has this "me" become an amalgamation of images and perceptions generated and received from people around us, images which have provided a temporary relief, images which have saved us from many embarrassing moments, images which tell us who we "should" be and not who we "are"?
for many of us, the inner being is shrouded in shame for being too alive, too impulsive, too demanding, too verbose, too sensuous, too argumentative, too questioning, too much to take.
for some others, it may be that the inner being is held back lest others make fun of us, lest others take advantage of us, lest others desert us, lest others make us feel weak and so on and so forth?
so what is our stance of being who we are? how do we experience ourselves internally? What is our politics of who we are?
The world of relationships is totally made of perception. We never really see the other person as who he or she is, but what we perceive he or she is, through our unique and individual looking glass made up of our world view, our biases and our values. In other words, it is humanly impossible to see the person as it is. What we can gather are only the objective data about name, family name, degrees, work, education, etc but can never be objective about the person. We look at the world through perception and it is always subjective.
So, in all these, how do we perceive us? Do we look at ourselves through these looking glasses as well? is there a difference between me perceiving myself and others perceiving me? what happens when there is a difference? Is there a struggle to say this is who I am?
When I look at myself, I see myself and I quote from a mail that I have written to a friend, below:
"like i was telling you the other day, i feel very masculine internally, so my first descriptors of myself always are that I am intelligent, tough, quick on my feet, analytical and highly action oriented. the next level would be that i am sensuous (not the way a woman is described) i.e. my senses are strong, i hear keenly, i smell keenly, i see keenly and i am quite aware of touch of any kind. i am also very intuitive and am aware of the bodily sensations that i experience.
all these are devoid of other people, i.e. I look at myself irrespective of how others see me as.
the trouble starts from now on - any other descriptors of me such as:
loving, gracious, accepting, rude, scary, generous, pretty, ugly, argumentative, petty, kind, irrational, intellectual, stubborn, giving, caring, loyal, sexy, unsexy (can't think of anything else at the moment that describes me) are all other people dependent. If they see me like this then i am like this, otherwise, i don't see myself as scary, petty, rude, etc, etc."
I wonder what is it for others? do we even ask these questions or do we tell ourselves, oh well, I have no problem in declaring to the world who I am and if they can't take it, it is their problem? Really?
or do we tell ourselves, actually I don't even want to know who I am as it is too much of a bother, or it is of no use. Too much of intellectualisation. Really?
I don't believe people actually like to imprison themselves in either of these two extremes, most of us perhaps live in the in between world. what about you?