These are your Rules of Engagement. If you dare become a defector to this regime of self-government – you’re on your own. But – you will be free. Therefore, choose consciously…
Do not be aware of what makes you feel uncomfortable. At all cost: distract, explain/intellectualize/religionize away these demons and judge others who do not.
Don’t you dare welcome, examine, challenge, and shine on the other-side of leaving this comfort-zone.
Do not trust yourself. Look outside for all validation, security, worth, and guidance, and remember to measure the outsides of others against your insides.
Interpret all mistakes as evidence that you’re not good/smart/strong/worthy enough, as is.
Strive for the appearance of perfection and “having it all together”.
Give a lot of fuks about what you cannot control, like other people’s business rather than your own, especially how they judge you.
Shrink to make others comfortable within their own comfort zones.
Do not be vulnerable/authentic and rock the boat of “normalcy”.
Always fear what the critics think, especially your own.
Shame and blame everyone else when things don’t go well. Never compassionately look at yourself. Ever.
Survival is the ONLY goal. And it’s survival of the ego.
Fear and avoid any and all discomfort.
Do not let anyone in to see you. Rejection will not be risked.
Do not outgrow this comfort zone. Conform and live survive.
Pain is the alarm system going off. It’s your Heart’s wake-up call to begin CONSCIOUSLY LIVING. It’s an opportunity saying, “You’ve outgrown your comfort zone.” Hit ‘Snooze’ (Warning: it comes on later) or – ARISE!! And get your lovely ass up…because you are worth it.
I sat down next to my father who was less than 48 hours away from just having his liver and kidney transplant at Mayo. It finally happened, just like that. He was alert and coherent and I wanted to connect with him, but how? How could I relate to him? After all, I’ve never had a transplant. What was dad feeling? What was he thinking?
I looked at him and picked up this sense that Dad seemed to be in two places at once, internally. Dad has never been one to wear his emotions on his sleeves. He’s reflective, but not very expressive. He’s got a lot going on inside, but is usually a bit reserved.
But this time, Dad’s presence didn’t feel like reservation. He didn’t feel like he was lost in his thoughts. He felt very present, but just present in more than one space, and I wanted him to talk about that other space.
Mom was busy talking, telling us about all the amazing parts that lined up perfectly in order for this surgery to go smoothly. Like if Dad had started dialysis, which he was getting ready for when he got the call, there would’ve been obstacles because of the blood thinner. I was intently watching my Dad, while my mom was talking. I could tell Mom was elated but also very tired.
Finally, Mom paused and asked if there was anything I wanted to ask Dad. I said “Yes, and Mom, you stay quiet and don’t answer for him!” She laughed then agreed.
It was silent and I asked Dad this: “When you’re sitting in your room here alone, what comes to your mind or heart? What do you think or feel?” Dad got a little choked up and became tearful, then said “Amazement.” He said he was in “Awe”. I then asked him if he felt humbled by all this because he also had mentioned the donor. You see, we don’t know anything about the donor other than he was a younger male, and his organs were healthy enough to donate. But, he himself could not survive due to a severe traumatic brain injury. The donor’s family reached the difficult decision to take him off life support, and donate his organs. And this gave Dad a chance to live a life he could not otherwise have lived.
I could immediately see a connection. “Oh, this is kinda like adoption.” Both of my parents paused and looked at me. Then nodded their heads and said “Yes!” The room was silent. As for me, I reflected about this donor’s family being somewhere out there, deeply grieving a loss of life. At the same time, our family was so grateful for my dad to have a second chance at living. The paradox. The complexity. The space of “both/and”. Transplants which involve a dying organ donor has a lot of mixed feelings. Acknowledging that these organs were being donated because the person could no longer survive, yet this opens up the door for another life to go on.
Loss. Grief. Death. These all preceded my father getting the transplant. Now, this young man’s organs are helping to sustain my father’s life, a tragedy turned into a life-giving gift. We are all celebrating this, yet also holding onto this other family’s experience with deep compassion and gratitude for their decision to donate organs, wherever and whoever they are.
It’s similar to adoption. There is both loss and a chance at a new life, wrapped together.
Mom followed up asking me if I would write more about this. It really touched her. It’s the paradox of life, yet it seems this is how God is a Master Weaver, using all things for the highest good. Through tragedy, new life can come.
This is how I understand God works, She brings new life and beauty from ashes. It IS amazing, Dad.
I confess, I’m developing a reactive racial bias, but it’s creating balance, to correct an imbalance within. Though it may seem like all biases create imbalance, like everything else, there’s context to be considered. Read on…
I’m starting to feel more comfortable around POC (see image). In general, I experience POC as more humble, approachable, and down to earth. This conscious observation is very new to me. I’m growing into my own skin. I’m accepting celebrating who I am, from the outside, in.
I didn’t grow up with a positive association towards POC modeled to me. I believe society and my parents (albeit subconsciously) didn’t, hold POC in a consciously positive, or at least overtly positive, light. This is not because my parents are immoral or cruel. They, like everyone else, self included, were conditioned by their culture. And when you are privileged with race, class, gender, or whatever – it’s easy to be ignorantly ignorant. It takes more effort to actually become as my 14 yr old daughters says – “woke”. In other words, have no idea that you’re ignorant unless you intentionally and humbly look, with trusted accountability.
Embracing my POC status feels very empowering and self-respecting, and healing. This isn’t a grandiose form of empowerment which degrades others in order to feel good. It’s bringing about a healing leveling playing field, from within.
Would this evolving bias offend some people? Perhaps. Like who? -I’m suspecting those who have subconscious white fragility. A telltale sign of this if if you’re white, and pointing that fact out causes offense, and yet believe they are not impacted much by their racial status. This kind of mindset makes it hard to hear someone like me, who has struggled with racial identity. This racial discord as a trans-racial adoptee, is something I always felt but not on a conscious level. I steered clear from this area, until recently.
Without any language, I’ve experienced dissonance around my racial identity and didn’t have people I could open up to about this. I’ve found that race is controversial, unless (broadly speaking) you’re in an echo-chamber of those who are just like you. This was a very complacent but dull part of my identity. I isolated about this because it did make people noticeably uncomfortable and defensive. I grew accustomed numb to it be means of “adaption” or “assimilation” and therefore this watered a shame-based way of existing.
I am starting to really feel proud of being a POC (person of color). And…
it’s about damn time.
I grew up wishing (secretly) soooo intensely, that I had curly or at least, blonde hair, blue eyes, and was of course, white. I (subconsciously) loathed the undeniable fact that I was not white. I didn’t have natural blonde hair or blue eyes. This shame was complicitly supported by means of something powerful because it’s invisible – silence.
Unaware that this “thing” called “internalized racism” existed, I was profoundly but ignorantly plagued by it. I developed ideas, beliefs, and behaviors that supported or colluded with the notion that “white is normal”, or at least was oblivious to this illogical, surreptitious, and pervasive, white supremacy/”normalcy” lens. Whatever was considered “white” in the culture, was “standard”, meaning: “right”, “best”, or “normal”. Anything in the culture or about me that wasn’t considered in-line with this white standard was considered, deviant or aberrant, simply because it was different. Different from what? – whiteness.
So, I confess. I have this bias. I am starting to gravitate towards POC. I hope I’m not too awkward by my noticing this more. I know, it’s weird, because I am one, too. A POC. But, I have not embraced, let alone cherished it. I’ve maybe accepted or “tolerated” my racial identity at most.
I’m inspired by POC who are proud to be POC. Who notice the differences, in a POSITIVE and FAVORABLE light, not just a “tolerable” one and can break this silence of complicit white supremacy.
I (like my white parents) have been brainwashed by white supremacy, except they’ve subconsciously had advantages from this, I haven’t. Aka. white privilege. Sorry, I know that’s a buzz word for some white people. How dare I draw attention to your racial identity! Well, I dare. POC are used to this, being referred to by their race by people of a different (the majority) race, all the damn time. “This Asian girl” “This black guy” “This Native woman” “That Hispanic kid”. Rarely do you hear white people saying “this white man”.
I’m now, in a phase of conscious deconstruction and deprogramming in many aspects of my life, that I took for granted. As a KAD (Korean Adoptee) of white parents I have transracial, white privilege. Yeah, it’s complicated. Race IS. This is probably why I didn’t question my race for a long time, because it was the water I swam in and nobody in my immediate circles growing up talked openly about it either. This started to shift in adolescents, but I didn’t have adults I could talk to about my cognitive dissonance being transracial.
In adulthood, reflective deconstruction and reconstruction is taking place spiritually, socially, politically, philosophically, and emotionally – I am sometimes a hot mess driven by my inner maverick. It’s a lifelong process of becoming “woke”. For me, deprogramming from mainstream culture or at least the predominant subculture I grew up that didn’t acknowledge my differences within my social environment (white, suburban, Evangelical culture) is an ongoing process of discovery and self-affirmation, in the awoken beautiful face of…
This feels, freeing. It frees up space inside for me to occupy – me, and love it. I’m liking my racial identity and affinity towards POC, that does not white out, me.
So, another intimate relationship has fallen through the cracks for me. I’m coming to accept this through grief and self-reflection. On this path, I find myself asking, “why?”
I believe all intimate relationships that cannot overcome its obstacles boil down to this: at least one person is not committed to dealing with their own shit.
This closed door between them and their past shit, comes in between their intimate relationships unless the other party is willing to settle for dysfunction or disconnect, and be at ease with dis-ease.
Everyone has their own shit. Shit from either childhood or adulthood, and usually a mix of both. Humans are biologically wired for relationships. There’s a ton of scientific evidence to support that, go Google it. This is neither good, nor bad. It just IS. When in an intimate relationship, you will find opportunity to either deal with your shit, or have the relationship suffer. Nobody can make this choice for anyone else. It’s a free-will decision that impacts others, but is only controlled by the one making it.
You need to own your shit, or your shit will own you. It’s simple, but not easy.
People who shrink back from going into their shit, will create more shit.
There are a million different ways to shrink back from your shit, which in turn produces more shit, which in turn produces more shrinking back…you see where this leads? To a lot of shit.
A few common ways people shrink back from dealing with their shit, which produces more shit is:
All sorts of addictions. Some are more destructive than others and some are more socially acceptable than others but they’re all an escape from your shit.
What keeps you trapped in this downward spiral is the practice of consistently shifting blame onto others for your present day behaviors. This is an effective way of ultimately betraying yourself. When you refuse to take responsibility for yourself, you don’t have to sit with what can actually save you, guilt and self-reflection. This may work for you temporarily, but ultimately comes with a huge cost. Because temporarily is only temporary.
Guilt will lead you back to yourself, but you’ve got to be comfortable enough in your own skin – all of it, to be in it. It’s the language of your own internal moral compass, which is always on your side. But people can spend years, decades, even most of their lifetime, at war with their own moral compass. This is an exhausting battle.
Guilt is meant to jar you, because if you avoid it for long, you’ll eventually experience a break down. Accumulative guilt will weigh a person down with such a heavy toll that they have to self-destruct to find momentary relief, with suffering at the tail-end. Unless you have a serious mental illness where you cannot feel any guilt or shame, in which you are a very dangerous person, especially to those who are closest to you but even to the general public. In that case, you’d be a sociopath.
What do you do when you’re in an intimate relationship with someone who WILL NOT GO THERE…to where their shit is? Clinicians call it trauma. Some people call it baggage, their shadow, or their inner demons. Whatever you call it, if you’re with someone who is unwilling to go there themselves, let alone with you – you are faced with the reality of your powerlessness over someone else you care about.
I’m learning love does this in that painful place – let go.
The most loving thing I can do for the other, and for myself – is to truly let go.
This is where I enter into addressing my own shit.
Doing loads and loads of grieving.
But if I do not enter into this work, I will return to it with more shit. I’ve been here before. I now know, what I didn’t know before. When an intimate relationship ends, there is a need to let go, and grieve with other safe people, and most importantly, with myself.
This is where I will find my own healing. For some people, what doesn’t kill them will break them down, and for some, what doesn’t kill them will make them stronger. I will to be the latter, and need support from others to do so because self-reliance is a sham. It actually makes me weaker. When I self-deceive myself into the delusion of self-reliance, I’ll will create more shit.
I don’t have to shut-down or close the door to my heart, even especially when I’m hurting. I will open myself up to what IS available, instead of fight what isn’t, even if it hurts at first.
I’m ready to meet life, on life’s terms and grieve the losses I’ve experienced and am experiencing. I will remain open, to what is, even though I close myself to what isn’t. This takes strength. The kind of strength I didn’t believe I had, until I was faced with the choice to either shut-down which would hurt my children the most, or to live, and let live.
There is serenity in acceptance, but the path weaves through grief, and will turn out better for me in the end. But now, it’s hard as hell.
I’m coming out of the closet with being so fed up with the teeny tiny toxic man box, as a woman. I have HAD it with the ass backwards relationships between a man and his power, which is socially reinforced like it’s on steroids.
By the way, if you don’t know what I’m referring to when I say “man box” watch this:
Mr’s. please hear me. We have brave men who specifically support and speak into empowering women to heal and rise above the toxic social messages that imply or convey that they are second class citizens, and to instead know their worth and resist these sexist messages that society or their past tells them. I appreciate those men’s voices in support of women rising above a culture that tries to stifle them. It may be a long shot, but for whatever it’s worth, I offer my voice speaking into men’s lives wherever it may be received.
It’s challenging for a woman to speak to men about gender issues because an insidious part of gender issues, specifically related to gender violence against women, comes from living inside the man box, where women are considered inferior – easily dismissed or slammed for speaking out. I wonder if this means most men are receptive only to men when it comes to having a conversation about what it means to be a real man even though most men who live with women or girls want to be validated by them as being real men too, even if they don’t show it. I’ll take my chances that some men are receptive to voices that aren’t exclusively from men when it comes to this topic. I believe a part of the problem is that most men are unaware of being inside that same man box, even if they never become violent towards a woman themselves, and this is what perhaps contributes to keeping them silent and complicit – adhering to the invisible man code of omission in the face of commission when it comes to violence against women. I am witness to this, and I will not stay silent, though I am not a man.
I’m a woman who has unfortunately experienced domestic violence, has reached out to men in my life asking them to confront this issue and the man with me, and nobody answers that call. Instead I get a litany of excuses for their disengagement, even if that means a woman they care about is at risk for being seriously hurt or worse. Where are the men? They are hiding in that man box, which is preventing them from being the men they could be, because that means being vulnerable, taking initiative, and therefore putting their egos in the backseat so they’re free to take risks with other men. That is why I’m personally fed up with this man box. The only thing that fits neatly inside is a very fragile male ego.
As a woman, I don’t have that man box to contend with in order to feel validated in my gender. I am not stifled by the socialization of my gender that is highly controlling and restrictive when it comes to having emotions. When I do encounter this from other women, I believe it’s second hand to women who have been indoctrinated by men AND women who believe the man box is all there is when it comes to being “strong”. It can restrict everyone to a certain degree, but less for women than men in my experience.
I know I’m a woman, I don’t feel the need to prove this by acting out in certain ways with men or women that violate or ignore the right to consciously have my own values. That is a gender-based prison our culture throws boys and men into, that creates barriers from ever being challenged from the inside out, by other men, or by women who are obviously not men, and therefore according to the man box, don’t really matter.
Sirs – please. Break out of that man box.
The reality is you DO have power which is unique to being a man. You can choose how, when, and where to wield that power but since it is power, there are big stakes involved. I am speaking as a woman who has been through the clutches of domestic violence, which in most cases though not all (some women do have significant physical and financial advantages over their male partners) involve a man using his advantages to evade his own inner emotional work, at the expense of his own family and exploits a woman’s vulnerabilities by going to great lengths to avoid his own. Although believing (albeit unconsciously) that entering into vulnerability or emotional work is optional at best, or God-forbidden – “women’s work” at worst. That the relinquishment of the only kind of power he knows – power OVER others, including parts of himself that he’s terrified or ashamed of (like his emotional needs) and cannot fully access. It’s as if his penis might shrink or fall off if he gets in touch with his emotional life.
Undoubtedly, you’ve been taught by a culture that you cannot afford to give up this man box. That the only thing to fear is, fear or vulnerability. But your shield of invulnerability is what keeps you caged inside the toxic tiny man box, and locks away your true sense of power – the power to consciously and courageously navigate through your own internal world and integrate that world with your external world. Your internal world of vulnerability exists whether you openly acknowledge it or not. Integrate this in a way that makes you feel undeniably and unpretentiously self-respecting and can entitle you to feel like the kind of man you will be proud of while in the vulnerable unmasked presence of those you’re closest to and know you best, your own family.
I cannot tell you how to do that work, as a man. I’ve never had to break out of the man box, but I’ve lived with men who are extremely attached to it, and it’s hurt. Profoundly. That kind of work IS man’s work. We women have our own work when it comes to getting out of our own unhealthy gendered socialization. It’d be presumptuous and arrogant of me to tell you how to breakout of the man box just like it would be if a man were to tell me how to heal my wounds from sexism or misogyny. The kind of traveling companion you need is a brother of sorts, a man who knows what it’s like to live in that box, and work his way out.
I can tell you that this refusal to STEP UP and LEAD your family, or your community, your department, your tribe of whatever proportions – with courage, humility, and self-respect is squashed when you live in that toxic man box.
The way UP is OUT.
The way to move UP from boyhood and into manhood with bravery, integrity, and strength that doesn’t dominate others out of a fear of vulnerability is to get OUT of this toxic man box, and get around other men who are doing the same. They do exist. Just as women who are healing from our own gender-based wounds, you cannot do this alone, which herein lies a challenge if you’re stuck in that box. You need others, and they need you, because you’re doing what your sperm has to do in order to create a new life – swim upstream. Graphic, but don’t miss the rich symbolism in how men contribute to the creation of a new human life. Swimming upstream!
One of my favorite quotes comes from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:
“If you want to know what a man’s like take a good look at how he treats his inferiors, not his equals.”
This is the kind of strength and leadership women want from their men in intimate relationships. It’s hot. It’s sexy. It’s admirable and will make most women take pause. But in order to get to that point, you have to stop burying what the man box says you need to bury – your feelings. The vulnerable ones, not just your feelings related to being pissed off or horny, you’ll need the rest of them too – they’re there.
Our culture does you a disservice when they sell you short with the man box, and you cannot escape being exposed to it – it’s widespread in our American culture.
Depending on how much or how little you’ve been exposed to life outside of the man box, you may need either a shovel to dig out your emotions, or an excavator. But who do you need permission from in order to begin doing this work? – YOURSELF.
Doesn’t waiting on other men or mainstream culture to grant you permission to be fully alive and consciously awake to ALL of your emotions render you vulnerable and dependent, which is a violation of that man box you adhere to anyway?
Our culture does no favors to you, women, or children by keeping you in that man box. Dig yourself out, don’t wait for someone else to rescue you or grant you that permission. If you don’t have it from other men in your life right now, that’s OK. Revolt. Find men who get it. If you give in to the man box, you may slowly die by burying core parts of yourself alive inside a box that cannot handle a man that’s fully alive – thinking and feeling independent of that man box. Dig like the quality of your life depended on it, because I’m willing to bet a lot of it does if you have any women or girls in your life that you hold dear. And do it wholeheartedly because, you are worth more than half-assing it.
At a recent local para-Christian ministry meeting, I was reminded of one of the main reasons I left “the church”. Now, once in awhile I’ll attend a church service, but I feel more like an outsider, rather than “one of the flock” and I like it like that for now, and perhaps that won’t ever change.
A home was purchased for the purpose of doing ministry in the community. I think that is a WONDERFUL thing. And the people who were meeting all seemed to have loving and caring hearts, that wanted to reach out to others and help extend the kind of healing they’ve received, to others.
Please note, this is not an attack on the people, this is an attempt to raise awareness on implicit and unconscious biases of a group of people, and there are always exceptions, but my experience didn’t lend to the notion that I was bumping up against an exception, but rather a rule, because of the silence and complicitness within a group of people.
One of the modalities of healing which was shared was of Yoga. There was one very strong and vocal opponent of using Yoga. She is active in something called “Deliverance Ministry” where you deliver people from evil or demonic spirits. She said she had delivered demonic spirits from people who were well advanced into their yoga practice and believed it was in complete opposition to her Christian faith, believing it to be a dangerous practice. This stirred up some tension as there were others in the room in support of yoga. One of the peace-making attempts was initiated by a woman who tried to identify with the woman who was opposed to yoga by saying when she got really into essential oils, this was criticized by other Christians she knew as being “Asian” and the implicit notion was that it therefore, should not be readily accepted by Christians.
Well, I am Asian. Specifically – Korean adopted. I was born in Korea, adopted and raised by White American parents where I was raised “in the church”. Perhaps that’s why I feel so brazen in addressing these heated issues of both race and religion in one post. Part of me feels as though I’m one of them too, who held the same beliefs around Christianity, without being racially self-aware due to a huge lack of race being openly discussed or addressed in my transracially adopted home. It was as if my racial difference didn’t really exist, to the point where I often even forgot I wasn’t White, but Asian. Sorry, I digress, that’s a whole different blog post.
So, I was the only Asian or non-white person in the ministry meeting, and was offended by that microaggression or bordering blatantly racist remark. I spoke up and said “Can I just say, not all Christians are white.” Nobody else commented or responded. The one person who absolutely would have spoken up was on the receiving end of her own microaggressions or scrutiny due to being a yoga instructor. But nobody else spoke up. It’s as if I wasn’t really saying anything anyone else could understand. There was acknowledgment of the offensive talk around the demonization (literally) of yoga, since several others in the group also spoke up and came to the defense of yoga because they’ve had their own positive experiences with yoga, even though from one individual there was a strong resistance and accusation of yoga being “dangerous” partly because it had its roots in India, in Hinduism, this religion that worships false gods and idols, and not the “One True God of the Bible”.
While the following is my interpretation from the not so implicit bias – this is more or less how it came across to me – as implicit racism rearing its ugly but well-disguised “Christian” head asserting its implicit White dominance:
“Yoga does NOT have its origins in the White-European culture, therefore it’s an aberration and is to be feared, thus saith the Lord!”
And it is to this implicit racism I would like to speak quite explicitly to, if you could grant me permission to possibly offend you if you are a White Christian, who is not (in the words of my 13 year old daughter) been “woke” yet.
Granted, I am no Biblical scholar, credentialed theologian, or historian. I am just an average lay person who doesn’t have white skin, who’s intrigued by Jesus, but finds some of his followers, particularly White Christians – very difficult to deal with at times.
Here we go…
Oh – Trigger alert if you have White fragility and if you don’t know what the hell heck that is, you likely have it if any mention of your “Whiteness” as a race triggers you. I’ve learned this is a very fragile space to speak directly to, but for the grace of God, there go I…
Christianity is not a White-European based religion or faith. Jesus’ race was not of European descent, he was of the Middle Eastern/Northern African region and descent.
Reminder: Jesus was NOT White.
According to forensic scientists, Jesus most likely had dark-brown skin, dark brown eyes, and dark colored hair. And his first disciples were likely not White either. Please, stop colonizing Christianity. Like Yoga, Christianity does not have its origins in White-European culture.
A “false god” or “idol” you may need deliverance from is your White privilege that believes strongly albeit unconsciously, that anything that deviates from White-European based culture, including how one practices their faith (Christian or otherwise) is aberrant, and therefore inferior and to be distrusted. This ego that is implicitly racist, just might be playing the role of a false god, which should probably be humbly examined.
You can build a wall around your White implicitly racist egos, but you cannot isolate god or Jesus to those who look and act like you. But, you can be delivered from this false idol by repenting and turning on the lights to your own fears, insecurities, pain, and defense mechanisms which often scapegoat those for doing just as you do, but don’t look or talk like you. There IS hope for your liberation from White implicit racism. The Lord can help you become “woke” but first you’ll have to stop colonizing and White-washing Christianity.
The abundant life is enjoyed better when you’re awake. But just as the Native American proverb goes – “You can’t wake someone who is pretending to be asleep.”
My words are spoken in an attempt to wake some people up who are dangerously sleepwalking in their racial ignorance combined with their Christianity. I’m willing to assume that it’s not consciously intentional. So, now you can examine it with conscious awareness, if you so choose.
Will you now hit the snooze button and go back to sleep? Or will you stretch, and arise?
I am an emotionally sensitive person. This is not to be confused with being an emotionally fragile person.
My emotional sensitivity creates more incentive in cultivating self-awareness versus self-ignorance, because this sensitivity also makes me a more conscientious person who has to rumble with my ethics and guilt, and discern if it is healthy/ethical guilt, or if I’m being guilt-tripped beyond the point where my ethics have authority and I’ve crossed over into someone else’s primary jurisdiction of personal responsibility. Sometimes there are very fine lines, and grey areas of both/and. This is why boundaries are so important for me. It helps channel my attention and energy, which there seems to be more of due to this heightened sensitivity, and with that there needs to be heightened boundaries.
I’m becoming more aware of this innate drive to engage inwardly and do it with compassionate curiosity, because it’s nearly impossible to ignore and escape from due to my sensitive nature.
-Again, notice I said sensitive, not fragile.
An exquisite perceptivity resides within me due to this highly sensitive way of being. In and of itself, this high sensitivity is neither good nor bad – it can be both good and bad, depending on the situation, but alone it is neutral. Subtle or nuanced qualities register on my radar that often go over the heads of others. I sense, discern, and am aware of more, this is what it’s like to be highly sensitive. I have a sensitive radar, and have often been misjudged as being weak or “too sensitive” implying emotional weakness or fragility. But having this inner highly sensitive apparatus doesn’t make me fragile, nor does it make me a mind-reader.
Often, I will sense the presence of certain emotions, and that is where the conscious boundary is practicing being placed, thanks to Professor Pain in the class of Hard Knocks101. I sense an emotion, but can set a boundary with my Storyteller who immediately starts concocting a story about this emotion or the person, which has gotten me into trouble with mistakenly making boundary intrusions on others. I must say though, at times that Storyteller is spot-on or pretty damn close IF I’ve been invited into part of a person’s inner sacred journey before. But even so, this Storyteller is far from infallible, she’s still got human limitations.
Now, I will speak to this “fragility” label, because I’ve often internalized this. Just as there are special devices that can see infrared light which is invisible to the naked eye, this is how it is for me concerning emotions. Devices used to detect infrared light are considered a valuable resource when illumination and awareness of infrared light is valued. The device’s ability to do that isn’t slammed as being “weak” or “fragile. The capacity for emotional sensitivity can serve as a valuable resource for people with this emotional radar as well, when there is receptivity to emotional awareness. It can actually be a very valuable resource, when emotions are valued.
The opportunity available from this capacity is for me to connect more intimately with my emotions, and to the emotions of others. There’s a flip side though – it’s much more challenging to ignore or numb out from what I sense, even when I don’t WANT the awareness. Sometimes these emotions (mine or others) are inside of conscious awareness and sometimes, they are not. I am learning to expand the space in my conscious awareness, for there is where I have more freedom to choose.
This ability to sense subtle stuff does not make me fragile. On the contrary, I have the opportunity to turn towards what I sense or, turn my back on what I sense. I am learning to turn towards these with intention and curiosity, versus reactively invalidating or defending against feeling them, or projecting my own unwanted emotions onto others because they make me uncomfortable.
Emotional sensitivity is not the same as emotional fragility. Emotional fragility is often unconsciously dependent on being unaware and ignorant of an emotional life, for fear that the awareness of emotions will shatter you.
The operative unspoken rule: “Thou shalt not be emotionally aware.”
Usually with the exception of one emotion (or if you’re super lucky- two, with happy usually as one of those “acceptable emotions”) – all others are rejected or denied because they’re threatening or “too heavy”.
If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands! [clap clap!] Meanwhile all other emotions are denied.
– And this is emotional fragility.
It’s usually an unconscious transaction that’s passed on from one generation to the next, which invests lots of energy into avoiding or turning your back on emotions (yours and others’) rather than acknowledging or let alone feeling them. It’s not usually a conscious option to connect to them for better self-understanding or empathically understanding others. Emotional fragility makes empathy nearly impossible, and when it is present it’s an extremely rare and limited edition.
Emotional fragility judges emotional sensitivity as a nuisance at best, and as defective at worst, because being exquisitely aware of emotions is threatening and intolerable. This is generationally passed down until someone says “enough” to emotional fragility and digs into their own inner healing work.
Being sensitive means SENSING emotions, not creating them. It’s being aware and receptive of them as they naturally arise. Digging through emotions is what emotionally sensitive people can value, because burying them requires SO much more work. Burying over emotions is what emotionally fragile people value, because emotional awareness itself is devalued, at great relational and eventually physical costs. There is a connection between our emotional health and our physical health.
Emotionally avoidant behaviors usually result in accumulating emotions and this accumulation comes with hefty taxes and unwanted side-effects because it’s running away from what IS – emotional reality, from the inside out. It’s resistance. And what you resist, persists.
Emotionally fragile people depend on not feeling their discomfort and becoming closed-off and defensive towards anything or anyone who triggers these f-f-f-feeeelings. This doesn’t seem to work against them until the accumulation of emotional debt piles up and start burying them alive. Usually personal relationships, either intimate or in the workplace, start to unravel. The build-up of a denied emotional life creates a tumor that is not benign.
Emotionally sensitive people who have learned to welcome and honor their sensitivity will start to work with their discomfort, becoming openly curious about it when triggered. I’ve also noticed, their “bottoms” tend to be higher than the non-sensitive person’s.
Emotional fragility is often a life lived while walking on eggshells, using more and more bubble wrap around self-awareness, until you can barely function without rigidity and stiffness. Emotional sensitivity often requires you to live life with resiliency because you can’t live life with bubble wrap around your emotions, so you experience quicker consequences when you don’t take regular emotional self-inventories, but you also experience deeper satisfaction when you do. The lows can be lower, and the highs can be higher.
I am emotionally sensitive and have spent most of my life trying not to be, confusing emotional fragility with strength and fortitude. I’m now seeing through that smokescreen. Emotional fragility is a sort of lackluster of courage and adapting to that lack of courage starts to take its toll. Emotional sensitivity can be cultivated, when you accept the invitation to your emotional world and connect inwardly in a compassionate place, then empathically connect to others. This leads to an authenticity that is built on a kind of inner strength and fortitude that is resilient – not fragile.
This is a hot topic right now because it’s so relevant, yet it seems so ambiguous. It’s been all around us lately – in the news with celebrities, politicians, many high-ups in their professions, and religious leaders being accused and held accountable for NOT getting CONSENT in the realm of sexual activity, creating a tidal wave of #metoo.
I am a woman. I am a mother — of 3 daughters. This is a big deal to me.
Consent. What is it? What does it look like? Or more importantly, what does it FEEL like?
I’d like to approach these questions as if they were coming from my daughters — from girls or women. While of course consent isn’t only given by girls or women, I am writing from the vantage point of the female being in the position discerning whether or not she consents to engage in any sexual activity.
Consent is a fundamental human rights issue, regardless of your gender, race, religious creed, or sexual orientation. Yet, I believe our culture sets up females in a very harmful confusing place. Let her get clear about her “Yes”, “Wait”, or “No” relating to any sexual behavior with her. So let me be clear here — my main intent is to empower her, from the inside out.
I’ve found myself asking these questions when it comes to consent:
What does consent feel like? How do I even KNOW if I consent to something, or am ambivalently going along to appease and not “make a big fuss”. And what about these more grey areas, outside of intercourse? What about the “I don’t know” areas? Slow things down so she can focus on her heart in this very important area.
These questions reflect the many blurred lines which create a very disempowered experience when it comes to consent. I didn’t feel very empowered to consider ME, apart and separate from the guy’s wants, or in addition to any religious values regarding sexuality – all of which have value, but do not replace or silence my voice. Even if I am married, I still have a voice. Consent is still an issue for married couples. Consent may be more open-ended when there is trust established, but not all marriages have that kind of trust, or this kind of trust has been broken some how. That’s another grey area best reserved for a different post.
If at all possible, I think reflecting on this and talking to adults you trust, before being in the position of needing to make that call is essential. And I believe that this is developmentally a very adult activity that one should use their own clear-headed and wholehearted judgment on because if not, the rewards are often pretty fleeting and costly. There are long-lasting consequences that need to be considered which requires emotional maturity and a highly tuned-in sense to your own innate worthiness. Yet I also acknowledge that unfortunately many of us find ourselves dealing with consent issues long before we even consent to that. These are non-consensual activities aka. sexual harassment and assault, and are unfortunately too common still. Our modern culture still sets up girls and women in a double-bind when it comes to her giving consent or not. Her “No” can make her vulnerable to being ridiculed and even called a “bitch”, “tight” or a “nun” for example, making a big “fuss” over “nothing”. Or her “Yes” can make her vulnerable to being called a “slut”, a “skank” or a “whore”. Who wins in this double-bind? Nobody really, with the exception of sexual predators/offenders while using their cultural privilege or positions of power (usually males) to assert their sense of sexual entitlement, at great expense to others (usually females but sometimes boys too) or those who callously scoff and blame victims of sexual abuse.
Let me be clear, I’m not just talking about intercourse, I’m talking about any kind of activity that has to do with your sacred bodies and your sexuality. This could include a hug, a touch, a comment about your body in a sexual nature, being flashed/exposed to, or even just stares at your body – this is not just about intercourse!
Regardless of what your past experiences have been, now is always a good time to reflect on consent because consent is about boundaries and expecting respect.
Consent is something I believe requires a high developmental level of emotional and mental maturity and self-empowerment. That self-empowerment comes first through co-empowerment through voices like mine, that uncompromisingly affirm your worth and your voice. In an attempt to bring concrete boundaries through legislating consent, many states like Minnesota for example, say a child under the age of 13 regardless of the age of the perpetrator cannot legally consent to sexual conduct. Their “yes” is NOT a “yes” because they should’ve even be in the position to have to decide, and if they are – it’s exploitation and the law recognizes that. However, I would even extend that age beyond 13. The minimum age for joining the military is 17 with parental consent. 18 without parental consent. Something seems off to me. It’s hard to put an age on the ability to truly consent to something so intimate, like sexual activity and the age of legal consent varies from state to state. But instead of focusing on age, focus on maturity and emotional/mental health. Who has the maturity to see the long-term consequences of their sexual activity, while weighing the negative and the positive, and making an informed and empowered decision about their own bodies? Legislating consent is complex, but discerning it within you can be less complex when you feel empowered to do so.
Why is this such a big deal? There are serious consequences to sexual activity that many don’t acknowledge or understand until later. These consequences can be experienced either immediately or much later on, or both. I’m not just referring to the obvious ones; sexually transmitted infections and unplanned/unwanted pregnancies. I’m talking about your emotional, spiritual, and mental health that significantly overlaps with your sexual health. You cannot compartmentalize these any more than you can compartmentalize the food you eat from only being pumped into certain parts of your bloodstream. Wait. Let me semi-amend that statement — At least not without putting in a lot of effort to abandon, deny, or numb out from core parts of yourself, which unfortunately is all too common also when it comes to sexual activity. Sexual health isn’t about black and white rules of conduct or conforming to “norms”. Just because something is common or “normal” doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Looking at your sexual health holistically, as it relates to your whole well-being is something not being emphasized nearly enough, and the fallout can be very painful.
There are definite risks and rewards tied to sexual behavior. Sexual touch or any kind of activity in this realm is such an intimate and vulnerable activity, which is why it is so extremely violating in the absence of consent or knowing what all you are consenting to.
It is my belief that sexual activity is most safe AND most pleasurable when it is thoroughly and mutually consented to by mature enough people living from a place of worthiness, not using their sexuality to hustle for crumbs of fleeting worth. Therefore I believe giving consent is an adulting activity, but am aware that many pre-adults are exploring this adult arena thinking they are mature enough to handle it. I just hope for their own sake, it is all safe even though I’m reluctant to call that consensual. It truly takes a high level of maturity and agency to give this kind of centered, empowered, and self-aware consent.
This is important, not just for those who have yet to make their first sexual debut, but for subsequent activity even when you’re in a long-term relationship because your consent can always be taken away. In a long-term relationship like a marriage, the consent may be more open-ended because enough sustaining trust has been established, but it’s still your body and your sexual health. In the places where consent isn’t mutually open-ended like in a new dating relationship, think of it as entering into a binding agreement or contract that requires your signature. What are you consenting to? Since it’s not as concrete as signing your name on a dotted line when you consent to any sexual activity, it can become very ambiguous.
So, in addition to your own set of conscious values and beliefs when it comes to any sexual activity, whether they be religious or not, here are some things to also consider. Hopefully they will help you clarify how consent in the “grey areas” may feel.
Remember – if you aren’t even given the opportunity to say “yes” or “no” because there wasn’t explicit communication about any kind of sexual activity beforehand, it’s not consent. It’s a violation. But if you are presented with an opportunity to give empowered consent while you’re adulting in life, notice what you notice. Give consent to yourself to feel what you feel inside! Girls and women need to hear this because we are so bombarded with messages that lead us AWAY from ourselves when it comes to our bodies and our sexual health.
If you aren’t confident AND relaxed in your “yes” – don’t just go along with it. You don’t have to just take it even if it’s “just” a lingering hug or wandering hands. Know your “No”. Consent is about empowerment. Give yourself permission to speak up as clear and as loud as you feel you need. This is your body. This is your sexual health.
It’s a bit more obvious when talking about sexual intercourse and consent. But hear this — You have the right to not consent to activity way before it gets to that point, and if that’s not respected, it’s NOT OK. You have a Green light, a Yellow Light, and a Red Light — be connected to it. Any consensual relationship will give plenty of space for both people to do that. Listen to all of your body’s wisdom, and if it’s hard to tell what it’s saying, know this is your Yellow Light. Honor it.
If you can’t get comfortable in feeling confident AND relaxed in your “Yes” and your “No” — it’s a NO, at least for now.
If your answer is “oh fine” because it’s not a clear enough “no”, than it’s not a clear enough “yes” either.
I cannot over-emphasize this — If it’s not a self-aware and authentic “Yes!” – Honor that and expect it to be honored also or it’s not consent – even if it’s not about intercourse. Consent starts way before intercourse. Girls in our culture, beginning from a very young age are raised to people-please and care-take, even to their own expense. We are groomed from a very early age to direct our focus and care away from us and towards others. This is so harmful when it comes to our sexual health. Start practicing redirecting yourself back home, within your body.
Notice. Honor. And enjoy that space of authenticity in your consent for your sexual health.
It takes practice. If you are with a man who does not honor this space, your empowerment to have boundaries that value your worth outside of sex, that is a huge red flag that needs to be considered, not glossed over. It isn’t a good sign of his character.
Consent is about clear, empowered, and authentic communication, between you and your body, then between you and another. This goes for a kiss, hug, touch, or of course, intercourse — anything that has to do with your body and your sexual health.
The bottom line is you are worthy of respect, and so is your “No, and so is your “Yes”. Engaging with life from a place of worthiness most certainly includes our sexual health.
I really wish every girl has a strong and loving woman to empower her in this area. I aspire and hope to be that strong and loving voice to empower others now, as a mother. And how awesome would that be to have strong and loving men to add their voice to empowering girls in this way also?