EXCERPTS FROM ALL MANNER OF THINGS: perspectives for young people on Sex, Self, Relationship, & Life
CHAPTER ELEVEN: GETTING TO KNOW WHAT'S NOT US
·What’s it like when we’re connected to our Authentic Self?
When we’re present and connected, it’s clear our feelings, thoughts, and behavior shift:
. we know we’re valuable. We feel our worth. We don’t search for validation
. we’re steady. Because we don’t feel threatened, we don’t get defensive, look to blame other people, insist on being right, or distance ourselves by choosing not to care
. we’re secure and comfortable in our skin. We aren’t focused on what’s wrong with us and looking for fruitless ways to feel better
. drama—self-righteousness, victimhood, blame—whether it’s ours or someone else’s, doesn’t sit right
. we know what our strengths are, and don’t mind or get embarrassed about our weaknesses. Instead we see them as opportunities to grow
. we’re willing to learn, and to change when we need to
. whatever the situation, we recognize its gifts
. we’re no longer rushing, or taking things for granted. We notice and appreciate the various aspects of what’s around us
. we have this sort of calm knowingness, and can be true to what feels right for us no matter what anyone else thinks, says, or does. We’re able to make decisions accordingly
. we’re present to the moment;
Essentially, when we’re connected to the current of our Self, we’re experiencing something that’s strong and expansive. Instead of looking to the narrative for our worth – stuff, friends, what we look like, money – we’re connected to a current that’s moving inside of us. We’re lit up from within, so we don’t try to get our sense of power from somewhere else.
·What’s it like when we’re not connected?
When can’t sense the clear, calm of our Authentic Self running through us, we,
. feel like we don’t belong
. think we’re not good enough
. think others are better
. feel lost
Which affects how we behave. We,
. gossip, judge, isolate, don’t care
. are arrogant, jealous, impatient, insecure
. feel like we need more friends, more attention, more stuff
. get worried, stressed, anxious, fearful
. want to crash and burn everything to the ground
. struggle to feel excited about ourselves and our lives
. push things to the edge to feel alive
During and leading up to puberty, with ideas about who we are, bodies, and sex getting much stronger, coupled with our interactions on the internet and social media, it’s harder and harder to find the internal current of our Authentic Self. The feelings of self-doubt and wanting to fit in, and the various ways of behaving that come with them become a cycle.
·If we want to change our experience, what can we do?
The lists above refer to ways of behaving, thinking, and feeling when we are, or are not connected to the current of our Authentic Self; not rushing, knowingness, gossip, feeling lost.
Our thoughts, feelings, and behavior are these big indicators that tell us what’s going on, and whether we’re connected or not.
If we pay attention, become aware of them, they’re a direct line to telling us what is, and what’s not us.
THE ROLES WE PLAY
When we’re not connected to our Authentic Self, we know our behavior gets out of sorts. Likewise, when our behavior is out of sorts, we know we’re not connected to our Authentic Self.
Our behavior is a big signal for what’s going on.
·Are there ways of behaving that pretty much look the same no matter who’s doing them?
Just as people look and sound the same when they’re ‘not themselves’ because they’ve been drinking too much – they’re slurry, their eyes glaze over, they get emotional whether it’s angry, sentimental, or sad – when we’ve ‘taken on’ a behavior that’s not us, we kind of look the same as all the other people who take it on as well.
Gossip is exclusive and insidious.
It likes attention, and likes to create its own group of people who are ‘in’. It wants people who aren’t ‘in’ to feel bad and wish they were. It likes to seem like it knows stuff, and it's good at making that stuff seem important. Often it likes to convince us that it’s not really around when actually it is. Its air of justification, exclusivity, and entitlement makes it seem powerful.
Being A Victim craves attention.
It likes to seem like it’s small and isolated when in fact it’s pretty big. Sometimes it likes to rally people and get them on its side. Other times it wants them to feel sorry for it. If asked ‘what’s wrong’, most of the time it will say, ‘nothing’, but really it hopes it will get more attention and be asked again. Morally, it strikes an air of superiority. Someone else is always wrong, and it is always right, or misunderstood. The feeling of power comes from its ability to get attention and draw others in. If allowed, it can change the feeling in an entire room.
Being Superior is entitled and arrogant.
It thinks it knows what it’s doing, and thinks it has every right to do whatever it wants. It doesn’t listen, whether it pretends to or not. It’s sure it knows exactly who other people are and what they’re like, and is dismissive of anyone and anything it deems inferior. When it encounters something that seems more powerful, it can change its way like a chameleon and act charming and magnanimous. Most of the time, the people around it believe it, and act inferior. This is where it gets its sense of power.
Being A Bully is bloated.
It likes to surround itself with people who are impressed, scared of, or want to be like it. When in a group, it thrives on attention and can get really puffed up. Its feeling of power comes from generating fear and controlling others, and the rush it feels when it achieves its goal.
Behaviors are like roles. They have ‘characters’ to them that, once we start to see them, become easier and easier to recognize. Whatever is it—Jealousy, Talking Back, Not Caring, Being Tough or Popular— most are pretty predictable. It’s as if, when we take one on, we’re going along with some movie script that’s been played a thousand times over.
·When we’re not feeling good about ourselves, what kinds of roles do we play?
If we look back at the list of behavior around puberty, our repertoire can have quite a bit going on.
We gossip, get angry, always try to win, do things that get attention, complain, spend a bunch of time trying to look good, act like we’re always in control or like we don’t care. We’re sexual because we want to be liked, act flirty, weak, like a victim, cocky, or we isolate ourselves, or try to seem cool.
The roles are our response to the narrative. We put them on because we’re listening to its ideas of where our sense of power comes from, and who we need to be in order to seem like we have it.
·Does playing a role help?
They seem like they help because they seem to get us what we want. Whether it’s judging, complaining, being sarcastic, or acting weak, sexy, or whatever, in their own way the roles give us their specific sense of power.
But for a couple of reasons, the roles end up making us feel worse.
·Why do we feel worse?
First, because we’re getting our sense of power from somewhere outside ourselves instead of being connected to our Authentic Self (when we act superior, others are afraid or look up to us; when we act weak, others want to help) that good feeling runs out. We constantly need to find things, or be certain ways to feel good again.
Second, because of how we’re responding to the narrative, that temporary good feeling comes at a cost. We’re doing things and taking on roles that lead to more separation, confusion, and low self worth;
. we play on being hurt and people give us attention, or feel sorry for us, which makes us feel special. It’s easy to stay in the Victim role, which means we stay disempowered
. we gossip or tease and feel like we’re ‘on top’, but we have to live with being unkind. The more we normalize not caring, the easier it is for us to do. The more walls we build and the less connected we become
. we go about like we deserve everything we want, our self righteousness and entitlement making us feel ‘big’. But because we’re not connected, we rely on our sense of worth to come from things outside, and always need more. We’re constantly claiming our entitlement, and never feel like what we get is enough
Taking on roles disconnects us from our Authentic Self which, ultimately, doesn’t feel good. To feel better, we’ll take on other roles or make the ones we already play stronger. Whether we realize it or not, we’re constantly trying to fix the feelings of disconnect that are happening underneath.
·If taking on roles doesn’t help, and actually makes us feel worse, why do we keep doing it?
We let them happen without thinking about it.
With so many of us not feeling secure for so long, it makes sense that these ways of behaving have come to seem normal. Most of us never stop to think about how we behave, or why, or what the bigger picture is. We’re not consciously choosing our roles, we’re letting them happen.
Also, some roles can be challenging to let go of or stop;
. we get really used to playing them and we think they’re us
. they get us attention
. the thoughts and feelings that make us put a role on always seem important and justified
. big feelings like anger, self righteousness, sadness, and hate can make us feel significant and alive
. we get attached to our emotions because they feel like they have purpose and direction
. when we’re in drama or having a big reaction, almost all of us think or talk about what’s going on. We keep feeling the feelings, which makes the role stronger
·Why do we adopt roles in the first place?
Whether it’s being unkind, or acting weak or cool or whatever, there are a few reasons we'll put a role on for the first time. Maybe we try it out because,
There’s an eleven-year-old girl who’s smart and funny, and who cares about other people a lot.
One time there was a thing at her school where one girl was threatening to fight another. People were playing the roles of ‘you wanna fight?’, ‘yeah I wanna fight’, and the situation was growing fast.
The girl’s best friend was involved, so the girl started playing Being A Fighter too.
At first, roles often feel a bit awkward, and seem like they make us feel good, powerful, and different. In the end though, we feel worse. It’s just most of us don’t realize that’s what’s going on.
We keep taking them on because we think they’ll make things better, or we don’t have the courage to drop them, or we get so used to them we forget who we are underneath.
·Are there times when, if we’re in a role, we realize what we’re doing?
When we’re playing a role, maybe we have a vague sense that how we’re behaving feels off.
Or it could be a big realization, like the man in the film The Act of Killing who started crying and vomiting when he thought back on the people he’d killed.
For the girl Being A Fighter, the role started when she messaged her friend, ‘yeah, I’d fight her’. Then, before she knew it, everyone was saying there was going to be a fight.
As we know, when we’re sending a message it’s easy be a certain way that we’d never normally be to someone’s face. It's a place where it's easy to take on roles that are unusual for us, or extreme. Because there’s no real, in-person interaction, we don’t think about the consequences.
In this case, once that text was sent, word got out and Being A Fighter became really real for the eleven-year-old girl, really fast.
Before any fight took place, the school found out what was going on. Parents and police were involved, and no one could really believe t this girl was part of it.
While it was all happening, it was kind of like the girl was numb. Like it was happening to someone else. When she got home, she saw some photographs of her and her friends, smiling, studying in different classes. It was like those photographs were a reminder of who she really was.
That was when the whole thing caught up with her. She felt like she’d blown it. Blown the trust and confidence her teachers and friends had put in her, and blown what felt right in herself.
In moments when we see how far we’ve come from ourselves, we have the chance to grow. We know what our behavior feels like, learn why we did what we did, and get clear why we don’t want to do it again.
Most of the time though, we just keep on with our roles without knowing we’re doing it or realizing who we’ve become.
·Rather than letting roles just happen, would we want to start choosing whether we take them on?
Our roles directly affect our experience. For instance:
Let’s say we have a plan with someone and last minute they tell us they can’t make it. Then we find out they made a plan with someone else.
What might our go-to, disconnected reactions be?
a. Get mad
b. Feel like no one likes us
c. Try to find a way to get that person back
Each is its own role.
How do the roles affect us?
a. When we’re angry, we’re probably doing, thinking, and saying things we’re likely to regret
b. Feeling sorry for ourselves is disempowering, isolating, and awful
c. Trying to get back at someone makes for a bunch of drama and disconnect
If we didn’t disconnect from our Authentic Self, what would things look like?
Because we’re connected, we wouldn’t be rocked;
. we could communicate and listen clearly
. if the situation was with someone we consider a friend, we’d trust they’d have good reason for doing that
. we’d know it’s exhausting trying to control other people
. if something similar were to happen a few times with that person, we could make note and determine the nature of our friendship
With our go-to, habitual roles getting in the way of our Authentic Self, it makes sense we’d want to have a say in what we do or don’t take on.
·What are some roles we might not want to take on?
All roles get in the way of us being ourselves, but there are more obvious ones that don’t feel good like Jealousy, Thinking People Don’t Like Us, and Feeling Left Out.
Then there are ones that seem like we’d want them.
Some make us feel alive, like Anger, Complaint, and Being Right. And some we put on when we think we’re special, better than someone else, justified, or that get us a lot of attention, like Being Full of Ourselves, Superiority, and Elitism.
For instance, maybe we’ve performed in music or sports, or received some sort of academic award, or had a lot of people like or follow us, and the attention makes us feel inflated. If we don’t know how to ground the energy, it’s easy to lose touch with our Authentic Self and we adopt roles that separate us.
·If we decide there are roles we don’t want to take on anymore, what can we do?
The first step to taking control of our roles and therefore our experience, is to separate ourselves from them. To do this we want to get to know them really, really well. What they are—how they walk, talk, feel and think—when we put them on, and what signals our body gives us when we’re in one.
- we’re more conscious of the paths we choose
-we trust more
- we pursue what’s valuable
- we respond to adversity with understanding
- we’re imitating others who have it on
- or people around us are expect us to play it
- or we’re bored or curious
- or we’re trying to feel better about ourselves