Conscious incompetence I

I have taken useful lessons from the HAI weekend.

“I find you particularly masculine” says D. Then, kindly (a wonderful afterthought, this, I wish I could do conversation like it) “perhaps at some point I will be able to see you as you want to be seen”.

And perhaps I should be a novelist, I could make my character appear more intelligent than I am by coming up with the repartee immediately, which takes me until the following day. No, D, you don’t. If I spoke and behaved as I do, using a male name and wearing jeans and a plain white t shirt, you would find me effeminate.

I don’t need you to see me as female. I did, at one point, need that from others: having no self-respect, I needed constant validation- but now I don’t, thank you. How you see me is down to your own blind spots, filters and comforting lies.

What I want from you is ordinary courtesy. The European Court of Human Rights, backed up by copious scientific research over decades and enthusiastically supported by the Blair government, the Liberals and the Tories, declare me female. In my particular case, four psychiatrists, I can’t remember how many counsellors and, most importantly, I, say that I am a woman. I want you to refer to me by female pronouns.

File:The Assaut or Fencing Match which took place at Carton House on the 9th of April 1787.jpg————————————————————————————————————–

I love Clustrmaps. Yesterday I had my first visitor from Africa since I got my map on 13 February, as well as first visitors from Japan and the Phillippines, so now have evidence of visitors from every continent except Antarctica.

Image and Reality

Pictures of God as a child in the arms of a woman are far more common, but Google Images produces a lot for the search “God enthroned”, and quite a few of them are the old man with the beard. Blake’s is one of my favourites. The old man with the beard is the perfect image for Richard Dawkins to ridicule- how could anyone believe in that- and also for a fair few fourteen-year-olds to use in their journey to atheism.

There are other images of God. There is God as life-force, immanent in all things. For the Quaker, God is Relationship, experience, the inner light which we get to know. Moving into Quakerism, I had experiences of being moved to minister, possibly of being led into action, and I found that any idea of God I had got in the way of experiences of God. I decided to be open to new perceptions of these experiences, rather than being too quick to interpret them in the way of my understanding of previous experiences. I do not necessarily attach the experience too quickly to the word “God” or other words, and this is a discipline I use to try to get to the fullness of the experience.

I now seek to apply this to other experiences: getting to know other people, for example. Really, who is this person, now?

Allison Grayhurst applies it to spiritual growth. Indeed one of the barriers to growth is my preconception of what the new, more mature Flourish might look like. And when it comes, I have not anticipated the result, except once or twice in deep communing with my subconscious. Of course I need a “world map”, an understanding so that I can navigate quotidian situations, but also I need openness to experience so that I can gain the full blessing of it.

Knowing, intellectually

Even before I became a member of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) I often felt moved to minister, and I remember sitting down after speaking in Meeting and wondering, was I really moved by the Holy Spirit to Minister, or was it my own imagining? When I tried to work this out using my rational mind, thinking it through, I could not decide. However, when I sought to access what I felt about it, I felt sure enough that it was Ministry.

Things now are not as I might have hoped, and I notice that I am not taking the actions out in the World which others might think might advance my interests. I console myself with the thought that I am doing necessary and beautiful spiritual and personal growth and healing, that I am loosening bonds which have tied me, and that I am doing the groundwork necessary to take that concrete action in the future. And I doubt myself, is this just fantasy? I am quite certain that I am not now taking all the steps I might to find better work. Is the thought of “personal growth” just whistling in the wind, not connected to reality? And I cannot fashion a rational argument that I am truly growing, that all this is worthwhile, that satisfies my inner rationalist.

Yet, just as with that Ministry, when I consult my feelings about the matter I am sufficiently sure that I am growing. And so I know this intellectually, because my intellect can learn to trust and accept my feelings. I will not “end up” like this. I will move forward from where I am.

Fear is nothing to fear

There are those who are in control of their lives, who are successful in business, and who are driven, and perhaps are unhappy.

There are those who need control in their lives, and, unable to assert that control in the World, retreat from it. I have met people who are afraid to go out of their own houses, or who live with others and stay in the bedroom. It seems to me that they seek the same control over what they can control- one room, rather than, say, a multinational company.

“There is nothing to fear but fear itself” misses the point. In control, whether of a multinational company, or a bedroom (or even, just, the space under the bed) one avoids fear out of a fear of fear. I cannot allow myself to fear, therefore I must control.

“Feel the fear and do it anyway” gets closer. Fear is OK. There are moments when fear is the natural and healthy response. And there are people for whom fear is unacceptable, and so they impose Control, and may benefit from knowing Why.

For me, I believe that it has been unacceptable in me to show fear since before I could walk. I think it is a deeply ingrained early childhood pattern, which continues to dominate me (making a mockery of any control I exercise). I give strength and energy to what I suppress. I want to accept my Fear.

I wanted my blog to be a record of process accomplished, not the process itself. Here, I am in the heat of my process.

The Hoffman process

The Hoffman Process is wonderful and liberating, because it gives a whole week of catharsis after catharsis, and tools to access the subconscious and its wisdom.

The image is a symbol of the human being as “quadrinity”. The circle is the body, encompassing the whole. The large rhombus is the spiritual self, and the other rhombuses the emotional being and the intellect, all interlocking. The process gave me another view of different aspects of the person in dialogue, sometimes in dispute, and so validated that perception in me.

My disagreement with the Hoffman process is that it demonises the “dark side” as an enemy, where I see it as an “inner critic” which may be made a friend. However they are certainly right that the inner critic must be dethroned from dominance before it may be a useful member of the committee of the self.

And, since doing the Process, I have spent a number of evenings in the houses of other spiritual seekers, sharing our growth and process. It is a powerful tool in shedding habitual, inherited patterns of behaviour, and gaining choices over how to be in the World.

There is a lot on personal growth stuff here. If you are interested in Hoffman, you may also be interested in the Human Awareness Institute.


There is a part of the self which is natural, spontaneous and free-flowing. She may be suppressed under a conventional conformity. When so suppressed, she appears evil, because she chafes against the conformity, and resists it, which the ego finds frightening. The ego has adopted conventionality under great pressure, and sees no other way. When she can be freed, the spontaneous self is powerful and beautiful, because she is loving and creative.


“Just noticing life, humanity and such”. I am rather enjoying the blog “Elise on Life”. She wrote of finding the blessing in an irritation, and I asked how to know whether one was merely suppressing the negative emotion. She suggests I observe my responses objectively, either assessing after, or watching at the time.

This particularly interests me, as I have not been happy with my observer. I was most conscious of her recently, looking over my shoulder and judging how I responded in the sweat lodge. Whereas I knew I wished to channel spirit and respond in the moment spontaneously, rather than try to judge how I am responding based on my fantasies of how people will react to me.

I suppose the good news here is that I can be in the moment, responding spontaneously- angry swearing is a good example- and I can also stand beside myself, and observe. What I seek is to notice both, and to choose which fits my purpose; and see if I may sense moving between the two ways of being, or influence it. I also seek to perceive reality rather than my fantasies: this is an ongoing project.

Please do have a look at my updated photos page, Snap snap, grin grin.


The woman who works at the rape crisis centre does not like the term “Rape victim”. Yet I think many women raped will start out as rape victims, violated, hurt, unable to trust or open up, angry. No one need stay that way. With the correct support one might be a “Rape survivor”, having suffered this great injury yet still going on with life.

Human beings heal. While we are alive, however great the hurt, we tend towards healing, getting better. We tend towards maturing. The next, natural stage is the Recovered rape survivor, who has suffered this great hurt, and is now able again to trust and to open up and be vulnerable. It is not easy. It may take a long time.

There is the further stage, transcending the rape to a deeper maturity, where rather than being a continuing scar, always hurting, the rape becomes that moment of loss of hope which produces a new, truer hope,  a greater maturity, and a greater understanding of the capabilities and strength and resources of the woman. When every experience of life becomes Blessing rather than curse. I do not mean to minimise the trauma that the person raped suffers, but I do know that with sufficient time and support in community people can get to this stage.

There is a similar concept among those with mental illness, called Recovery. As this site says, the person may still have the symptoms, but

Recovery can be a voyage of self-discovery and personal  growth. Experiences of mental illness can provide opportunities for change, reflection and discovery of new values, skills and interests.

Naming and shaming

My friend John, who has experience of living in Community, calls Bicester spirit sapping and full of chavs, after I make clear that I find the word “chav” as offensive as the word “poof”, and then complains about name calling. Honestly, you would not squabble if I introduced you in my living room, so why squabble here?

The offensive word creates limits. It limits the user’s perception of the other, he just cannot see the good qualities in the other. It limits the person named, he lives down to expectations. It creates a barrier between people. And we do live below our potential, and yet with any light we may grow and heal.

John does not want the word Community devalued, yet while a weekend together with a facilitator can give us all a rosy glow of togetherness, and sometimes some real insight into self and world, actual communities often live in a state of unresolved conflict. And towns can be filled with people living below their potential, without connection; and so they need people capable of seeing the worth in others and inspiring them. Like a probation officer I met once (in a professional capacity, not as her client) whose sweetness, steel, integrity and clear-sighted care made a deep impression on me. So I build community one encounter at a time.

A US marine explained that you can train men to kill with hatred- the Vietnamese are gooks, sub-human, kill them- but this ruins their mental health. To save the soldier’s mental health, the US marines now train people to kill by convincing them that they are protecting something worth killing to protect. I would rather they did not kill anyone- but I see that this is an improvement. I can be the pebble, shining in the stream, building heaven in hell’s despair.

I blame my parents!

Or not.

For a long time I was a goody-goody as far as my parents were concerned, aping their opinions and ideas and ways of being. And then, in my early thirties, I realised it was time to do teenage, which I had never done properly, and separate myself a bit. I discovered my emotions. They were anger, frustration, resentment and fear.

I think this was a good stage to go through. I had been hurt, and I did need to self-protect. And. Now I know that my parents did their absolute best for me. Knowing what I do of their circumstances and antecedents, I think they did wonderfully well.  I love my father’s enthusiasm for his work as a teacher, always seeking out new ways to engage with each child. Now he is retired, 86, still dancing.

I have decided that my most important memories of my mother are two particular wonderful hugs, expressing, perceiving and sharing love both ways. And. She worked so hard, all the time, and wanted the best for me the best way she knew how. And. Born fifty years later, she would have absolutely and completely got all this Personal Growth, and flown with it.

For years, I could have told you a story of my mother and then wailed, “She didn’t understand!” with as much emotion as if the incident had happened an hour before. And then, it clicked. “Oh, Riiight! She didn’t understand!” Relief, liberation, joy.