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Closing post

Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.
Winston Churchill

After much pondering, I’ve decided to close the Insightings blog for now. The main reason is that if I don’t, I’ll keep expending energy on thinking I should write something, and I’m trying to get rid of any unnecessary shoulds in my life. Because, to be honest, it’s not like I’ve been putting a lot of energy into actually writing the blog during the past few months or years.

This blog has served an important purpose, though. For the few years when I did post regularly, I had a platform to wonder at the world from a perspective that was purely my own. I had a chance to hone my blogging voice and work on feeling all right with sharing things about my life and my thoughts.

I also had a chance to figure out why I write in the first place: is it for my own benefit or that of someone else. I’ve had the good fortune of having some wonderful people comment on my posts, although the majority of my posts have gone uncommented. I’ve done major internal work on the whole “how could I ever have something original to say when everything has already been said so many times” issue, and that work is far from over. For now, though, the Insightings blog has run its course as the platform for that work.

That’s because another reason to close this blog is that I’ve finally gathered enough courage to start blogging in my native Finnish. Having done my high school and most of my university studies in English, there was a time when I’d only ever write in Finnish if I was journaling. I still use English daily when I read books and blogs, do releasing work with the Sedona method, or talk with my friends. However, the barrier of writing in Finnish has been steadily lowering.

I suppose writing in a foreign, albeit familiar, language has served as a way to distance myself from my text and my readers. Now, with enough practice under my belt from this blog, I finally feel secure enough to write about the internal workings of my mind and soul in a language anyone from my social circle can understand. Furthermore, I’ve admitted to myself that even though I’m still fascinated by learning, communication, Shiva Nata and all that jazz, my current interests revolve around personal growth and self-work. And if I want to blog about those topics and my personal process, writing in Finnish creates a sense of authenticity and honesty (see: years of journaling in Finnish) that benefits both me and anyone who might find my texts helpful.

Another reason to switch to writing in Finnish is that the personal growth blogging scene in Finnish is, shall we say, underdeveloped when compared to the English one. I genuinely want to help people see that yes, there are people who struggle with these issues and yes, there are ways to get around the hard parts. I want to help people feel more at home with themselves – the name of my blog, Lupa olla minä, translates to “Permission to be me.” By making that process visible in Finnish, I might be able to help someone who doesn’t read English but needs to find concepts and resources for self-work.

I will leave the archives of my blog online for as long as WordPress will allow them there. For now, though, I won’t be posting any new content. Feel free to comment on the posts, however, and if you want to contact me about the topics I’ve covered you can do that through the comments as well.

Thank you ever so much for being with me on this part of the journey. This will forever be my first blog, and you guys will forever be my first audience. Thank you. ❤

Wishing you all a lifetime of spectacular insightings,

Sari

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Dawn: When men of reason go to bed.
Ambrose Bierce

At the moment, I have a bit of a headache from not sleeping enough and not drinking enough fluids. Going to bed without drinking a few pints of water would spell a disaster for tomorrow morning, so I’ll down a pot of green tea and put my bedtime problem through the experiential learning cycle.

Remember the steps? There are four:

  • Action that leads to Experience;
  • Reflection;
  • Analysis;
  • and New Action based on that analysis.

For the purposes of this investigation, I’ll be looking at the habitual action of not getting to bed early enough.

Background information

As you might have deduced, our daughter is nearing her first birthday. This also means I am nearing the one-year anniversary of my last eight-hour stretch of sleep. Or even four-hour stretch. Yeah, she has plenty of wonderful skills and traits but sleeping through the night has never been on that list.

We cosleep, and she still wakes up a few times each night. As she is currently learning to walk, she often wakes up in a crouching or seated position, wondering how the heck she ended up there, and it’s my task to ease her back to sleep. That takes a bit of cognitive effort, so I’m constantly waking up and drifting back to sleep again.

Suffice to say that I live for Saturday mornings – the one day during the week when hubby takes care of our daughter’s morning routine and breakfast, and I get to put on earplugs and drift off to sleep for a few uninterrupted hours.

With that level of  sleep deprivation, you’d think I’d be jumping at the slightest chance to sleep some more. And indeed, every single morning I decide to go to bed early that night. And then every single night I curse at myself for getting to bed at midnight.

This calls for some investigation!

Action / Experience

We used to have a “laptops and TV off at 10 pm” rule in our household. At one point, it worked like a charm. Then something happened – it might actually have been the baby’s arrival – that totally wrecked and destroyed that beautiful rule. Mentally, I still make a note when the clock hits 10 pm. I just don’t act on it.

One of the reasons I dropped message boards for Lent is the sheer amount of time I was spending on them, most of it at night. Now, though, as I don’t read the boards, I’m doing something else. Like reading IttyBiz archives (as well as the comment threads!), Facebook-chatting or Skype-ing (Skyping? I never know) with friends, or watching TV and doing crafts.

A few nights ago, I caught myself at eleven thirty on the couch, watching an interview episode of The Real Housewives of NY. Yes, seriously. I’ve never watched the show, and I didn’t really know why I was interested in the interview, but there you have it.

Reflection

How would you describe the situation in a sentence?

I stay up too late reading or watching TV even though I know I would be better off going to sleep.

What seems good about the situation?

I get me-time, a precious commodity when you’re responsible for the baby most of the day. I learn a lot, I get to observe interesting conversations taking place (or having taken place), I get to do something that feeds my intellect.

What seems bad about the situation?

I don’t sleep enough, which isn’t really helping with the brain-work I have to do during the day. I drink too much coffee, which might be a contributing factor in the whole staying-up-too-late cycle. I get frustrated every time I notice I’ve missed my bedtime, and sometimes I unfairly take it out on my husband.

I don’t have much of an evening routine, so stuff that needs to be done before bed gets put off until the last possible minute, and then I’m putting away the dishes when I really want to be sleeping already.

What feelings do you have about the situation?

I feel annoyed at myself for not being able to just stick to the bedtime.

I feel deprived at the thought of going to bed earlier, because that would limit my me-time significantly, as I spend the baby’s nap times working.

I feel frustrated by the whole situation.

I feel worried that if I don’t find a solution to the situation, my mental and physical health will suffer.

I feel guilty about indulging in reading and stuff when I should be sleeping.

I feel annoyed at the dishes that don’t make it to the dishwasher by themselves.

I feel disappointed that my routines have been shot after the baby’s birth.

I feel a need to push myself through this situation and not allow myself the space to let it simmer.

Analysis

Is there something you’ve experienced before in the situation?

I’ve done the whole staying-up-till-midnight thing a lot, especially if I find something interesting to dive into. I’ve had books that I can’t stop reading, and instead of the “few pages before bed” I devour half of the book and get to sleep at two thirty.

The element of pushing myself through a situation, whipping myself into shape, and then getting annoyed when it doesn’t work, is a very familiar one too.

And the guilt about doing something that is purely for me (i.e. reading blogs or message boards, watching fluff on TV) when I should be doing something that benefits the greater good (i.e. sleeping to be a better mom and wife tomorrow) hits me whenever I need a break. I often have to consciously remind myself to take a break, only in this situation I’m actually hurting myself more by indulging than by sticking to the plan.

Are there common denominators in the elements of the situation?

Most of the stuff I do instead of sleeping are, in some way or form, imitations of social interaction. The message boards, the Facebook chat, blogs, even lousy reality TV – all of them share the element of social context.

They are also something that I do as an end in themselves, not as a means to some other end. Okay, maybe reading IttyBiz is a long-term investment into my future business, but it’s not like I’m actually learning anything with this sleep-deprived Swiss cheese brain.

Furthermore, they’re all mental activities, instead of physical ones. I’m relaxing by zoning out inside my head, instead of doing yoga or stretches or something else.

What seems important in the situation?

There’s the element of me-time and social context that jump out.

This has something to do with my search for identity. Somehow I seem to need reassurance that I still am an intelligent person who is able to think, learn and communicate. I seem to need space for my own thoughts about me and the world to percolate through what others think.

The social context is also important. My day-to-day social activities are so different from what they used to be that there is a deficit, a need that is not met.

Relaxation is also important. Sleep could bring that relaxation, but sleep is unconscious me-time. I seem to be looking for a sense that I am not just a mom. If I sleep whenever the baby is sleeping, my only experience of myself would be the mom identity.

Is there an element of some theory in the situation?

The guilt about not sticking to the plan makes me think of a concept I read in the first chapter of Switch – The Elephant and The Rider.

The jist is that the Elephant is our unconscious self that the Rider i.e. the conscious mind must reign in and control. When the Rider uses the right tactics to steer the Elephant, change happens more effortlessly. However, the Rider has to use a lot of energy initially to get the Elephant onto the right path.

At this point, I feel like I’m in a vicious cycle. My Rider doesn’t have the mental energy to keep steering my Elephant onto the path of going to sleep earlier. That lack of mental energy is caused by my lack of sleep. This means that the whole “deciding what happens and then pushing so hard it happens” approach won’t be much use here.

Another theory that comes to mind is the Sidetracked personality type that I learned about from Flylady. Being easily sidetracked, reading blogs or message boards is like quicksand. There’s always another conversation, another post, another link, another interesting topic. Hours upon hours go by without so much as a whisper of “hey, d’ya think maybe it’s time to do something else?”

Can you think of a recommendation for New Action?

Identity. Social context. Relaxation.

The first two needs do have to be addressed, but I have a feeling that the third one could be the ticket to try next, since it’s what I’m looking for after we’ve put the baby to bed.

If reading stuff online is out of the question (see the part about easily sidetracked and quicksand), I might try an approach where I don’t open the laptop for any reason whatsoever after 10 pm.

Also, if it’s relaxation I’m looking for, I might try to incorporate stretching, yoga or other calming physical activity into the last few hours of the night. The transition from yoga to evening routine might be gentler than trying to tear myself from an interesting (pseudo)social situation.

New Action

  • Laptop and TV off at 10 pm, if not earlier.
  • Stretch or do yoga around 10pm, possibly while watching TV (before 10 pm, that is).

I’ll see how this works out and keep you posted. 🙂

Any thoughts or comments on bedtimes, the Experiential cycle, relaxation or sleep deprivation? 😉 You’re welcome to share in the comments. Any thoughts on addressing the issues of identity and social circle are also welcome, although I do reserve the right to not take action on any advice on the matter.

Thank you so much for reading! I’ll sip up the rest of my tea and get some stretches in before bed. If you want to hear how things progress, subscribe to the feed! Oh, and keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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There are three principal means of acquiring knowledge. . . observation of nature, reflection, and experimentation. Observation collects facts; reflection combines them; experimentation verifies the result of that combination.
Denis Diderot

In Finland, teachers need a Master’s to teach professionally. Temping as a teacher is a possibility even without a degree, but if you apply for a job and there are two candidates, one with Master’s and one without, the one with the degree must be hired.

This is why teacher training is a university undertaking. And since teaching is something where books only get you so far without any experience, the training has a lot of written and spoken reflection tasks.

You get to (or have to, depending on your point of view) reflect on your own experiences as a pupil, your experiences in practical teacher training, your experiences after such fascinating courses as Planning And Evaluation (where you do get to plan and evaluate, by the way – just not with live pupils but with your peers), and after the whole shebang you do a roundup reflection of the whole teacher training process.

When I did the training, it became somewhat of a frustrated joke that all you really need to do to pass the courses is to write five pages of blah, blah, blah about what you did and how it made you feel. However, there was a lot of work besides the reflections, though. Why is it that the reflections felt like (and for so many teacher trainees, still remain) the epitome of uselessness?

The big picture

One reason for the frustration, at least to me, was the thought of “what’s this all worth?”

As a teacher trainee, you’re super busy with your homework, exams, planning your trainee lessons, not to mention your life around school. During our school years, we’ve gotten used to homework and exams – we know what they’re about and why they’re useful. Planning lessons is also homework, in a sense, because the plans are reviewed by the supervising teacher before the lesson. Furthermore, anyone who has ever taught a lesson in their life understands the significance of having some kind of a plan in place.

Compared to that, the reflections seemed out of context. They seemed like useless introspection. They didn’t really seem to have any connection whatsoever to what teaching is actually about.

That’s because at least during my years as a teacher trainee, no-one explained the big picture.

Because teaching is something you learn by doing, you have to gain experience to learn. However, because teaching is also something that is widely researched, there is a world of information about the ins and outs of most aspects of teaching.

Experiential learning is a bridge between the practical and the theoretical, and reflection is a key part of that process. It’s also a natural process that we constantly use, unconsciously, to create our theories of what life and the world are all about.

If someone had explained reflection to me in these terms when I started my teacher training, I probably would have had far less frustration during my studies. Fortunately, I found drama education as my minor, and learned about the cycle of experiential learning through those studies.

What does theory have to do with real life?

One of the most persistent misconceptions about sciences in general is that theories have nothing to do with real life. The logical extension of that opinion is that if you do not work as a researcher, you don’t need to know about the theory and new findings that take place in your field.

Let me ask you this: let’s say you look outside and notice that there is a lot of white stuff on the ground. You glance at the thermometer and see it’s below zero centigrade (or between 20 and 30 °F). Do you wear your sandals and a t-shirt? Unless you’re trying to prove a point or show off how gutsy you are, the answer is probably no. Instead, you wear a few layers of clothing, a coat, maybe woolly socks, a hat and mittens. Why is that?

You have a theory in your mind about “winter”. The white stuff might or might not be snow, which is a phenomenon that mostly occurs when it’s cold. The thermometer displays the temperature outside in a theoretical manner – there’s a scale from cold to hot, and the thermometer evaluates the temperature and gives you an estimate in terms of that scale.

Furthermore, you know that your body temperature is around 36°C or 97°F, and that the colder air outside will lower your body temperature, wreaking havoc on your health, unless you insulate your body. You know that by wearing layers and fluffy materials such as wool, the air trapped between the fibers will insulate the body, keeping you warm.

That’s all theory. You might not be aware of all that knowledge, but it’s there. It’s something children have to learn. And it’s pretty complicated, if you look at it all written out.

What I just did there is reflection and analysis all wrapped up into one. For this tiny experience – deciding what to wear when it’s winter – it’s pretty simple to roll them up, since it’s often a conscious process.

Ever ran off to the bus stop and noticed midway through that you’re freezing? Chances are, you were unaware of the weather outside until it was too late. In that case, you made unconscious choices without considering all the aspects of the situation.

Or maybe you were fully conscious that yes, it’s freezing out there, but the woolly longies and bobble hat just don’t go with my outfit and I’ll only be outside as I’m walking to or from the bus stop. In that case, you were aware of the situation and decided that one choice – your outfit – had to be prioritised over another – your traveling comfort.

There’s theory back there.

Experiential learning and theory

The experiential learning cycle has four active stages.

1. Action, resulting in Experience

2. Reflection

3. Analysis

4. New Action modified by the findings, resulting in New Experience

…followed by reflection, followed by analysis… You see why it is called a cycle. I decided to call the first and fourth steps Action instead of mere Experience, because you can only control your actions. Controlling your experience is only done by controlling actions. Whatever happens, you can only receive the experience.

If you tend to reject the experience, that’s actually a New Action. When you experience something, you might unconsciously reflect and analyse it based on your theory of life, and then decide that you will take the action of rejecting the experience.

Suppose you have a theory of life that tall, black-haired people are unpleasant. If you meet a new person that’s tall and black-haired, they might end up being the most wonderful, loving and pleasant person you have ever met. Chances are, though, that you will not change your theory – you’ll just deduce that this individual is wonderful and pleasant, and other tall, black-haired people are still unpleasant.

This is how the cycle goes:

1. Experience:

The tall, black-haired one does something wonderful

2. Reflection:

Huh, I felt really good and happy when that happened. I never expected them to do something that wonderful.

3. Analysis

According to the theory of Tall, Black-Haired People, this is not characteristic of the group. This is unlike my previous experiences of the group. However, my theory of Friends suggests that this is characteristic of that group. I will therefore continue to classify this person primarily as a Friend and as an anomaly in the Tall, Black-Haired People category.

4. New Action

Treating the tall, black-haired one in a more friendly manner.

If the process is unconscious, it could take anything between a few seconds and several days. If you bring the process into the conscious mind, writing things down or speaking them out loud, it will take a few more minutes. However, it will bring to light possible flaws in your thinking and give you a more objective – dare I say it, theoretical? – view on your thoughts and knowledge.

What are your thoughts and experiences on the experiential learning cycle? Does my explanation of theory make you want to scream in despair? You’re welcome to reflect and ruminate in the comments. 🙂 If you want more, go ahead and subscribe! Lovely of you to pop by – keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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For the past few years, I’ve been giving up some habit or another for the duration of Lent. On occasion, I’ve gone without red meat, without chocolates, without coffee – though not all at the same time. This year, I decided to give up online chat forums and message boards up until Easter. It’ll be an interesting experiment, not least because I’ve rediscovered my love for the Sedona Method during the past few weeks.

Lent, Day 1: Habitual thinking revealed

A lot of my social life these days has been revolving around a few message boards. A natural consequence of being at home with our daughter who, incidentally, only naps longer stretches in her own crib. On the go, she might take a 45-minute nap, but that’s not enough to sustain her through the day, so if we’re going somewhere, it’s only after her nap and lunch. And even when I do work during her nap, I need breaks. Ergo, there’s been plenty of “oh, I’ll just check the boards while I have my coffee / before she wakes up / now that hubby’s home and playing with her.”

I noticed today that I’ve been thinking in terms of message board thread topics. As in, I notice something and think “ooh, next time I log on I might post this thought in thread X” rather than “ooh, next time I see [name] I’ll tell them all about this!” First reason to cut back on the boards.

During the last few days before Lent, I knew I’d be taking a break from reading the boards and compensated by rummaging through every single half-interesting thread. That in itself was an interesting thing to notice. It wasn’t as much the content of the conversation as it was the act of reading the conversation that I seemed to be needing. Or rather, the illusion of partaking in a conversation. There really wasn’t a need to contribute as much as just experience the social action. The fact that I did that online and, furthermore, on a message board instead of calling, texting or Skype-chatting up an actual live acquaintance? Second reason to cut back on the boards.

At the moment, I’m not restricting any area of food or drink due to Lent. Yet. I might go with a gentle “only eat sweets and such as a dessert or with coffee” approach, as I’ve done some years. Or I might give up, say, chocolate at some point. I’ll find out what I need to give up by trying to think what would leave me feeling most deprived. 🙂 That’s what I’ll need to let go.

Letting go

About a month or two back, I rediscovered the Sedona Method. I was going through my iPod, and noticed I’d set up a keyword search iTunes subscription from BlogTalkRadio for “sedona”. There were a few interviews of Hale Dwoskin in different programs, and I listened to most of them. And then I bought the book, browsed the forums, and bought the film. Suffice to say I resonate with the method. 🙂

The thing that clicks most for me in the method is the fact that every positive gain is a side effect. The main aim of the method is to become so released and “hootless” about the world around you that your happiness doesn’t depend on anything that happens or doesn’t happen. In other words, I might well end up attracting a phenomenal fortune and incredible success as a consequence of being fully released on my life, and I might not, but either way, I won’t care too much.

Releasing and letting go are, of course, processes that happen naturally and there are probably countless different ways and methods to release – EFT, AER, yoga, meditation, the Sedona Method, to name but a few. Regardless of how you release, I heartily recommend at least exploring some ways of releasing. The fundamentals are the same, but people have preferences when it comes to ice cream, so why not self-help. 🙂

As far as Lent is concerned, I’ve made good use of letting go whenever I’ve noticed a thought pattern that relates to the message boards. The great thing about releasing is that you can release on seemingly positive emotions as well, and they’ll only get deeper and better. That way, I don’t have to wonder whether or not this or that emotion is a good candidate for releasing – if I’m feeling it, and especially if it’s not flowing through me for some reason, I can release on it and see what happens.

Shiva Nata Finland brewing on the back burner

Thanks to some work and my MA thesis, the Shiva Nata in Finland project has been simmering at the back burner of my subconscious for a few months now. I’ve been slowly reawakening my practice – recent accomplishments include getting totally lost within seconds of doing Level 3 to Faith No More’s Evidence. Several times.

What I’m currently considering is doing a series of how-to videos in Finnish and posting them here and what will eventually be the Shiva Nata Finland website. I’m also dreaming of a workspace that will be a combination of an office and a teaching facility, but for that to happen I’ll first have to have a steady flow of Skype teaching or appointments to teach locally at different facilities. Childcare poses somewhat of a question with the on-site teaching, but I’m positive that if such requests arise, an elegant solution will present itself.

If you’re a Shivanaut wanting to get Skype consultation in Finnish or English, you can contact me at insightings at gmail and we can work out a time and price for some one-on-one. 🙂 I will start tackling the videos once the penultimate version of my thesis is ready, so probably not before June, but phenomenal things have been known to happen when you’re released on something and put it out there for the universe to cuddle. 😉

Thank you for reading this far – keep catching your own insightings, Lent-inspired or otherwise!

Love,

Sari

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Life is all about timing… the unreachable becomes reachable, the unavailable become available, the unattainable… attainable. Have the patience, wait it out. It’s all about timing.
Stacey Charter

For those of you wondering, I do read other things besides Havi’s blog. 🙂 The fact is, though, that her writing inspires me so often that I end up giving you links to her posts a lot more than to any other writers combined. This time, her post about plans inspired me to craft a five-year-plan of my very own. (Truth be told it wasn’t as much the actual post as the word “Time Capsule” in JoVE’s comment – which led me to find another brilliant addition to my feed – that sparked my imagination and pushed me into grabbing my pencil case and a sheet of paper and get cracking.)

I started writing my Time Capsule by writing my name and the date five years from now in the middle of a blank sheet of paper. I’m totally a mind map kind of person, so the format was a no-brainer. I didn’t really want to focus on practicalities at all, so I started with a basic question – what do I want to fill my days with in five years?

The answer consisted of four key verbs that became the nodes of my mind map. Being my life’s passions, I think each node deserves its own post. 🙂

The first node I came up with was the red one.

I teach

Sooner or later, I’ll graduate as a teacher. However, it’s not just the education that pushes me towards teaching. Rather, it’s been the drive to teach that has led me to seek out the education I’m about to finish. Since I’m pretty passionate about communication, it will probably be the core of what I teach.

As an English as a Foreign Language teacher, I want to give students the possibility to actually communicate in the foreign language from the very beginning. Language is a tool for expressing emotions and opinions, influencing others, navigating in social situations and creating a shared understanding of the world around us.

The big, painful task is to convey this fabulousness to students who might not even realize that some people actually speak English. As, you know, their mother tongue. As in, they don’t speak any other language. By the time they finish compulsory education in Finland, most students will have studied at least two languages besides their mother tongue, so learning a foreign language and its culture may turn into a chore, not a gift. My passion is to help them see it as a gift.

I also want to teach communication and social skills using my drama teacher education. Nonverbal communication, listening and awareness of status changes are among the things I want my students to learn. Drama also has a big element of self-communication – reflecting on the things you’ve done and seen is a key part of learning in drama, as well as a key skill in life.

Besides communication, I would love to teach Shiva Nata for a living. In a way, it does link to communication, though – Shiva Nata is to self-work what cable Internet is to communication. If you don’t believe me, you haven’t tried it. 🙂

Furthermore, I have a feeling that the whole “embrace the failures” mentality of Shiva Nata would be an interesting spice to the activities of any improvisational theater activity. I will hopefully have a chance to try out a session of Shiva Nata and impro later this fall, and I will report back as soon as I recover from the experience.

Why, then, do I want to teach? Teaching is inherently linked to the other nodes in my Time Capsule Mind Map – I Create, I Help, and I Love. More on those in following posts.

Thank you so much for reading, once again – keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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Skill and confidence are an unconquered army.
George Herbert

I’ve been battling with a lot of seemingly unrelated issues lately. On the one hand, there’s my deep-rooted procrastination about my MA thesis. My favorite means of procrastination has been hanging out on message boards, reading more than contributing. And then there’s my Shiva Nata in Finland project that’s been hovering at the edge of my active attention for a while now.

All of these issues share an element of being seen and watched. There’s the online presence I’m creating while participating in the message board culture, and a big part of that is noticing how others see me. I feel the need to contribute, either by asking questions or sharing knowledge, rather than just to agree with others using silly smileys. I need to feel Useful.

The Shiva Nata in Finland project is currently me trying to figure out a context in which I could teach Shiva Nata in Helsinki. To my knowledge, there aren’t that many Shivanauts in Finland. This means that I need to find enough people who are willing to give it a go and a venue to teach in – not to mention figure out a feasible mode of teaching. This would mean telling people that I’ve got this great thing and how would you like to be a part of it. Scary stuff.

The latest addition to this whole Vortex of the Terror of Being Seen came today, when I finally cracked open my thesis files again. My seminar paper is due in two weeks, and the next step towards that goal is to transcribe a section of my data – a videotape of me teaching a lesson.

“Dude. Seriously. Lame.”

The realization of the Vortex actually came a few days ago. I was trying to figure out why I suddenly felt the urge to purchase something that I don’t really need but that’s a Limited Edition Item that Everyone Is Bound to Want. I dug around the problem by journaling, and discovered a deep-rooted belief that I have:

“Unless I’m interesting or useful, I’m an embarrassing nuisance.”

Hmm. That’s interesting.

By having an interesting Limited Edition item, I myself would become interesting by association. With Shiva Nata, I would have to convince others that the practice is both interesting and useful, and so I would become interesting and useful by association.

The worst case scenario with either of these would be for me to show up and get greeted by evasive looks and an embarrassed “This was what you had for us? …Umm, it’s not even close to what we were hoping for. Maybe it’s best if you just go home.” My worst social nightmare is to be perceived as an embarrassing wannabe hangaround that no-one has the heart to get rid of.

Which brings us to an interesting point about my thesis procrastination.

My data, as I’ve already mentioned, consists mainly of a videotaped lesson where I navigate a group of teenagers through a drama process. The teenagers were new to the genre, and since teenagers are the undisputed kings and queens of the eye roll when they’re not one hundred per cent sure about a situation, there was much eye rolling to be had. It’s an understandable defense mechanism, and since the teenagers did participate and put in an effort, it didn’t damage the process too heavily. It was caught on tape, though.

And as I watch the tape, all of the embarrassed glances seem to be aimed straight at me, like daggers.

My brain knows that the thing I perceive as embarrassment is strictly, purely and only a characteristic of the participants who are feeling unsure of their footing. After all, there’s a new type of activity with a not-yet-familiar teacher, outsider spectators and video cameras. I mean, I’d be pretty insecure, too.

The part of me that holds on to the belief of me being first and foremost a nuisance, though, is going bonkers with this huge pile of evidence. “See? See?! I’m right! I’m one hundred per cent right and there’s a video to prove it! Ha! I knew it!” There’s a little goblin with a pitchfork tail running around, waving its hands, and bouncing around. Kind of hard to ignore.

A short recap. In order to work on my thesis, I have to transcribe 75 minutes of what is effectively a live enactment of my worst social nightmare.

Geez, wonder why I’m procrastinating? 🙂

The dilemma of being seen

What’s difficult about this fear of being seen is its twin, the desperate need to be seen. Eye contact alone is hugely important in relationships. When raising children, the best thing you can do is give them your uninterrupted attention, complete with eye contact, several times a day.

When I was starting out as a kids’ group counselor as a teenager, our course leader advised us to seek eye contact during roll call. Whenever we’d say someone’s name and they’d answer, we were to really notice the answer and the person by maintaining eye contact for a few seconds before moving on. I’ve been on the receiving end of this policy and it makes a world of difference.

Being seen, being watched, is a vulnerable state, though. Maintaining eye contact can be a high status marker, and high status is linked to power. When you’re being watched, someone is using power over you. That’s why it’s so difficult to go on stage thinking that there will be an audience. Waiting for an audience reaction is like standing against a wall blindfolded and trying to guess whether the guns shoot bullets or “Bang!” flags.

One useful solution to this problem is to put on a different role. Actors do this as a part of their profession, but other performing jobs do require some kind of role protection. There is the role protection of the uniform – a police officer in uniform is first and foremost a police officer, not Jake, except among his peers. The same goes for clergy members, store clerks, and other professions where you represent your position, not your personality.

Teachers don’t have uniforms, at least not in the Finnish educational system. The role protection must be an inch deeper, in the behavior of the teacher. I’ve been very happy with the way I’ve grafted my Teacher Me, a character who can maintain discipline and create a warm ambiance in the classroom, who is reliable and inspiring. And, most importantly, who deflects all kinds of status threats effortlessly.

The problem with the thesis data, however, is that it’s not my Teacher Me doing the transcription. It’s Student Me, and she’s completely unprotected from the eye-rolling power of the teenagers. She does not have the shield of experience on her side like Teacher Me has, and the “You’re a nuisance!” goblin has a clear shot whenever it pleases.

This is what I fear with the social circle around the Limited Edition and the Shiva Nata in Finland project. If they see me the wrong way, they’ll want nothing to do with me. If I just show up, plain old Me, no interesting gadgetry or sacrificial usefulness, they’ll see I’m an embarrassing nuisance.

And if I feel I’m seen the wrong way, I feel the need to quickly create a barrier against the Nuisance Goblin. When I do that, I lose contact with myself, and with that I lose any potential of creating actual human contacts.

I wish there was an elegant, sophisticated solution to this problem, other than Shiva Nata and journaling, followed by Shiva Nata and some more journaling. But at least now the Nuisance Goblin has been brought to my attention, and I can start negotiations so as to not have it running around in my head anymore. This has also been an exercise in letting myself be seen, warts and all.

Thank you for stopping by, and for lending your proverbial ear and eye. If any of this sparks any ideas, I’d love to hear them in the comments. Until next time – keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children, and no theories.
John Wilmot

So I’m a parent now. Three months and counting. 🙂

During these three months, I’ve come to understand a number of “parent behaviors” that previously fell under the category of “How is it possible that…??!?!”.

For example, I can totally see how a child might end up dominating the entire household. For the first few months of a child’s life, the parents more or less have to respond immediately to the child’s demands. There’s no such thing as “just a moment, dear, Mommy will change your diaper after grown-ups have finished coffee” when there’s a screaming alert. Once the child starts to want things that are not immediately required for survival and well-being, the parents need to be very conscious of the distinction between needs and wants. It takes effort to break the habit of immediately fulfilling the request.

But there’s one thing that still stays in the “What the what???” category. Allow me to illustrate.

Let’s say it’s one of those (fictional) family get-togethers where you meet everyone who’s a second cousin or closer. I’m stuck at a table with a remotely related nephew John, 8 (fictional) and John’s parents (also fictional). I decide to make small talk.

Me: So what have you been up to this summer, John?

John’s mom: Well, he went to a summer camp for two weeks, and we’re heading off to Switzerland for a week in August.

Me: Oh, that’s nice. So John, did you watch the soccer World Cup?

John’s mom: Yeah, he and his dad watched every single game. He was so sad to see Argentina lose to Germany, weren’t you?

John: Yeah.

Me: Ah, Argentina. Who was your favorite player, John?

John’s mom: He totally rooted for Messi, he wanted us to buy him a Messi jersey but they are so expensive…

…And so on. Sadly, even though the story is fictional, it’s based on a number of real-life incidents.

Why, oh why is it ok for mothers to speak on behalf of their children? When the children are actually there to participate in the conversation? When the child is the actual person being addressed in the conversation?!!

How on earth do these parents think their child will learn the basic rules of grown-up conversation if they’re never permitted to participate in one? How will the child learn to trust his or her own opinions if there’s never any room for voicing them? I know some children are so shy that it’s a huge endeavor to answer a stranger’s question with a single syllable. In that case, the mother’s task is to encourage the child to say something, anything, and lavish on the praise when they do – or take over the conversation if they don’t. Assuming the child won’t be able to answer is a sign of mistrust towards the child.

More than once I’ve had the urge to disregard the mother’s response and wait for the “John” in the conversation to answer for himself. The problem is, most of the time the child in question is too shy to elaborate on what their mother has already divulged – or too used to having their mother to answer the questions to even bother elaborating.

The other option would be to say, “I’m sorry, I was asking John. So, John, …?”. The problem is that if I did this, the mother in question would probably get really offended. Furthermore, I’m not a big fan of embarrassing people in front of their children. On the other hand, if a parent acts like an ass, isn’t it ok to give the child a break, too?

So far my solution has been to keep asking the child questions tagged with their name, all the while maintaining eye contact with the child. My hope is that eventually, the mother will notice from my verbal and nonverbal cues that I’m hoping for the child to answer.

What else could one do in a situation like this? If you come up with a possible solution, please share it in the comments – I could use some more proverbial ammo when dealing with these kinds of parents. 🙂

Thank you for reading, again, and keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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