ASK ABDI: WHY DO WE RATHER STAY CLOSED OFF?
QUESTION: I met with you last year when I was having a difficult time dealing with my sexual orientation and self-acceptance. I said, “I never liked the term coming out”, and you mentioned “coming into yourself, fully, wholly”, and that made so much sense to me. I got it and use it as my mantra now.
Since then, I fully accept myself for who I am and am not quick to judge others. My question is: since I have been rediscovering myself, I realize that all the time I was living in fear of being ridiculed, judged, or being looked at as "less than" because of my orientation that I was like the Golden Buddha covered with clay, when all along I was a child of God, connected to every other human being on Earth/in the Universe.
Since we are all having the same human experience here on Earth, but we are being separated by gender, nationality, politics, religion, etc., I realize that it is SO EASY to see that some of us are still covered in clay, while some of us have broken through to reveal our Golden self. Being who you are, fully, wholly, can be scary and it’s tough. Why would we rather stay covered with clay, closed off?
ANSWER: A great and important question, you brave soul. The short answer to your question is this: the reason we would rather stay covered with clay is abject terror. This terror has many facets and consequences that we will delve into. But the bottom line is our fear of not being loved.
The fear of being fully who we are stems from early childhood. As we dig into this question, it is important to step out of our guarded and defended adult mind. We need to get a feel for the absolute vulnerability of the small child we once were. In total dependence on those who cared for us, for our survival. This is an easy fact to overlook, since we have long covered this vulnerability with all manners of defense mechanisms, attitudes, masks, and stories. Unless deeply examined, much of what we present to the world as adults, in actuality stems from and is a reaction to these early experiences.
When we are in the vulnerable state of our early childhood, we learn to tap dance to receive the love of those around us. We learn that certain behaviors will bring acceptance or rejection. Many of us continue to be affected by such things as adults, but it is on a whole different level when we are small. From the experience of the child, our actual life is perceived to be in danger if the love of the caretakers is not forthcoming. Literally. The child is wholly dependent on those in power, and hence the formation of hiding or over-exhibiting aspects of self starts. This dance continues and becomes more intense as socialization occurs. The repressed aspects of society that are reflected in culture, shape (or rather brutally stunt) the inner life of the child. By the time we are young adults, the clay is fully cured on top of us, to use your lovely image.
Here is the fear piece when we grow up: we internalize the concept that in order to be loved we need to be a certain way. So then we have a whole set of unconscious guidelines of how to behave. Things we can or can not do or say. The concept of “should” gets used a lot, as opposed to just acting in accordance of what is inside of our heart. We keep getting further and further away from ourselves. We become more and more desperate for the love that we crave. Our culture, which is a reflection of us, will make sure we stay in line and not step out. All the unexamined preconceived ideas of what is or is not acceptable are enforced unconsciously. And when we do step out of this, even in the most minute way, we get harshly judged. This is true in any group one cares to investigate whether social, political, or spiritual. There are solid invisible lines not to be crossed. So unconsciously, we keep a close eye on what is allowed and what is not. This will continue until we die or until the pressure is so much that we take a risk to step out, as you did.
You have made a crucial connection when you say, “I fully accept myself for who I am and am not quick to judge others”. When we repress aspects of ourselves that are perceived not to be acceptable, we project that shadow onto others. It is there that we deal with it most harshly. Truly anything that one judges strongly in another is a reflection of some unrecognized repressed shadow of oneself. “I hate... fill in the blank” is a self-revelatory statement. As we accept ourselves, we soften towards others simply because there is no more charge left behind.
It is interesting to note that whether we become people-pleasers or rebels, we are still covered in clay. Our internal compass has not matured, so we have a coping mechanism that robs us of vital life force. People-pleasers and rebels are both externally referent: their actions are focused on reacting to the situation in front of them, instead of what is going on inside. The former does this by ass-kissing and being fake, and the latter by throwing the middle finger up at everything and everyone. They are both exhausting as well as totally unfulfilling ways of going through life. It takes deep work to get in touch with where we have covered ourselves in clay and to hear the tick of the internal compass. But as you have found out, there is no comparison between the two ways of being. One is living in a state of perpetual anesthesia and the other in a state of deep serenity. Once we stop abandoning ourselves and start a true relationship, life takes on a whole new dimension.
I have witnessed the struggle of people dealing with living their truth for three decades now. It is a noble fight, and really the only one that will ultimately liberate us. Whether it is sexual orientation, gender or race equality, or what have you, we need to fully face these issues head-on. We can not bypass them. This work will take many generations and we all have our part to play. That way we can leave it a little easier for those that come after us. AND we need to go further yet. Not to stop when we have liberated an aspect of ourselves, but continue. Not to replace one identity with a bigger one, but to forge ahead and explore. To be fully embodied in and true to our reality, while searching for more clay that might be covering our Golden Self. Here is to you my brave kin. Thank you for freeing all of us a notch with your courage to heed your heart.