Self-consciousness and self-knowledge

Self-consciousness and self-knowledge may be incapable of coexisting. I have one when I do not have the other. Trans people may be particularly self-conscious. Other people call self-knowledge “flow”.

Cycling last week, with the brilliant new idea of being kind to myself, not pushing myself too hard, I was more efficient and enjoyed it more. And today I was back to old habits, resenting the hills and the wind, and going in a higher gear than necessary. Then I pedal more slowly. I went to the supermarket in the sunshine, which could have been more enjoyable. Coming back, some of the time I was in a lower gear, sometimes not.

In self-consciousness, I have strong ideas about how I should appear, and never match them. So I am struggling against the pedals and the hills. In self-knowledge, the prompting to change down a gear feels instinctive, with no gap between perception, desire and act. My competitiveness manifests in both- I want to go as fast as possible, I want to improve- but I know that revolving the pedals faster in a lower gear is more efficient, so in self-consciousness, beating myself up about my weakness, I do less well.

Yes. I have been transitioned eighteen years, and I still want to make a man of myself, and am continually frustrated and disappointed at my failure to do so. Cycling, I look at the blossom and like it but I also look at the houses on the ridge and think of the hill to get up to them. I am still pushing myself, testing myself all the time, demanding more, at the same time that I spend most of my time in my living room. Pushing myself is pleasure and fear. I still bully myself, push myself, even as I do less and less. If I can just be in the moment, cycling, rather than thinking of past and future and how I might appear, I might enjoy it more. Wu Wei, the Do-Not do of the Tao, relates, as does the idea of unconscious competence, bringing something into consciousness only to fine tune it.

I want to cycle, and I want not to. There are two impulses. The desire for fresh air, sunshine and exercise may just be because intellectually I know I ought to want them. Or that is how I care for myself, for my body.

If I ceased to see myself as worthless, thinking I should be doing better than this, I might be freed. My judgment of myself might have value were it not so harsh. It is a response to external judgments in the past. Its intention is to keep the child me safe, and to improve me. It wants to help, but it- she- is in a panic all the time. Here, I construct an intellectual understanding, in words, so as to let go the demands  and just be.

Tina observed, the contrast in me between the calm serenity of my usual presentation, and these bursts of utter frustration. She said, “Those parts of you don’t understand each other, or will not talk to each other, or upset each other tremendously”.

I mother this panicking aspect of me.

Then I went out the day after, and cycled in conscious awareness. After that, I met Pauline over Zoom. She agreed to explore this way I am becoming more conscious of feeling, and how my feelings conflict. I would not have said I was an anxious person, and now I discern anxiety in myself, and find it far too great. I should not be anxious. I told her of anger holding sadness down, and now they are not fighting.

She understands. Ignored feelings shout louder. Feelings are a flag-waving exercise, drawing my attention to my need. Or, acknowledging that a need is met. For anxiety, I might ask what the need is.

For anxiety, I think it is my own judgment of myself that is too harsh, and that makes me anxious, not wanting to do anything that will be judged.

Part of me despises my agoraphobic lifestyle. Despises is a strong word. It fits, though.

I have a need to contribute and be valued. I want freedom, both freedom to act and freedom from the demands. I need affirmation and acceptance.

My great No has removed a great deal of the stress.

She has a picture of me with the neighbour I fear, playing the piano together “uproariously”. Possibly this fits my sadness and my anger with it, now playing together. There is self-acceptance.

She suggests I allow my unconscious feelings expression. Could I improvise it on the piano? My thoughts on this are of possible sounds that would make, and of the fact that I rarely play and rarely improvised when I did, I just played from scores. So there is the old negative, oh that won’t work, but it is not as strong as before.

The sounds do not have to be explained. Possibly they cannot be put into words, but the conscious intention to give this time shows them they might be accepted and that might bring them into consciousness. The process acknowledges them, begins the acceptance which may lead to perception.

If it does not feel safe to come out in words, not requiring it to express itself in words may be helpful. It’s like sitting in a clearing and she feels her level of reverence and acceptance might allow a deer to cross the clearing. Odd. Someone once said I was like a deer in the woods, peering out shyly.

Things you have no memory of may be expressed in art therapy.

So I decide, I will stand in the middle of my room, and allow that part of myself to make a movement. In the evening, I do this, and look around the room. There is a moment when it suddenly feels inauthentic, and I stop. The next morning- this morning, as I write- I stand there again, with that intention, and say “Welcome”. The image of a Mexican standoff comes to mind. Lots of people are pointing guns at each other, with shifting alliances. One hesitantly begins to lower his gun. After sunset I stand barefoot in darkness, say the word of power that initiates the ritual- “Welcome”- and start to dance.

Well. I know I should not say, oh, there’s this worrying symptom with my heart, and then go silent- but this is huge for me. I think I make progress.

I have no idea who painted this, but it fits.

2 thoughts on “Self-consciousness and self-knowledge

  1. l really liked this one and the one about being in the moment before. [I shared your supermarket poem in MfW – hope you don’t mind – l didn’t attribute!]. Firstly, l am a ciswoman, though rather a gray one, and l find that l want to make a strong woman of myself and often wimp out and read a book instead and then give myself the bullying, harsh, critical parent treatment, before calling on my inner stroppy teen and pushing back; it is a constant toing and froing. Dance is a great way to release feelings.

    Liked by 1 person

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