Okay, everybody. Here’s a little quiz. Consider List 1 and check all that apply to you:
- A good daughter □
- Married to one mate, for life □
- A good provider □
- A sweet girl □
- Skinny □
- Happily married □
- A good Democrat □
- A good Republican □
- A dutiful son □
- Law-abiding citizen □
- A good Christian □
- Grateful (to your parents and grandparents or whomever has helped you get a leg up in life) □
- A patriotic American □
Now, raise your hand if you’re a little uncomfortable. A little stuck. Me too.
. . . Because these are basically a load of crap. They mean nothing. They’re just icons of what to be (or not be), aka, Culturally Controlling Images.
Controlling Images pigeonhole us. They get promoted by those with more power. They organize people of lesser power into niches that have no real, personal meaning. Yet we get caught in them, tangled in them, defined by them.
Controlling Images make us toe the line. Controlling Images are relational, but not in a good way: they keep other people from knowing us. They form barriers to stop people from asking the deeper questions.
Like, What do you dream about? What do you wish you could say to your mother? How should we treat the families fleeing Syria?
Consider List 2 and check all that apply to you:
- Childless/Barren □
- Twice Divorced □
- Old Maid □
- Drug Addict
- An Angry Person □
- Widow □
- Old Man □
- The Ungrateful Daughter □
- Homeless □
- The Crazy One □
- Atheist □
- The Gay Guy □
- The Fat Girl □
- Unemployed □
- The Cancer Patient □
Now, raise your hand if you feel depressed. Me too.
Controlling images work in both directions. We try to present the images valued by our society (List 1); we fear the images deemed unworthy by it (List 2).
But development demands that we drop the images that block our awareness of who we truly are. In fact, when we buy into the pigeonholes, the stereotypes, the images of what should be, we stay stuck in a childlike fantasy about ourselves until we no longer can . . . until something devastating happens to shatter List 1 and yank us out of the pigeonhole.
Development happens when we smash the images and enter the present moment. This is just me and I don’t know what I believe anymore and I’ve lost my relationship and my identity and I’m just here with my sadness. This is just me with my imperfect, aging body and my fears and financial failures. This is just me with my needs and I don’t know what’s happening in this crazy world. This is just me, breathing in and out.
This is how we become real.
How are you stuck in List 1? How are you stuck in List 2? What trauma led you there?
Write a poem about smashing the illusions. Write a story where you become more of who you were meant to be.
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