What is so important about knowing who I am? What difference does it make if I know who I am as long as everyone I come in contact with knows me? Well, I believe this is where I was stuck for most of my life. I believe it was in this framework I found myself in places where I should have never been while concurrently I advanced along my work life until my head hit the glass ceiling. The younger me learned life through experiences. The older me filled in the gaps as needed with understanding why I am like I am. People knew me through the time we spent together. People knew me through the roles I played on the stages that were presented. People knew me. Sometimes I still believe other people know me better than I know myself. This is disheartening to me because I have spent many years working so hard to discover and engage this person called “me, myself and I”.
Recently, I reviewed my grief timeline. It was in this document that I was reminded of how I look at life. It was a homework assignment in my graduate work which terrified me at the time. My fear started because it brought back memories of both being told about circumstances and when I was “the bearer of bad news”. I internalized badness and wrongful ways which then got twisted. I held on to the foundational belief that the way I perceived my world was wrong or bad or so sad. To identify the losses was far too much for me to do alone. Just the idea of talking about losses brought up pain I never imagined would still exist. I hired help. I sat in an office with a counselor and talked. The experience was overwhelming, yet I must admit I prepared correctly without knowing it. I bawled. My timeline showed that I see circumstances through connections in relationships. I link to people rather than places or things. When I go to places, there is always somebody who is the underlying reason for my attention. When I look at beautiful things, there is always somebody that I connect to in appreciation of that beauty even if the admiration gets squashed over time. I find meaning in all levels of relationships. What is important is not who I am… but how I am.
While telling about each item on my timeline, I found out more about myself without many questions or inquires. I have deep thoughts, concerns and questions. I am not highly opinionated, but I am very interested in people and how they profoundly influence, steer, point, guide and interfere with life in general. In this personal revelation, my realization provided me an understanding of how I was shaped throughout my life. There was pain from being included and different aspects of pain in being excluded from groups, events and a variety of interactions.
My current profession adds a new dimension to how I am. I am a clinician who meets people at my office, at the client’s home or office and or now on a computer screen. With the on-screen, who I am now is immediately reflected back to me unlike any other interactive dynamic that I have experienced. Some say “this is the way the world has been going for some time”. I say there is no replacement for face-to-face, in-person, the physically present experience that people undergo in togetherness. Have you ever watched someone come into a room, sit down and get comfortable? Some things are noteworthy. Some things are not. In-person in my office, my responsibilities of safety, comfort and confidentiality for the others in the room are very different than they are on screen. I’ve had to relinquish different concerns and accept showing some of my personal imperfections in order to switch from one environment to another.
In this move to screen-time, the unique differences center on my presence. My presence involves my professional identity and being able to look at my mirror image on the screen. Initially it was highly distracting and drained away energy from the relationship. In group settings, there I was as a part of this that immediately resonated with the incongruent impression of “the formal professional Brady Bunch”. I looked silly. As I am gaining online experience, my contentment is growing and it shows because I am less distracted and my energy level is more consistent with each interaction.
I choose not to participate in casual group settings. As a facilitator of open groups, I find this type of group is very healing. The on-screen setting takes more out of the facilitator. The online framework does not blend well to chit chat or “talk among yourselves”. Talking over someone blocks out conversation. There is an inherent pause in each transmission that makes it difficult to pace the rhythm of the delay. This makes it hard to share your story and can bring up insecure feelings around who is listening because the screen shows everyone in their separate boxes. How do I build trust and share if I can’t tell where everyone is at? Environment is a part of our safety. Safety is paramount in sharing our stories. On-screen poses unique concerns that in-person does not.
Engagement and practice help. When we do something a fair number of times, a routine and some level of acceptable ease and familiarity develops. Sometimes the most difficult thing to do is to try. Trying once… is not really trying. I suggest at least 3 attempts. I think that within the number of 3 to 5 whole-hearty tries, we are provided enough indication and often sufficient variation to see… how I fit… how it works… how to measure the benefits verses the drawbacks. Learn by experience. Give it 3 attempts… let each try be an opportunity to see yourself as a person who has more capability than we tend to give ourselves credit for. I am. Join me.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena…” Theodore Roosevelt