Thursday, February 17, 2011
We Only Have As Much Power As We Are Willing To Give Up
We only have as much power as we are willing to give up. And at that point, we don't care about power anymore. I have been thinking about power dynamics, between couples, between men and women, children and adults, teachers and students, bosses and employees. There is enormous pain in the attempt to dominate or control. Because it is based solely, at it's core, on the desire to protect one's own survival at all costs. And as we know, the pursuit of survival is like trying to grip dry sand. It is impossible. We all die. Furthermore, our grip means the sand cannot stay, it falls away automatically.
I have realized over and over how society has trained me as a woman to feel powerless. The message is that I should objectify my body, make it an object for the enjoyment of others. The way I talk, walk, hold my head, brush my hair, my posture, my energetic innermost movements, should all be synchronized and illuminated in a sort of play. The male projection of the young, sensual woman, has become an archetype of pain in this culture, and many other cultures. She is found beautiful for her very imprisonment. She cannot be aware of her beauty, this would be threatening. She cannot ignore her beauty, this would be masculine. Her beauty must be unchanging, frozen. Not impacted by natural forces such as water, wind, cold, heat. Thus hair products, botox, surgery, airbrushing, and eternal youth. She must be timid and submissive, yet sexually ferocious. She must be willing to be dominated, yet unattainable. She must be the center of attention, but without her own perspective, for she must be living the image of your perspective. She must be mature and able to contain your emotional needs, yet never grow beyond the posturing of the young woman. She must be all contradictions, without complaint, without awareness, naturally, effervescently. She must be your emotional and physical servant, leaving time for herself only to groom.
This kind of deep inner contradiction causes one of two things, and sometimes both simultaneously: 1) Disassociation, and 2) Deep, inner tension eventually leading to disease. Women faced with the awareness of these cultural truths must make a choice to either give up the only option of power that they are given, or allow their psychological and physical bodies to be in essence, tortured.
Interestingly, in giving up the perceived power, we as women, along with all other beings placed in some cultural bind, find genuine power is released. In giving up all power, one finds instead that one has nothing to lose in being oneself, and in this way, has gained total freedom and joy, the thing of course we were seeking all along.
The problem of course in the process of giving up this kind of power, is the incredible loneliness that remains after this power dynamic has fallen away. In any power situation, there is the fear of abandonment. In a work situation, a boss fears being sold out by their employees. There is a kind of paranoia that if they lose control, there will be nothing to stop people from not doing their work, losing them money or simply making them look bad. This is an unfortunate mistake, based on the fear of abandonment. We are afraid, as the boss, that it will be shown that we were not loved, or cared for, but simply left to fail.
In romantic relationships, the power dynamics can be based on all kinds of motivations, but at the core, there is always loneliness. Being left to feel our existence without any barrier, or anyone to tell us that there is something else going on, or that we are okay, or that there is no impending death to be experienced alone.
It is the same with the issues and pressures I have experienced being a woman. The kind of power I am told to grasp is empty. To stay with those kind of inner contradictions is to put myself in a kind of bind, not able to ever free up the energy of my genuine self, and genuine life. I am caught in a house of mirrors, unable to see past other's expectations of me, unable to enjoy the wide expanse of the world and experience of life.
But to let go of those expectations is to risk losing the glue between myself and those who desire me to live out their projections. Perhaps once that glue is gone, they won't still be sitting there, but will have fallen away completely. Somehow though, we instinctively know as human beings that in being ourselves, our genuine selves beyond the projections and expectations of others, is a thing that trumps all relationship based on fear. We know somehow that there is something deep and great that will connect the real us to all things if we can simply get beyond those outside expectations that are impressed upon us by those who seek power for the avoidance of their own loneliness. These impressions are deep and profound, seeming to intertwine themselves with the very core of who we are. When we start to unravel that twine, a pure life force is allowed to unleash itself, making it hard to go back to a smaller, tighter or even tense and conflictual existence.
For myself I move in and out of this state. I play with the contracted self, it seems, to remind myself of how incredibly painful it really is. I seek out men and women who will validate a false self in me so that I can contract to the point of feeling acutely the ingenuineness and shell-like quality of that type of existence. The problem with this kind of game is that it creates the complexity of having to untangle the twine from the true self. Where does one end and the other begin? Then, when, usually with help, I manage to untangle them, and find my inner voice, my freedom beyond the pressures of the desires of others, I find a world alive and surrounding me.
Perhaps loneliness is simply the voice of truth. It says, "I am here, I exist, in apparent separation from all other existent things." Nothing can validate our existence fully, because our existence cannot be actually known by anyone, not fully anyway. It is a solitary act, to exist. There is something in this solitary-ness that begs attention. As Thoreau said, he wanted to "live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that is not life..." In other words, to be alone and feel loneliness is to see the bareness, and most final components of what is life, and what one is within life. How does one exist and how exactly does that existence connect with life? To live in an attempt to fulfill predictions, projections, fantasies of another person, is an aspect of life, but what Thoreau might have called "not life." For it lacks connection to the energy of life. Mathematically speaking, this implies that loneliness is the basic energy of life.