How do we talk to each other? I listened to someone narrating a story of how he told off a company that just wouldn’t listen. The language Paul used in his narration spoke to me of deep seated anger. I understand anger. I have lived much of my life in a state of anger until I resolved the issues causing my anger – and so much of that was related to the stories I told myself about my relationship to the world.
There was a level of violence in the language Paul used. He quoted himself, “And I told the person on the other end of the phone that I have previously been polite, but if you call me again, I will come in person and deal with your bitch cunt wife.” Wow, that was not easy listening.
I have learnt over the course of my life that what I like in other people are usually qualities I like in myself, and vice versa. What I don’t like in myself I dislike in other people. We are mirrors for each other. Paul had an abusive mother. I do understand where he is coming from. The trouble is he is still coming from there. The stories he tells himself about strong women still resonate of his mother. In fact, most of the time when I hear a woman called “bitch” or “cunt” it is a way of diminishing her strength.
How do we deal with strong women? Just as people do not always talk nicely to one another: Even if the anger is directed at someone else, I am still picking up the venom when I am listening. If I had not learned to divorce myself from other people’s “stuff” I would now be harboring that same dense, violent energy. I am a strong woman. I have been called all that nasty stuff at one time or another. I finally learned not to accept other people’s labeling of me as this, that or the other thing, but I have not yet learned how to help other people see that they are responsible for their own stories, and the circumstances that arise from them. When I try to find language for what I am picking up from others as they vent and carry on, the words I find often pass right overhead.
I think what we need to do as collective humanity is to return to a language of the Soul. The Soul is able to step into another person’s shoes and make connections with life experiences that may echo another person’s. This is how I am able to let go of animosity and find a feeling of caring to share in my relationships with other people. Sometimes I listen to venting, because I am caring, but I create an energy field around myself that can listen without taking in the energy that is being vented.
Today I said to Paul, “Wow! Don’t shoot the messenger!” Paul asked me, “Why would I do that?” I said, “Because of your anger at so-and-so!” Paul more calmly said to me, “But it’s compartmentalized.” I asked, “Your anger, or the corporation that called you?” “Both,” he answered. His response reminded me yet again that he does not have to act on his anger.
I know Paul is a decent hard working man who sustains himself and his family, but sometimes his reactions strike that cord in me that relates to violence. I came from a family dynamic of violence as well. Perhaps what is compartmentalized is the wounded inner child. How do we heal from this? And how do we relate to violence in men (and women), who unlike Paul, are not able to keep their emotions compartmentalized?
As I write this morning, many connections to anger suggest themselves to me. There is the anger of parent against child, of spouse against spouse, of one social group against another. There is an unspoken agreement in the white Protestant culture in which I was raised that women are not supposed to get angry. Although I am a strong woman, I learned to tone my anger down over the course of my life in order to get along with those close to me. My husband once complained to me that I am supposed to be continually sweet and easy to get along with, but the unspoken assumption was that it was acceptable for him, like it was for my father, to be an angry man. How much goes unsaid once it is repressed, and how much healing could have been accomplished if I had learned how to process my anger growing up! But that is all water under the dam. I have learned to listen since then, and so it was that I found myself listening to Paul vent earlier. It was a release of toxic energy for him, of feeling disrespected by that corporation.
I jump to another scenario, because when I think of strong women, I think of some of the Black women I have known in my life. These women are so strong. I would name some of these people, but I want to respect their privacy. I knew them at college as professors, I knew them at the Job Corps where I served as an art instructor a couple decades ago, I know of Oprah from her great work in the public eye. The racial issues confronting the collective today are also born of the stories we tell ourselves, and I want to mention this because it is important. It is so important. Language defines us and the stories we hold on to define us.
Over the course of American history a language of slavery was created. This is a language of power over others, of those others taken from their homelands sometimes by their own people, and of human lives being traded for money and subjected to grave suffering. This is a language of superiority that one human being assumes the right to have power over another that one deems inferior.
As America struggles to rise above the language of slavery and superiority the culture has created a language of racism. This is important to draw attention to the facts of history, but what I see in the conceptualism of this language is that humans are also being polarized, one against another because of skin color. This creates a divide. Those who come together must overcome this language in order that racism be healed by the fact of our humanity. Racism is not a one way street where Whites hate Blacks. Those who have been oppressed also have learned to hate, and reverse racism is a fact that exists. Black folks are capable of hating White folks, and the whole sordid mess continues over generations until everyone learns to process and forgive and move on with justice and mercy for all. But this won’t happen until the collective consciousness is able to change up its stories to more positive, life affirming outcomes.
I watched Oprah on Youtube telling her story of success. I love Oprah. She is fierce and tells things as she sees them. She uses her public platform to encourage people -all people- to grow their Soul. Invictus by William Ernest Henley moved Oprah hugely during her formative years. Here is the poem:
William Ernest Henley – 1849-1903
- Out of the night that covers me,
- Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
- I thank whatever gods may be
- For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.