If you have to be someone else, you imagine that you are.
Oh, I struggle to overcome! And tomorrow I will try again, in the Quaker meeting, sometimes in reality, feeling what I really feel, and sometimes in a stifling myth- this is weekly worship which we ought to do, because it is the right thing to do, and because it is right we all enjoy and value it. Sometimes saying to another what I mean, and believe, and want to communicate, and sometimes saying what I ought to say, the small talk which is reassuring because predictable- acting as if what I need to be true really is.
The real is terrifying, like being naked, and the false is stultifying, like being strangled, or swaddled so only the wool is there, not the breeze on my skin, or wearing gloves so I can’t actually touch anything.
At any moment there is what I ought to feel, which is different from what I do feel, like CS Lewis’ houses in Hell which can be huge and grand but do not keep out the rain, like a world without people, only actors, as if I am not there but watching a screen showing something completely different, but somehow below consciousness I know I wear the Emperor’s clothes. Like being at a concert, but wearing headphones which play different music.
There is what I ought to feel, and because I have to I imagined, believed, that I do. And others saw the anger I could not admit to myself. How can you see what is in your blind spot? By realising what frightens you.
It is possible to suppress feeling in order to bear a situation, but it gets more difficult.
I knew that I feared my fear and anger, that feeling fear and anger was Death, the monster would get me and I would die. And I learn that feeling the fear and anger is bearable. Even the sadness. I feared it would make me do something embarrassing and everyone would be angry, as in an HM Bateman cartoon.
But it didn’t. Feeling the sadness, allowing myself to be conscious of its full strength, I did not show a sign of it. And if I had, there would have been some sympathy.
But- there is what I ought to feel, and that mask comes off slowly. Sometimes I realise I am being that conventional me, saying things which are my own idea of conventional, holding myself stiffly, small talk, and cannot stop, for the real feeling is too frightening and I don’t know what it is. I know this is a screen and headphones not real life, I know I am an actor not a human being, I know I am inauthentic and I don’t know what authentic would look like. More often, I recognise it after.
How unsparing of myself I am! Of course I am a human being, even when reacting this way, it is a human reaction which I do not like because I feel that responding with real feelings rather than this falsehood would get me what I want.
Excuse me a moment, I have got my mask on again. May I try to find what my face might look like, without it? This is not what one does during small talk- stay still, close eyes, look within, try to connect-
I can’t just see what I do wrong, and stop, or see what I would like to do, and do it. Changing habits, even noticing habits, is difficult. Being naked and authentic is risky. What I have absorbed to imagine Conventional, and do when not being authentic, is dust and ashes to me- I know I am doing it yet can’t be otherwise, can’t find the real feeling. Meditation sometimes lets me find it, but I find that frightening.