Bruce's Blog

The Untold Want

THE untold want, by life and land
                                  ne’er granted, 

Now, Voyager, sail thou forth,
                                  to seek and find.


Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Leaves of Grass. 1900.

Giving a Voice to My Real Self

There is one thing my real self never got to ask, because of the rather distant way I was raised: if I let anyone see my real self, "will they still like me?" I felt as a kid that no-one did, especially my parents. Last week I finally let my real self ask that, and now that black thing I was keeping safe inside me, the reason I developed my false self back when I was 5 or so, isn't there any more. It's been sort of blissful since.

Please Hear What I'm Not Saying by Charles C. Finn

Please Hear What I'm Not Saying

Don't be fooled by me.
Don't be fooled by the face I wear
for I wear a mask, a thousand masks,
masks that I'm afraid to take off,
and none of them is me.

Pretending is an art that's second nature with me,
but don't be fooled,
for God's sake don't be fooled.
I give you the impression that I'm secure,
that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as well as without,
that confidence is my name and coolness my game,
that the water's calm and I'm in command
and that I need no one,
but don't believe me.
My surface may seem smooth but my surface is my mask,
ever-varying and ever-concealing.
Beneath lies no complacence.
Beneath lies confusion, and fear, and aloneness.
But I hide this. I don't want anybody to know it.
I panic at the thought of my weakness exposed.
That's why I frantically create a mask to hide behind,
a nonchalant sophisticated facade,
to help me pretend,
to shield me from the glance that knows.

But such a glance is precisely my salvation, my only hope,
and I know it.
That is, if it's followed by acceptance,
if it's followed by love.
It's the only thing that can liberate me from myself,
from my own self-built prison walls,
from the barriers I so painstakingly erect.
It's the only thing that will assure me
of what I can't assure myself,
that I'm really worth something.
But I don't tell you this. I don't dare to, I'm afraid to.
I'm afraid your glance will not be followed by acceptance,
will not be followed by love.
I'm afraid you'll think less of me,
that you'll laugh, and your laugh would kill me.
I'm afraid that deep-down I'm nothing
and that you will see this and reject me.

So I play my game, my desperate pretending game,
with a facade of assurance without
and a trembling child within.
So begins the glittering but empty parade of masks,
and my life becomes a front.
I idly chatter to you in the suave tones of surface talk.
I tell you everything that's really nothing,
and nothing of what's everything,
of what's crying within me.
So when I'm going through my routine
do not be fooled by what I'm saying.
Please listen carefully and try to hear what I'm not saying,
what I'd like to be able to say,
what for survival I need to say,
but what I can't say.

I don't like hiding.
I don't like playing superficial phony games.
I want to stop playing them.
I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me
but you've got to help me.
You've got to hold out your hand
even when that's the last thing I seem to want.
Only you can wipe away from my eyes
the blank stare of the breathing dead.
Only you can call me into aliveness.
Each time you're kind, and gentle, and encouraging,
each time you try to understand because you really care,
my heart begins to grow wings--
very small wings,
very feeble wings,
but wings!

With your power to touch me into feeling
you can breathe life into me.
I want you to know that.
I want you to know how important you are to me,
how you can be a creator--an honest-to-God creator--
of the person that is me
if you choose to.
You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble,
you alone can remove my mask,
you alone can release me from my shadow-world of panic,
from my lonely prison,
if you choose to.
Please choose to.

Do not pass me by.
It will not be easy for you.
A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls.
The nearer you approach to me the blinder I may strike back.
It's irrational, but despite what the books say about man
often I am irrational.
I fight against the very thing I cry out for.
But I am told that love is stronger than strong walls
and in this lies my hope.
Please try to beat down those walls
with firm hands but with gentle hands
for a child is very sensitive.

Who am I, you may wonder?
I am someone you know very well.
For I am every man you meet
and I am every woman you meet.

Charles C. Finn
September 1966

You can read a collection of stories about the poem's impact in Please Hear What I'm Not Saying: a Poem's Reach around the World

How I Think

I always thought in a difficult way: Whatever I'd heard would need to be considered, processed, categorized, then I'd remember it, integrate it into my thinking.

After I heard about arborescent thinking, it was pretty clear to me. My brain is like a huge beautiful tree. This tree has many tall branches, each very wide, with many diverging limbs. On these limbs are leaves. Each leaf is an idea. Around the base of the tree are all there thoughts, ideas, things, impressions, and feelings I've seen or felt. Each leaf represents in individual thing, and has a very proper place on the tree. Finding that place takes consideration. I need to consider what is there, and the interactions. 

Once I know where the leaf belongs, it goes there and stays there. Each leaf is visible from the ground, and by all other leaves.

It's an analogy that works for me to understand my thinking.

Arborescent Thinkers = Highly Sensitive People?

Back in 1980 two French education psychologists, Deleuze and Guattari in A Thousand Plateaus, observed children learning, and saw two groups: one group learned quickly but the learning was in context; when the context was removed the kids had a harder time recalling the information. The other group learned with difficulty (or at least slower) but what they learned could more easily be applied to other contexts. They used the term "rhizomal" for the first group, referring to the way ivy grows by extending tendrils which then set down roots and spread from there. The second group they called "arborescent" referring to the branching of a tree, where information was organized in roughly binary branches, and one branch is "visible" to another. 

In 1996 a psychologist named Elaine Aron in The Highly Sensitive Person identified the traits of the 15-20% of the population who are natively more sensitive to physical stimuli. A consequence of this sensitivity is the need to process information more deeply, to make sense of it. Deep processing means it takes more time to understand what is taught, but once understood, it has a wide breadth of application. 

I think both theories are describing the same phenomenon.

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