The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Stretch and Cut...or be yourself!


“Procrustes was a son of Poseidon with a stronghold on Mount Korydallos at Erineus, on the sacred way between Athens and Eleusis.[1] There he had an iron bed, in which he invited every passer-by to spend the night, and where he set to work on them with his smith's hammer, to stretch them to fit. In later tellings, if the guest proved too tall, Procrustes would amputate the excess length; nobody ever fit the bed exactly, because secretly Procrustes had two beds.”—Wikipedia

###

One of my first memories was something a little difficult to explain. At the age of about four, I had the ability to look at people and "see" their intent. If one mixes sensory metaphors, I "felt" about people the way Star Trek's 3D chess "looks." In Trek, it is an expansion of two dimensions of movement into three. In my case...God, I don't know.

What I do know is that it was stupid for me to actually tell people what I saw. That the fear and anger projected back at me was stunning for a young child, and I taught myself pretty damned fast to keep my insights to myself. It took decades for me to reclaim this ability, first through what I called "Mind Reading"-- a way of looking at the imbalance/balance ratio of body, mind and spirit and "looking into the cracks" or perceiving the negative space, the meaning of the "holes" in their manifestation. It's difficult to talk about if you don't have a feel for this.

It was years later, taking an Aura Perception workshop   in Phoenix (the gentleman known as "Gunnie Reagan" on Facebook conducted the workshop) that I finally came to understand what I'd been doing, and realized that, in a natural tribal setting, I would have been a shaman/healer. That the warrior arts had attracted me because I had no tribe to protect me. No warriors. So in order to feel safe enough to be "myself" I had to learn to hurt people enough to stand up to the bullies and destroyers.  In other words, I had to complete my "inner archetype wheel" because my external one was badly flawed.



Dear God. I remember coming back from one of the workshops, where I'd triggered a series of visions (and no, I don't know if auras are "real" separate from perceptions, or "merely" what is called a "complex equivalent"--the mind creating a simple symbol to represent a vast range of impressions, in this case modifying the visual field with an hallucination. I don't know. I can tell you it was unusually stable for an hallucination) and breaking down in tears for the boy I'd been, so confused, so alone.

But when I dug inside and connected with him, he wanted no pity. Instead, he was proud of me, the man I became, and hugged me for remaining on the path of creating a career and becoming a warrior despite the massive disconnect between my basic nature (healing) and the external intent of the arts (destroying). This of course necessitated an embrace of a non-dualistic view of the process, something NONE of my instructors were able to convey to me. Frankly, the schools sufficiently philosophical to embrace the mental aspects I needed were deficient in the self-defense I needed. And those powerful enough in the self-defense aspects were hardly masters of esoteric philosophy. But man, could they kick butt!

We all change ourselves to survive in the world. That is an adult reality.  One of the keys to thriving is to keep track of who and what you were as a child, and to justify your current behaviors and situations in terms that younger self understands. 
###



  • Numerous times I've heard women say that they were warned not to express their intelligence, for fear men would not be attracted to them. And that this had a negative influence on their academics or career. Questions:
    1) I would be interested in hearing any women who felt this was true in their lives, and how it affected them.
    2) Men: were any of you ever warned not to express your intelligence? Why? What was the impact?
    3) Men and women: were there any other basic qualities or capacities you were warned, or learned, not to express? What, and why?

22 comments:

Kami said...

Two stories that fit your question. One, my DH and I had been in an accident that required a bunch of folk to help right our vehicle. I got dropped off at one of the local's wives' houses in an all-female setting where they were working on a quilt together. When I told them I was going to college and studying physics, they all looked at me as if I were a strange and fearsome thing. They didn't talk to me after that. Huge social pressure from the women to conform!

Another I was in a martial arts class and two women came in. My sensei was proud of me and wanted to show that in our otherwise all-male class that day, women played with the boys equally and could do well. Well, I had a bit of a mishap--no blood, but the blow to my face by a knee did make my eyes water. I grinned in their direction, feeling a bit like a dork but I was happy and okay ... and saw nothing except the door swinging as they bolted out.

In both cases I believe I threatened their choice to accept themselves as women fulfilling a more girly-girl role. I wasn't inspiring to them. I was other--probably a combination of appearing inhuman, unfeminine, possibly dangerous, and not someone they would want to know or be like. At least, that's what it felt like on my end.

Spomenka said...

The pressures against "being yourself" as a woman are subtle, too. Things like, "If you make decisions, you'll be perceived as a -itch. If you speak up, you're 'shrill and bossy.' If you don't give in, you're a prude, if you do, you're a tart. If you demonstrate you know _anything_ you're a know-it-all and everyone will roll their eyes whenever you speak up." I have often been completely ignored in conversations about computers, even when I have a solution to a tech problem on hand. I have been told not to pursue certain things because as a woman I won't get anywhere with them... and I've observed that when I wear make-up, the men around me, good stalwart feminist men, notice me more as a woman.

But as a woman, I'm used to it. Maybe that's the saddest part about it all.

Anonymous said...

I'm male. When I was about ten or so, I was taking swimming lessons at an outdoor pool. It was starting to rain so I wanted to hurry up and finish (for some reason, I've never liked being in a pool when it's raning). The instructor said each student who could successfully do the lesson could go. So, I volunteered to be first, performed the lesson well and got to go.
I ran to my mother who, instead of praising me for getting it right and being first, said "You should have let someone else go first, to see how they did it."
That was 25 years ago and, to this day, I wait to see if someone else will go first, even if I know the answer or know how to do something.

Anonymous said...

Are you also interested in hearing from women who were not warned against showing intelligence, and then found out through experience what happens when you do?

Christi Bell said...

I experienced this a lot, both as a child and as a woman. Growing up my intelligence set a dynamic where my father was always in competition with me and he didn't play fair. I was told that men didn't like intelligent women and was encouraged to not think of myself as intelligent and told not to talk about "things I knew". As an adult my husband was always in competition with me and my intelligence. I now understand the repetition of that dynamic. I have intimidated men with my intelligence, not intentionally, but was told later on and have lost male friends over it. When I have acted in a capable and independent manner I have been told I was bossy, too decisive and intimidating. It took me a long time to figure out that I was smart, a very long time. Now I know that the man who sees that as a good quality is one with whom I want to have a relationship or a friendship. Those are only direct examples. As someone else said, there are many indirect messages that women get in regards to that. I've also been told not to say weird things, or things that people don't or won't understand, to not be myself because it's embarrassing to the person and my favorite, that I would be expected to hang out in the kitchen with the women because that's where I belonged. The best day of my life was when I realized that I belong where I choose to be and people can accept it or not.

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