Thursday, June 23, 2016
Need to Hide
I hit traffic the other day and wondered if there was any good way to spend that time sitting in gridlock on 77. Before I was even thinking, I made a quick request of the Universe and asked that there be something inspiring on the radio. I was hoping for a good song or a station that didn't play top 40. Instead, I stumbled upon "Invisibila" on NPR.
This particular episode called, "The New Norm" was a story about an old french woman who created a technique to help people get in touch with their emotions. She impressed one gentleman so much, by helping him work out some issues with his teenage son, that he hired her to come and do the same thing with his managers on his oil rig.
These were men who worked hard, lived rough, and barely shared their thoughts with their wives, let alone some strange french lady. These guys who were taught to live into all the stereotypes of masculinity were asked to share their feelings with their co-workers and eventually, this would bring about an 85% increase in rig safety over the next year. They got to know one another. They were vulnerable, they could ask for help and they could anticipate one another's needs. It changed how things worked on the rig for the better.
It was an incredible episode and it really got me thinking about a lot of things. What stuck me with most of the day didn't really have to do with the work Claire (that was the french woman's name) did with Shell Oil. It was a segment from a class she took that was very influential to the work that she would end up doing later in life.
There was a type of therapy where a guy would stand on stage and just yell questions at people. It sounded something like this, "Why do you need to appear smart? What do you need to appear successful? Why do you need to dress that way?" and so on. The idea behind these questions was simply that we use those things that we "need to be" to hide something that we actually are.
This got to me. So I started thinking about what I need to be seen or experienced as. The first thing that came to mind was a superficial moment from a few days prior. I was getting dressed, ready to start my day of painting and childcare when I realized I was putting back on the black tank top and orange workout shorts that I have been wearing for a couple of days. Not only that, all of my outfits have started to resemble this one and I just wash them and put them back on, day in and day out.
They work for me for a number of practical reasons but I did ponder why I have all the clothing that I own if I am not going to wear it. My wardrobe is filled with all manner of tribal prints, floral ponchos, Indian harem pants, Thai printed T's, colors, colors, colors, and unique items that I have found on my travels that represent some version of myself that I think is pretty cool. I actually thought about putting some of these items on the just to "feel" like myself even though they were not suitable for the work that I needed to do. I didn't give into this notion because I do not want to feed the idea that my clothing is a symbol for who I am. I want to just be who I am no matter my outfits. However, for a moment, I looked in the mirror and thought, "You look too sporty", and I had to talk myself out of changing.
After hearing that show, I found myself asking why do I need to wear those cool, "hippie" clothes (as my neighbors call them). Why do I not feel like myself unless I have those on?
And if some man was yelling a question at me from a stage it might sound like this: Why do you want to look different?
The answer came to me like a ringing of a gong. I do not want to appear normal.
It sounds like the dumbest most surface thing I could spend my time thinking about, but here it was, the truth slapping me in the face. I do not want to appear normal. Worse off, I don't want to acknowledge that, indeed, I am normal.
Essentially, this therapeutic technique declares that all the things you are drawn to, that you like, that you want to surround yourself with, are just a guise to hide what it is that you don't want anyone to know about you. The therapy works with claiming these very honest parts of yourself. I need to claim that I am normal. Just a normal person who likes and does normal things on a normal life timeline. Just saying it out loud to my husband and neighbor really did take a load off that I didn't even know I was carrying.
I don't think my example was anything mind-blowing or life-changing. But it did offer me an awareness of my own motivations and attractions. This is why I avoid scenarios that seem really mundane and typical. This is why there are certain types of people I just can't make friends with. This is the reason I find myself attracted to the items I am drawn to. This new awareness has made me feel lighter and more free which is the whole point of any therapy that I would deem a success.
So, on that note, what about you? What needs are you hiding behind? What are you, really?