Posts Tagged With: identity

Identity Without Limits

I was rewatching Halle Berry’s Catwoman tonite, and it got me thinking. I know that Wonder Woman is supposed to be this great re-visioning of what it means to be a strong, independent woman. I know many people looked at Catwoman as a complete and utter failure because of any number of excuses.

But what struck me is that what the movie does is reveals that women can only be free when they choose to define themselves, when they choose their identity and are true to it. It’s not about being “good” or being “bad,” but being who they are at their core.

For some women, being like Sharon Stone (Laurel Hadere) or Alex Borstein (Patience’s friend Sally) is who they want to be. They want to fit in with the world and build power and freedom within the limitations of what our society thinks is appropriate behavior for a woman.

They think if they can somehow attain that power (through their relative “attractiveness” or how closely to the supposed feminine ideal they can be) then they will be accorded the freedom to be themselves. The problem is, by the time that they attain that height, they have become something completely at odds with who they really are. Sadly, if they choose to try to reflect that inner truth, all of that so-called “power” or “freedom” disappears like a burst soap bubble.

The “living marble” that Laurel has become is a wonderful metaphor for this false self. We choose to try to conform as a way to keep from being hurt. We become who our family wants, who our husband or partner wants, who their children or friend group wants us to be — or who WE think they want us to be.

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Categories: Christianity, Feminism, mental health, Mental Retraining | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Sensitivity and Understanding

This is not some excuse for hypersensitivity simply because I have many of the symptoms of a highly sensitive person (also known as an HSP – read the difference between HSP and hypersensitivity over at Psychology Today).  I have known far too many people who hide behind being an HSP as if that means they can have a hissy fit any time someone disagrees with them, and excuse it with the claim to being an HSP.

I am sensitive to my environment.  I smell things often stronger than other people do, as well as experiencing “phantom smells.” I hear both above and below normal human hearing range, but get confused an agitated if there is too much auditory stimuli.  I also experience what can be called word deafness intermittently which becomes worse if there is far too much auditory stimuli.  I hear the words someone is speaking, but my brain translates the actual words they are saying into entirely different words.  I often either have to verify what has been said or read someone’s lips if the communication is important.  I am also what is called a super-taster,” which often means I need to eat blander foods than those around me because I am sensitive to anything hotter than paprika on the Scoville Scale.

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What Women Want

 

I was rewatching What Women Want today. Yes, I know the photo is from Pretty Woman, but it inspires the post a bit more than the Mel Gibson movie.

In fact, in many ways, the character that Richard Gere plays in many of his movies is far more of an ideal for me than Mel Gibson. Not necessarily as Billy Flynn (from Chicago as that character is a stereotypical “player” in business and everywhere else), but many of his characters such as John Clark (Shall We Dance), Ike Graham (Runaway Bride — once he stops being the cynical asshole, of course), Edward Lewis (Pretty Woman, of course) and Zack Mayo (An Officer and a Gentleman).

Thing is, guys, the real problem here is not that it is somehow “impossible” for you to know what the women in your life want.  The real problem is that you are looking for a “universal remote” for all women.

Now, the other reality is that our heteronormative culture (which objectifies women) teaches most males that women are fairly interchangeable.  That somehow we all want the same exact thing, and we’re all cookie-cutter copies of each other.  And sadly, many women buy into this thought as well and attempt to use peer pressure on other women to conform.

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Image and Projection

One truth that is supported by experience around the world is that no human being is ever seen as who they are by anyone but themselves.

No matter how much we know about someone, how much time we’ve spent getting to know them, we don’t see who they really are.  We each have our own ideal projected upon who they are.

And just because it is a projected ideal does not mean that it is a positive one.

Even if you, as a human being, do your best to not judge someone until you have been able to assess them for yourself, the projections that others have do have an influence upon your decision-making process.  How much that it influences you is based on how much you trust the person(s) who have talked to you about someone.

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Recycling Personas

All of us create personas, masks which allow us to keep everyone else from seeing our soft, vulnerable insides.  Some are useful, healthy even.  Some are not.  But we all develop them as we grow.  Each experience, each relationship, each interaction with another thinking, feeling being helps to put another layer on the mask.

I’ve built quite a few over the years, some of them fine or even beautiful, others monstrous.  I used to call one the “Sociopath”, but the reality is that it is more the “Ice Queen”. It’s that part of myself that I have hidden the most.  It came out quite often in my marriage, because it got created as I was slowly letting my ethics, my guiding principles and my true self be eroded on a daily basis.  It was the only way I could function.  But it meant giving up far too many parts of me.  It meant giving up my honor and my integrity.  It sucked out much of my compassion, my empathy for my fellow human beings.  It was hard, lacking in regret or shame and far too often easy to hide behind.  Emotions, while hiding behind this mask, were only ways to manipulate others.  It is a part of myself that I am systematically destroying piece by piece.  As I recover my honor, my ethics, my guiding principles and rebuilding my true self, I am able to leave her behind in the dust.  I have learned from her, but I will not allow myself to be her ever again.

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Categories: Mental Retraining | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Must We Suffer?

Christianity has many different doctrines (some universal throughout the denominations, some strictly limited to a specific denomination or a specific group of denominations) that not only encourage suffering “in this world” but consider it the highest blessing to which a sinful person can aspire.

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Fighting the Inner Demons

It’s days like this that make recovering so hard.  It is wonderful to have been raised an independent thinker, but it also means that there is a whole host of demons that come along with it.  And given how individuality is worshipped by our society, it is so easy to feed “common thought” directly into those demons.

Everyone has their own demons, no one person’s demons are somehow “better” or “worse,” just different. But we’re primed to compare ourselves and our wounds with those around us.  We’re primed to see other’s brokenness, pain and wounds as much “worse” than our own.  We’re primed to want to sacrifice resources to help someone who is somehow “more in pain” than we are.  Our society often places more of that expectation on women than man.  I’m not saying that men are never expected to sacrifice.  It’s simply a matter of women being taught always to sacrifice, regardless of whether we have children or not.  Men tend to be expected to make more tangible  sacrifices — such as financial, time spent away from the family or required to fix, repair or otherwise work physically (sometimes to the point where it destroys their health).  Again, this is not about individuals (because there are some individuals who are not examples of this), but about a generalized group in our society.

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Too Much Responsibility 

There is always that little bit of institutional sexism that pops up when you are dealing with more conservative family members. It doesn’t matter what kind of conservatism it is (albeit seems to happen more often when it is religious or political conservatism) the very conservatism itself is predicated on believing that half of the human race (i.e. women) must be somehow “controlled” by a male of her family.

Even my father, although he is politically a centrist with liberal leanings and who is also religiously conservative, has tendencies in this direction. When I first ended up moving in with my sister, there was an abortive attempt to get me to allow him to be “in charge of me” as he used to be before I got married.

It’s not about controlling my every move or decision.  The idea is more about how he feels he must lead the family. It’s more about feeling that he always has to be right (even when he admits he was wrong).  That I should not be an independent thinker (even though it was 50%  of the reason that I was raised to think independently), but rather take his advice and preferences over my own principles and experience.

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Categories: Christianity, Feminism, Mental Retraining, Paganism, Relationships | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ethics, Principles & Internal Consistency

I had a fairly interesting discussion with my sister recently.  We were speaking, as we do somewhat often, about how we were raised with a particularly strong set of ethics, principles and morals.  One that doesn’t always mesh with mainstream understanding.  Or, as my ex-husband put it repeatedly, we were raised as “mutants.”

We (collectively) have occasionally been praised for doing things that, to us, are considered the only ethical choice.  In other words, we don’t make choices because it “looks good” or that we will be seen as praise-worthy.  We make those choices because — for us — they are the only ethically correct things to do.

Not only did our parents raise us to be independent thinkers, but they also insisted we make those ethical decisions in a manner consistent with our consciences.  And, yes, that says what I mean it to say — that the cornerstone of our principles are our faith.

Now, obviously, I am of a different faith than most of my family.  But that does not mean that my ethics, principles or internal consistency has been lost along the way.

I am the same person I was.  That does not change. The only thing, truly, that has changed over the years is that I allowed my ethics, morals and principles to become eroded by choices I made and choices my ex-husband made.  For a while over the past few years, I had become what can only be described as “untethered” from those ethics, morals and principles.  I had to rediscover them in my own self.

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The Perspective Difference

Ricki Lake as Tracy Turnblad

Via “You’d Make a Great Tracy Turnblad!”

I have to strongly disagree with the author of this article, and with my friend who runs the Protractor of Fatness page on Facebook. While my friend does not specify her opinion, the quote she takes from the article does seem to favor one. Yet, it could also be a difference of age that offers a difference between my opinion and theirs. Why? Because my friend is a decade younger than myself, and the article writer is younger than that.

To truly understand why I feel only two of the three John Waters’ films in which Ricki Lake plays a character, are films that I have personally felt were positive and supportive for fat girls in particular. You need to look at all three of them. Ricki is the lead character in “Hairspray,” of course. But, she’s a fairly important supporting character in the other two: Cry-Baby and Serial Mom. After two such films, and a number of other roles (such as her role on China Beach), to have her show up in the third having lost over 100 pounds in a starvation diet gave me a blow to my own tottering self-esteem.

You have to also look at the American theater/entertainment culture at the time they came out as well. “Hairspray,” came out in 1988, Cry-Baby came out in 1990, and Serial Mom came out in 1994. The problem for me was that in approximately 1992, Ricki went on a starvation diet because her career was fizzling due to her weight. For a few years after that, I stopped wanting to see her in any particular entertainment venue. In fact, I boycotted Serial Mom when it came out. I didn’t watch it until after Mrs. Winterbourne in 1996, which I watched mostly because of Brendan Fraser.

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