I belong to several communities of writers, activists and entrepreneurs where the fear of visibility is pandemic –especially, though not exclusively among women. In this first article in the series Women and Visibility, I want to share the hunger that both drives us towards visibility and devours it, keeping us not only isolated, but painfully torn between our desire to share our gifts and our fear that we are not enough.
As I write this I have a flashback to the last ceremonial performance I did some months ago. It was for an audience of change-makers and activists. The topic of the whole event was liberation.
The venue was an amazing cultural cafe that offers very unique events. Even before I stepped on stage, I was surprised by how often the main performer or poet was not visible. The lights were focused on the musicians but the center speaker/singer/poet was in the dark!
Since the setting was a collaborative effort of the performers themselves, it seemed meaningful that they were leaving center-stage, –the most visible position on stage– in the dark.
I will address this in the next article in the series: The Invisible Self
The ceremonial poem I did was a creation by Puerto Rican poet and activist Cenen Moreno, called “ROAR,” as featured in “Breaking Ground” an anthology of Puerto Rican women poets and writers in New York edited and created by Dr. Myrna Nieves and published by Editorial Campana.
I’ve been performing this powerful poem as part of a performance piece by pianist Trudy Silver entitled “Where’s the Outrage?”
I did a shamanic interpretation of Cenen’s poem because of its inherent alchemical potency. I wanted to help the audience gather and transmute the strong emotions generated by the event, which had featured many performers.
To achieve this Emotional Alchemy, after each stanza in the poem, I did a Pase (a sound and energy healing movement) with the intention of transmuting the emotions evoked by that stanza from toxic/stagnant to creative/flowing.
While the other performers had addressed liberation from a political and literal perspective (oppression and imprisonment) I wanted to create an experience of instant liberation from the imprisonment of congealed or stagnant emotions.
Some of the emotions/energies addressed in the poem were stagnant grief, destructive anger, shame and self-neglect as well as childhood wounds like abandonment, abuse and rejection that keep us feeling unwanted, undeserving and inadequate.
Together we all connected in the intention of transmuting these emotions, while I served as the “cauldron” where the collective energies were transmuted.
There were two stanzas that most affected this audience. I will share one here today and the other in the next article.
Here’s the first stanza of Cenen’s poem that caused a strong reaction in the audience… and what happened:
I WANT TO ROAR
TILL I AM AWAKENED
BY MY OWN CRIES
REMINDING ME HOW IT WAS LIKE
TO BE AN UNWANTED CHILD
For the healing of this emotion of being unwanted, I did a QiGong Alchemical Sound for the lungs, which helps to release stagnant grief. The movement I selected was the archetypal baby rocking. So as I sang “Saaaaoooong” I hugged myself and rocked my heart as one rocks a baby.
When I started this Pase the entire room gave a big sigh. I felt like they were starving for acceptance and belonging.
The collective feeling was so intense that several elders in the audience started singing lullabies!
Both in my personal and shamanic experience this primal hunger for belonging with the attached wound of not being loved unconditionally, of not being wanted –just as we are, for the essence of our being– is a core pain that generates a painful Inner War in us.
Hunger for Visibility Vs. Hiding our Inadequacy
If we were not loved unconditionally, we carry a story saying that we are not worthy of love or acceptance. This makes us feel that we do not deserve attention and that if people notice us, they will find out that we are not enough…. so we go into hiding.
This hiding is an Internal Action (an emotional, intentional or energy movement or process that changes the energies within you). You can hide in plain sight. From my 20s to my 40s I was acting, directing and producing my own material; and yet I was hiding right in center-stage ~like the performers on the play I mentioned at the beginning of this article.
This Internal Action of hiding disallows us both from being visible and from networking and doing outreach. This in turn causes isolation and keeps us from embodying our purpose or sharing our gifts with the world.
Worse yet, it keeps us from feeling, enjoying and owning our gifts, talents and contributions, so that even when we are visible, we feel like impostors or cannot touch the value of what we bring.
This also affects women’s capacity to negotiate on their own terms and to own their self-authority, expressing their expertise effectively.
At the same time, the urge to be accepted, witnessed, validated and loved is a human need. Unmet, it pushes us towards visibility –often in a painful way; secretly feeling that if we are not seen by those whose acknowledgment we seek, then we remain invisible. It’s almost as the saying…
If a tree falls in the forest and and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
Human beings have a basic need to be witnessed, seen, touched and accepted. A baby who is not held or touched may die or develop serious pathology.
But the hunger that develops when we do not receive unconditional love is endless and insatiable. Not one not a million people recognizing it can assuage it. There are only two ways to fulfill it:
- Through Self-mothering as a healing process, and
- By allowing The Divine into our hearts to Mother us.
The Hunger Ember
Yet this hunger may be the ignition for another hunger: the hunger to share our gifts, talents or message with the world.
Paradoxically, this hunger serves as the motor that propels us to share our gifts, live our brilliance and embody our purpose –thus helping human evolution.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to be visible. Your need or desire opens the space for others to fulfill their own needs and desires.
Our need to earn a living pushes us to go out in the world and be of service. When Shakespeare, Michelangelo, Madame Curie and Frida Kahlo pursued their need to create, the world was joyfully enriched.
But when we do not Self-mother ourselves and allow The Divine to pour itself into our Heart to mother/father us, then this same hunger creates a sense of insufficiency that makes us hide in plain sight –even when we are struggling to be visible.
This leads to a struggle that clouds the gifts you bring to the world. One example of that clouding is perfectionism.
When we feel that we are not lovable, that we are not enough, then we may give up on seeking love. Or…
We may spin an endless web of accomplishments, actions and contributions which main purpose is to be loved, seen, witnessed or approved –but that will fail at it because while we spin it we secretly, in the night of our psyche, unweave it.
How do we unweave it?
By trying to be perfect before we are visible.
I work with women, among whom this attempt is as pervasive as it is crippling. I myself have faced it at many stages of my work.
For years I found myself working in isolation, trying to make it “perfect” to “fix it” more and more and yet more… in order to then come out of the shell.
If I only do another revision of the book… if I only improve my website… If I only gather more names for my network… If I only gave more before I asked for…
In my work with creative spiritual women this same MO shows up again and again. In fact, I have observed that few women accept and feel their own success, leadership or brilliance. When you name their brilliance they start desperately going through the list of things that are “wrong” with them and that they need to fix.
There is a collective underground belief among women that we need to be perfect in order to be worthy of recognition or to own our authority or brilliance.
And the truth is that this belief has a historical and political basis. For centuries women were ostracized from the social and political spheres. We were financial non-entities. We had no votes and could not even inherit or open a bank account.
If a woman at those times wrote a book or stood out in a professional field, she would be shunned. She would be consider scandalous. I will be talking more about this in the fourth article of the series: The Danger of Visibility, is it real?
But in staying in hiding while we spin the “perfect” weave to share our gifts, talents or message –we create a fractured movement.
On one hand we are taking External Actions (actions to change external circumstances) to be visible ~while on the other hand our Internal Action (emotional, intentional or energy movement or process that changes the energy within ourselves) is to stay in hiding so that we are safe, so that we are not rejected.
The result is devastating.
- We spin in place, digging ourselves deeper into a hole while we stay invisible or in a tiny but safe Comfort Zone–all the while exhausting our energy, resources and even our faith… without ever reaching our goals.
- We feel torn between the richness within that wants us to share it and the scarcity of staying small, invisible and not making the impact we desire to make.
How do we get off that treadmill? How do we heal this rupture?
This is a relevant question that I have asked repeatedly during the last years and in my most recent retreat, barely a couple of days ago.
The answers have lead to one long-term in-depth approach, several quick actions for immediate relief and one faith-based approach that can revolutionize your life from the inside out. The latter is where I find myself today.
I will share my findings below. Use what works best for where you are at any given moment.
In-depth healing: Self-mothering
In my shamanic training, Self-mothering was the first step. This is a healing process that you need to focus for at least a year with the intention of holding, accepting, seeing and witnessing and loving your Wounded Children unconditionally.
Self-mothering is a topic for a book or more, so I cannot cover it here. But there are two resources that are essential:
Your Inner Mother
Discover your Inner Mother and Flush out your Developmental Wounded Self who are hungering for unconditional love.
To discover your Inner Mother, observe how you care for the children in your life until you can clearly recognize this nurturing, loving Feminine Self within you.
Another way to discover your Inner Mother is by recognizing your Elemental Mother. Go to your favorite nature spot. What here nurtures and protects you? Here are some Feminine Forces/Elements:
- Ocean or any body of water
- Clay and any other type of soil or earth
- Pachamama herself (Gaea, Earth Mother)
- Some forms of fire
Once you recognize your Elemental Mother, gather her strength, gifts, powers and approach and see how it lives within you. You can use that element to nurture or develop your Inner Mother.
Your Wounded Selves
Recognizing your Wounded Selves is about listening from your heart, –without judgment– to the voices that warn you against being visible and those who are hungry for it.
These two voices will be either a Wounded Self or a Shadow (fear-based defensive Inner Self)
These two types of Inner Selves work in what I call Inner Circuits.
The Wounded Self –often a Wounded Child or Adolescent shows up with emotions and the Shadow immediately wants to defend it using old defensive strategies.
So if you listen you will spot the vulnerable feelings of the Wounded Child. These may be:
- Neediness to be seen, witnessed, validate or accepted
- Fear of being punished, abused or rejected if s/he is visible
- Feelings of inadequacy
- Hunger for visibility, shining or sharing her gifts
Immediately you will hear the Shadows raising hell. They are like Gremlins. In their attempt to protect the child, they re-enact the abusive or invalidating behaviors that were pressed upon the child, which may include:
- Warning them of their weakness, insufficiency, etc.
- Scaring the child back into hiding
- And the Control Combo, including the Perfectionist, the Generalisima, the Slave-monger and the Controller who will make you spin in place trying to do more and be more to fix yourself.
Quick Energy Realignment: Self-acceptance Tapping
Using some tapping you can also trigger a self-acceptance response to neutralize a perfectionist fear or impulse. Of course, this works best if you have done your Self-mothering.
Tap into your heart center or the ‘karate chop” points at the side of your hands opposite your thumb while saying out loud:
“Even though (I am not perfect, this may not be perfect, this is a work in progress, I feel that this is not enough, etc.) I accept and love myself unconditionally and share this in its imperfection as an act of love for myself and others.”
Repeat several times until the anxiety, fear or reactive response has diminished and you can take effective action.
Immediate Shift of Perception: The Divine Knot
The Divine Knot is an ancient tradition among weavers, though in different cultures it has different names.
The gist is this: Even though one may be a master, one is not perfect. Only The Divine is perfect. Therefore, the master finishes the excellent weave with an imperfect knot that acknowledges his or her imperfection as an act of humility before The Divine.
This knot eventually becomes a sort of signature that makes master weaves recognizable by author.
In our version of the Divine Knot we simply acknowledge that we have done our best and this is not perfect because only The Divine is perfect.
We dedicate whatever imperfection is there to The Divine… and we put the gift out there.
Spiritual Practice: Allowing Divine Flow
Allowing The Divine into our hearts to Mother us is a deep act of faith and spiritual surrendering.
Recognizing ourselves as children of The Divine we reach out to the Goddess Mother Creatress or the Feminine Face of The Divine and allow her to embrace us in her unconditional love and acceptance.
We sit on the floor or earth and make ourselves round. We may bring the soles of our feet together, creating a circle with our legs. We may hug our belly, creating a circle in our torso. We connect with Earth Mother and the immanence of the Feminine Divine.
Then we feel that in her embrace we belong as creatures of the Earth.
We feel her gentle kindness and fierce protection as she embraces us. We can rock if that feels good.
If you feel a kinship with any of the Goddesses or Divine Forces listed below, this can make your reaching out more substantial:
- Kuan Yin
- Yemaya (Ocean Mother)
- Venus, Ochun, Lakshmi
- Pachamama, Earth Mother
Now we stand and reach up, opening our heart to God the Father. We reach up and call upon him.
Opening our hands, we receive the Male Face of the Divine pouring divine acceptance, strength and brilliance into our bones.
In this action, we may use this name of The Divine within the Sufi tradition:
Al Azin (Pronounced Al Addin)- The Magnificent
Reach out and call upon The Divine to shower, bath, pour itself in you that you may embody it in your daily life, your work, your creations.
Surrender as The Divine pours itself into your bones, into your very marrow.
In this spiritual practice, the Great Mother fills your hunger and embraces you in belonging, so that you do not seek visibility from a place of fear, neediness or insatiable hunger. Your need for acceptance is filled so that you can reach out from a place of sharing.
The Great Father then pours itself onto your essence so that you can embody your divinity. Feeling The Divine deep within you gives you the experience that you are making The Divine visible and tangible through your gifts. It gets your ego out of the way. This is not about you. This is about The Divine flowing through you. You can now walk into the light-spot while surrendering any fear to The Divine.
Visibility now becomes a spiritual path to actualize The Divine within you in the social arena –even in the market place.
Next in the Women and Visibility Series: The Invisible Self
How can you be visible to others when you are keeping yourself invisible to yourself?
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