I become real when you see me. I know myself when reflected in you.
We do not know ourselves as others do. Others see things in us which are too frightening for us, so we deny them. Then we cannot deny our characteristics any longer, and get to see them- which can be so painful it feels like being born again.
Yet we have unconscious awareness of those qualities, and when we see them in another and admire or despise that other that is a clue, that this is something in myself.
And I am simply myself, but if you name my quality- my “courage” or “confusion”, whatever- it becomes me, it is a label I must live up to or cannot escape.
David Bowie said, something like I am what the greatest number of people believe me to be. He did his thing, and others named it, understanding or not understanding, some interpreting him to the wider public in a way he might like or not.
Or we can listen and permit, and give the other space to simply be and know themself for the first time. We can listen each other into existence. If you can hear with all the Love you have in your heart, accepting me, then I can tell my story, and hear it too.
Feminist theologian Nelle Morton, quoted at length here: I knew I had been experiencing something I had never experienced before. A complete reversal of the going logic in which someone speaks precisely so that more accurate hearing may take place. This woman was saying, and I had experienced, a depth hearing that takes place before the speaking – a hearing that is far more than acute listening. A hearing engaged in by the whole body that evokes speech –a new speech—a new creation. The woman had been heard to her own speech. The first time Nelle experienced this, the woman began, hesitating and awkward, but became wonderfully coherent. This can be revolutionary, empowering the disinherited.
It appears to belong in woman experience, says Nelle. Not necessarily because women are different from men, but because women share the same oppression by Patriarchy.
Sister let me be your servant (or, Brother, sister, let me serve you/ Brother let me be your servant)
let me be like Christ to you
Pray that I may have the grace
to let you be my servant too
That is a song by a man. Is it subtly different? How do we approach equality, suffering together? Nelle says a woman started in patriarchal culture, alien to her nature, and spoke from her conditioning- which is a lie: yet heard, she spoke true. We know and own the words and the images as our own words and our own images that have come out of the depths of our struggle.
Is this a uniquely woman’s experience? Possibly it happens at Alcoholics Anonymous.
In my own moving experience like this, more than a year ago, women and men- and one whose sex and gender is interpreted by others, in a way I might like or not- heard a man, and he confessed his Wrongness- as he had been conditioned to see it- and we told him he was Not Wrong. This is not quite the same, even if he heard our love, as I think he did. Or with trans women at the Sibyls, we spoke together- dialogue, not extended time as in Nelle’s groups- and accepted the impossible, accepted we had to transition.
Patriarchy lies about me too. Is my oppression my way in to women’s experience? Is its difference insurmountable, or can empathy pass through that? Oh, do not reject my Love, for my Love is all I have to give!