I’m lucky to have places where I can speak frankly about what’s most important to me. I can be well heard and hear other too.
I learn, stretch and grow in those generative depths.
But pleasure and expansion aren’t the whole story. Quite often I’m careful, walking on eggshells, wondering how to get my messy as-yet-unformed experience into a common space with others.
This evening I was in conversation with a male counselor and a female feminist academic. As I saw it, all three of us were bravely trying to hold space for our experience around being the sex we were, without being attached to our own experience as being the right one. Talking about it wasn’t familiar safe territory. Our loyalty to our own sex and our own experience could seem to invalidate the experience of the other, could get us in trouble. I relaxed as saw our common struggle to rise to this.
Sex isn’t the only difficult conversation, of course. Our world is made up of subjects we feel deeply and personally about – but seldom and maybe never speak about directly with others. Listen (as I’m sure you do) to the conventional narratives around immigration or Russia or the overextended economy, for example – or virtually anything else. The conversation has well-established categories that frame for you how to consider them. It’s about us and them, the right way and the wrong way, don’t you know?
Well no. I don’t know!
I’m hungry for more than that! Probably we all are.
And not just hungry. Apprehensive too, because it’s messy to step outside the conventional narrative. What if I step on your delicate toes? What if you step on mine?
How does this social tendency to favor safety play out in the conscious communities we’re part of ?
Or does it?
I’m coming more and more to notice my own preference for harmony, bonding and connection. I favour these in groups I’m in.
I think that recognition of our common humanity and sticking with that is centrally important, necessary. But in valuing them I suppress truths and perspectives that may be unpalatable to others. Often. Hardly noticing I do it, I sometimes use consciousness groups for an unconscious purpose: to hide within them from the difficult task of offering what I really think.
If I told you, you might not approve of me, the unconscious inner logic goes. (And I do like to be approved of.)
I’m excited about what might come if we took the risk, if we had a culture of taking more risk, seeing what might come.
But I don’t think it’s just me who’s feeling these two sides calling to us. Wanting to belong deeply and intimately to the social group and also to be our wildly unique self. . . isn’t that just how it’s always been for us humans and always will be? Isn’t that just us all over?
I think it is and I think we’re ever more ready to risk trusting ourselves and each other. More willing to not sugar coat our experience or make nice.
The opportunity to do so is more available than it was in the past. Historically the social norm was to identify with an all-embracing religious and social structure that did the heavy thinking for us, mostly by ritually avoiding it. We didn’t have to consciously examine the messy depths and were often punished if we did. Certainly explorers received no social support.
But being with the messy challenge to tell the truth was always the heart’s call deep down. Responding to it was always the way we opened up a different future for ourselves, one reaching, unknown moment at a time.