I am suave, smooth. I communicate elegantly. In other words, our breakup with the Stork couples therapist (ongoing) started last night with a bit of, well, ahimsa. And panache. And f*&(ing “I” statements.
We started the conversation like this:
Me: (To my partner.) You’re on.
My partner: Uh.
My partner: Um.
Me: (Pause, looking at her.)
My partner: (Pause, looking at me.)
Me: I guess I’ll go.
Then I proceeded to communicate my experience, including my doubts, questions, mistrust, self-questioning, without once blaming the Stork for being an insane person. I periodically turned the topic over to my partner:
Me: So it’s your turn.
My partner: Uh.
Me: Are you stuck?
My partner: (To the Stork.) I just want to blame it all on you.
Stork: I can take it.
Me (thinking silently): That is one big fat lie.
My partner: Uh. Um. (She looks at me.)
Me: Still stuck?
My partner: Uh-huh.
Me: Allow me.
Then I again talked about my own experience in a very moderate and adult way while steering the conversation to solutions without directly suggesting any. We ended with the Stork encouraging us to interview other therapists while still seeing him, so we weren’t left in the lurch (read: homicidal and very anti-ahimsa with each other) in the meantime. Which was pretty much my goal, and I do usually get what I want when I’m all elegant, polished, kind and focused on ahimsa. (Is it really ahimsa? If I’m getting what I want?)
Of course, now that I’m back to doing the John Sarno investigation of my unconscious and apparently limitless homicidality, clearly such elegance also results in BACK PAIN, which is not ahimsa at all, since I end up suffering.
And there you have it. The bind of all existence.
I have said this before: The shadow must have its day.
I’ve been having epiphany moments about my new life–you know, the one I’m fantasizing about in between doing 7 million hours of yoga and reading the Yoga Sutras of Patajali as well as texts on Buddhism. And it all comes down to this–yoga, religion, meditation…isn’t it all about turning us into good little boys and girls? I mean, really, all that higher self and elegance is just so….boring.
Mind you, lock me in a room with someone possessed by criticism and blame and I’ll get on my ahimsa high horse in a flat second. It’s more the impossibility of eradicating sin, or the animal part of our natures, our primal emotions, that concerns me.
I think of the Meisner technique at its most advanced best, when the humanity of two actors collides without barriers–and there is love, joy, sexuality, rage, pain, hurt, flirting. People have said things to me in the repetition exercise that brought me to the point of shaking with fear or angry enough to hit, and then afterward I felt so close to them. If it had been life, I’d probably have made sure I never saw the person again. It’s the safe container of the creative world and the exercise itself that allows all parts of the self–dark and light–full expression. That’s where the creative closeness comes from. Especially if you’re in the service of story, expression, meaning.
We just don’t seem to be able to allow for that full expression anywhere else. There’s such danger of really damaging each other. So it’s all about controlling, containing and civilizing. The problem is that while those things are important–who wants violence or verbal abuse in their life?–there’s a tendency for them to actually feed the rage and pain that lies underneath bad behavior. The standards expressed by religion, or therapy–speak only in “I” statements (therapy), be only peaceful, follow these rules, calm the mind…can’t undo our inherent messiness, and when these rules are imposed with rigidity, the shadow grows stronger and in need of expression.
I’m mostly messy with my partner. Sometimes I say, “I just really need to be bad right now.” Then I jump on her and tickle her and she makes jokes about how long this particular fit will last and will she survive it.
Sometimes I come home from a day of successfully practicing ahimsa and I say, “Oh my God, I’ve been so mature today I think I’m going to die.” Then I throw myself down on the yoga mat and writhe for a while.
I frequently announce that I need attention or that I’m about to show off or that I’d like to kill x, y, or z.
I do not say these things as examples anyone should follow. It’s just that balance, moment to moment messiness, is a goal for me. I’m either a paragon or a very very bad, rebellious teenager trapped in a much older body. (My partner would say that I am vastly over-estimating my age. She’d vote for 5 years old trapped in a much larger body.)
Spirituality, calm and beauty are things I love, but I know, truly, madly, deeply, that the shadow, the unhealed, the unexpressed, must rise up, and it’s better if I find a place of welcome for it than if I try to make it go away or pretend it never existed in the first place.
Think of Right Wing Christians, so invested in their own goodness that hatred and intolerance dominate their lives.
Being human is tricky.
This morning I helped my partner write an email about a conflict she’d had with some people. Her first draft was stilted–non-blaming, but disorganized and hard to understand. We had this conversation about how when she doesn’t criticize other people, she gets blocked on what to say. So I helped her with the email (a little overbearingly…and yes, that is an invented word) and we looked at it. The paragraph I’d written as an example was very polished. You’d never know how devastated and triggered she was. And indeed, polish is a mask for hurt feelings, for feeling less than, a way to hide when you’re afraid other people will use your own vulnerability against you. We were like, “Wow, we are such opposites!” (We realize this about every other hour or so.) I keep people at a distance when I’m all elegant and “I” statements or when I’m too reactive/rebellious for life. My partner keeps people at a distance by being too messy or being silent because she’s afraid of being messy.
And so I wonder–what is the true path to awakening? It cannot only be meditating and being oh-so-perfect. And then I remember my Western meditation teachers warning that meditating your feelings away is called repression, not awakening. Meditation is about knowing, investigating and holding all the feelings while recognizing that they are not you. It’s a way to get bigger than your own experience, and so to have more choices.
In Internal Family Systems (my partner’s obsession) this would be about being able to tell the difference between an internal Manager (like the Queen of Polish) and Self (the true compassionate center that can communicate honestly about all other parts and all feelings).
I can deconstruct anything, so let me say that trying to be in Self all the time then becomes the perfection to avoid.*
But. But. The Queen of Polish manages the world of communication with skill and panache. Self, the true heart, the bigger, meditated Lyralen is actually more vulnerable. And much more accessible to other people and the world.
And therefore to be avoided at all costs.
*To give Dick Schwartz his due, he does say that healthy couples live in a state of play in which different parts of who they are come and go without fear.