04 August 2010

Alex is Scary

Last night's "Six Feet Under" viewing marathon included the disturbing episode from the fourth season entitled "That's My Dog." Yikes! That was, without a doubt, one of the scariest things I've ever seen on film. My heart raced, my breathing became quick and shallow, my palms sweated. Emotionally, my thoughts and feelings veered recklessly from terror to anxiety to grief to horror... A cacophony of voices screamed a collision of messages inside me, "I can't take any more!" "Don't say that! You'll jinx him!" "Pray!" "I don't have to watch this!" "Please!"

I couldn't press "Pause" or "Stop" because I had to hang on and see a happy ending. Otherwise I would be haunted for god-knows-how-long with whatever horrific conclusions my imagination would create.

This morning I'm left with residual physical and emotional distress. (I probably should NOT be drinking this excellent cup of Starbucks' Gazebo Summer Blend espresso...but I am.) Thinking about fear and the differences in individual definitions of and responses to scary things. Thinking about times in the past when I've been told I am scary or intimidating. Sometimes, I only sense that someone is afraid of me. They don't actually say "I'm afraid" or "I'm afraid of you"; the manifestation of the fear, for me, comes as a change in the air or electrical field that surrounds and permeates me and the other person.

They might say "You're intense" or "I'm offended" or "That's inappropriate" or "I don't want to talk about this"; but what I observe is nervousness in the eyes, a tensing of facial muscles, quickening breath and sometimes mild trembling. Sometimes the display looks like anger. Sometimes it looks like sadness. Sometimes it looks like superiority.

My host here and I had an encounter yesterday. The details aren't important in the current discussion. In Landmark Forum parlance, discussing the details would be "running a racket." Discussing the details would be, at base, an attempt to demonstrate I am right and she is wrong. If you accept this viewpoint--and I do--the more compelling and relevant discussion begins with an examination of my experience of the encounter. What meaning did I make around the experience?

Within seconds of perceiving what I understood as fear in her, I ended the conversation. I saw it in her eyes, felt it on my skin and in the air between us. I felt a little nauseous and also frightened. I said "It's okay. We don't have to talk about this" and left the room.

What escaped my notice at the time but sparkles with truth today is my own fear in the situation. At the root of my "story" in the moment was "I don't want you to be afraid of me. If you are afraid of me I must be a scary person--awful, flawed, terrible...and unlove-able." The feeling was profoundly unpleasant. Definitely an experience of suffering.

To continue the Landmark translation: a "racket" consists of "a fixed way of being + a persistent complaint." Despite refraining from a detailed discussion of who-said-what in this post (or anywhere), I am "running a racket" internally. Running the "I'm right, she's wrong" scene inside my own mind, for my private "enjoyment."

Running a racket involves both payoff and costs. The pay-off is self-righteousness. The costs include losses of intimacy, full self-expression and vitality.

This morning's breakthrough is a full awareness of the costs. I think of yesterday's encounter and feel immensely isolated and stifled. I feel heavy and psychically depleted.

In the last few days, two weeks post-Landmark Forum, I have focused on abandoning the "fixed way[s] of being" and "persistent complaint[s]" of the past and creating a new future for myself, out in the vast universe of possibility. I've struggled in this project because my fixed ways of being are...well, persistent. I've been baffled by how exactly abandonment is accomplished. It's reminded me of trying to remove chewing gum from the bottom of my shoe without using my hands.


A smile has been growing on my face for the last 15 minutes or so. A cool, fresh feeling of freedom has begun to invigorate and invade my psyche.

I am alone in the house; my host is away for the day. When I awoke to the empty house today I was relieved -- and simultaneously dreaded her eventual return. In this moment, I'm looking forward to her return because I'm no longer afraid or angry or exhausted. Somehow, acknowledging that I felt afraid during the encounter has shifted something inside me. Feeling the loss of intimacy, self-expression and vitality--actually feeling it still, hours later, in my body--has deepened my understanding of "racket running."

I "get" it. I know where it lives in me and I have stepped into another space.

My learning has been facilitated by a physical experience of the intellectual construct. It's like finally found the dress hanging in the back of the closet and put it on. And laid it aside.

I have designed a new dress and I can't wait to wear it in the world. Not in expectation of the world's approval or rejection but because I love this dress; I made it, it feels great and I know I wear it well.

1 comment:

What do you feel about what you just read?