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Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel towards pursuing it.
Steven Pressfield (The War Of Art: Winning the Inner Creative Battle)

I just finished reading Steven Pressfield’s The War Of Art that my husband had acquired for our Kindle. (The great thing about having a creative spouse is that I don’t have to get all the here’s-how-to-be-better -literature myself. 😉 ) The book deals with our inner Resistance and gives pointers about how to overcome it.

I didn’t read the book the first time I laid eyes on it because of the whole war analogy in the title. Fortunately, there’s not as much in terms of crushing and beating and violent self-mastery as I was expecting. It’s more along the lines of recognition and necessary precautions. In that sense, it reminds me of Havi’s concept of Monsters, although Havi does have a lot softer approach.

At this moment, the most useful part of the book for me was the insight into recognizing Resistance. Because lemme tell ya, it’s sneaky.

Thesis Resistance

The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight.
(The War Of Art) 

Come on, you’re practically finished with your analysis. You deserve a break. How about, say, a week? Two weeks? Because you need to let your thoughts percolate before you start writing.

And besides, the categories you are using are pretty inane anyway. See, there are mostly appearances of this one single category. Why would this be interesting to anyone? You’re wasting your time trudging through the analysis, when you could be doing something much more productive and interesting.

You know, there’s really no guarantee that the analysis you’ve done so far is any good. You’re, what, labeling sentences with different categories? How can you be sure that you are using the right criteria for the labels? You really should go back and redo the whole thing, just to be sure. See, another label that you had to change when doing a whole different iteration? How much more proof do you need that you are really not doing this properly?

And even if you do get the labels even ballpark correctly, you still need to find the theory to back it up. Have you been able to do that? No, didn’t think so. It’ll take you hours upon hours of library time, and when will you ever find that, what with the babysitting duties and everything.

You will never. Ever. Ever. Get this done properly. Ever. So why even bother?

Shiva Nata teaching resistance

The counterfeit innovator is wildly self-confident. The real one is scared to death.
(The War Of Art)  

Sure, go ahead, teach Shiva Nata. See if I care. That is, if you can find a single person who wants to learn it. You know how hard it is, and you have trouble keeping up a practice yourself. What are the chances that there are enough people in Finland to warrant one single class of Shiva Nata, let alone a several?

And even if you could find enough people who want to learn it, and enough people who want to sustain the practice, why do you imagine anyone wanting to pay you money for it? There’s a perfectly good DVD they can buy and learn on their own. It’s cheaper, it’s more comprehensive, and it’s done by someone who actually knows what they are talking about.

Where do you come off telling people you know Shiva Nata? It’s not like you’re any good at it, since there’s no such thing as being good at Shiva Nata. You keep picking it up and forgetting all about it – how on earth could you encourage anyone else to sustain the practice?

Because if people do not pick it up after you teach it to them, you have failed. As a teacher, and consequently as a human being. It’s your responsibility to make everyone in this world realize what is in their best interest, and then lead them, step by step, holding their hand, into that magical land of Everything Is Perfect So Nothing Needs To Change.

Whereas if you fail, people have to take responsibility for their own life, their own learning, and their own happiness. And you have to live without that sense of control, and the sense of approval that comes from grateful students.

Resistance to being a Teacher

Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul.
(The War Of Art)  

Teaching in an of itself? No problem. Have been doing it for years. That is, if we’re talking about the act of planning a lesson from predetermined content, getting up in front of a group, and delivering that lesson.

Becoming an English teacher? No problem. Give me a grammar book and a copy of the National Core Curriculum and I’m golden. When I know where the pupils are in terms of their skills, I can craft a lesson that more or less hits the Vygotskian Zone of Proximal Development where sociocultural learning happens.

Becoming a drama teacher? Yikes.

First of all, I’d have to relinquish control of much of the content of the lesson. I’d have to get better at creating the scaffolds that enable the learning. I’d have to take a risk and plunge into the unknown every single working day, every single lesson. It’s either that or I’m playing it safe and denying the pupils their right to learning.

Becoming a Shiva Nata teacher? Geesh.

I’d have to craft a progression of things to teach, and maintain a more challenging personal practice instead of the dabbling I do now. I’d have to get over the preconception that only yoga teachers can teach Shiva Nata. I’d have to admit to myself and the world that yes, I am actually highly intelligent and that is one of the reasons Shiva Nata appeals to me – and one of the reasons that it might not appeal to everyone I meet.

In general, I’d have to accept that to be a Teacher (instead of just teaching something), I will be teaching something that is not already in a book or a manual. I’ll be looking to myself, my own skills and world view, to help my students view the world in a new way. I’ll have to trust that I am an open-minded individual who will not impose their own limitations to their pupils. I’ll have to work to become an even more open-minded individual.

And that, my friends, is almost too scary for words. No wonder I’m going through a wild Resistance rampage as I’m working on my thesis, since it largely revolves around my drama teacher identity.

I can see you now, Resistance. There you are. Holding my biggest fears on a leash, urging them on to tear me apart.

Letting go of Resistance

Funnily enough, two days before I read The War Of Art, I reread a part of The Sedona Method book that deals with letting go of resistance (with a small initial, since it was not personified there). Apparently it’s a theme that I need to be dealing with.

The process that most struck me was that of letting go of resistance to both X and not X. Since if you’re resisting X, you’re probably also resisting not X, or there would be no resistance, just movement to a certain direction.

Case in point: my bedtime.

I didn’t really manage to make any progress in terms of getting to bed earlier, until I found the chapter on letting go of resistance. Here’s what happened.

I was reading the book at 10.30 p.m., so I was acutely in the middle of some resistance.

My resistance to going to bed sounded something like this: “But the book is really really interesting, and besides, when are you ever going to find time to read it if you go to bed now? You know you want to keep reading, and you deserve this time for yourself! You work so hard during the day, with the baby and with your thesis, so come on, relax a bit!”

My resistance to not going to bed, however, sounded like this: “You’re really tired. You should put the book down and stop procrastinating on your bedtime. The longer you stretch the decision to go to bed, the worse you’ll feel tomorrow and the more you’ll beat yourself up. Besides, if you don’t sleep, you won’t have the energy to hang out with the baby tomorrow, and you’ll just feel like a bad mother.”

You can imagine the two aspects of resistance having this discussion until midnight – as has often been the case.

However, when I first welcomed and let go of the resistance to going to bed, and then welcomed and let go of the resistance to not going to bed, I could make the decision based on my actual feelings. And since after the letting go process I almost fell asleep on the couch, the decision was a no-brainer.

So maybe the next step, after clearing out the resistance on my thesis, is to dive into the whole Being A Teacher Conundrum and clear out my resistance to being one and to not being one. Again and again.

Thank you so much for coming over and reading again! I hope this is helpful, in case you are feeling a degree of Resistance towards something. 🙂 And as always, keep catching your own insightings!

Love,

Sari

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When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.
Lao Tzu

I wake up at four in the morning to our one-year-old groaning and wailing next to me, half asleep and crawling around. I lay her back down, for the fifth time tonight, rub her belly and hope she falls asleep.

In my mind, I welcome the situation and let go of wanting to change it, wanting to control it, wanting her to sleep.

 

The baby is asleep already, but I’m still awake, thinking about work stuff. There’s a project that I was supposed to have finished already, and I haven’t. There are a thousand loose ends there for me to fix, but I can only work on them when the baby is napping, which comes up to a grand total of three hours a day.

In my mind, I welcome all my feelings and frustrations about the situation and let go of wanting to change it, wanting to figure it out, wanting to push the situation out of existence.

 

Welcome it and let go of wanting to change it. Again and again.

 

Still I lay awake, worrying about my thesis. I’m way behind on my original schedule, as well as on the augmented schedule made after the first two months of delays. The work project is eating up all my time, and the delays mean I have a bunch of additional paperwork to finish so I will be able to graduate in the first place.

Again, I breathe, welcome all my feelings and frustations and fears about the situation. And let go of wanting to change it, to turn back time, to fix my schedule and figure out how to make it work.

 

And then the baby wakes up again. She tosses and turns, kicking me and not settling down.

Again, I welcome my frustration, and my fear of being horrendously tired and unable to work the next day. And let go of wanting to change it.

 

Does it help?

Eventually we both fall asleep. Next morning, I am one step closer to letting my employer know that I really have to focus on my thesis and that I have to set a boundary to my work tasks. I am one step closer to working on the thesis, if even for a few minutes.

And even if the baby repeats the same dance for the next hundred nights, I am one step closer to the first time she sleeps through the night. Without having a nervous breakdown in the middle of the night, no less.

Thank you for stopping by. I will now attempt to get some sleep before the baby wakes up at four a.m. again. 🙂

Love,

Sari

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I do not recall spending long hours in front of a mirror loving my reflection.
Gene Tierney

Embarrassment.

That’s the main reason I have yet to finish my MA thesis.

Sure, there are some other minor factors involved, including the baby and a work project. Still, I’m the type of person who gets things done when she wants something done.

However, analysing your own behavior in something, bit by bit, sentence by sentence, is about as inviting as sticking needles under your fingernails. At least when there’s a significant gap between how you behaved in the situation then and how you would behave now, knowing what you know.

I actually blogged about the same phenomenon when I was working on my teacher training research paper on the same data. That was two years ago. Since then, I’ve read through volumes of theory and research on teaching.

And yes, I feel quite embarrassed for myself back then. It’s like looking through old photos and seeing yourself wearing the most hideous outfit that, back then, seemed like the height of awesome.

It’s not me, though

One of the highly useful concepts that come from Havi is the thought of Me from Then, Now and the Future. As in, they are all different people with different knowledge, different thoughts, different goals and all around different outlooks on life.

They all do share some characteristics (well, mainly the characteristic of inhabiting my body at some moment in time) and some history. Still, they are not Me, in the sense that they are not in the place, mentally or temporally, that I am right this moment.

When it comes to self-compassion, it’s very useful to treat those versions of me as if they were completely different individuals. The different Past Me versions did what they felt was best at that moment, based on the knowledge they had then. They had their own blocks and stucks, they dealt with them as best they could, and they got me where I am today.

The best course of action for me right now is to be compassionate towards them.

Case in point: The Thesis Data Me

I’ve transcribed my data and finished one layer of analysis on it. That means I’ve bumped into the cringe-worthy moments of the lesson several times. Whenever I encounter one of those moments, I have a few choices.

The first choice, and the one I’ve mostly been picking: get embarrassed and beat Present Me up for the stuff Thesis Data Me is doing, quit working on my thesis for now, and come back to it when I’ve gathered enough mental strength to face the mistakes.

The other choice would be to allow Present Me to view Thesis Data Me as the person she was, strengths and weaknesses and all, and let go of wanting to change the behavior of Thesis Data Me. I can welcome the thought that if Present Me would do things differently, that must mean some learning has happened.

Furthermore, if I allow Thesis Data Me to be as she was, it is easier for me to give her compassion instead of disapproving of her. By giving Thesis Data Me some approval, I’m getting a slice of it myself, and I won’t feel as sorry for her for not getting that approval from the pupils in the data.

And that would probably help Present Me work on my thesis more enthusiastically. 😉

Thank you again for stopping by! If this sparked any ideas of how you relate to Past Me vs. Present Me, please do share in the comments, and subscribe to the feed if you want to stay updated in the fascinating journey that is finishing my thesis.

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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Authenticity is invaluable. Originality is non-existent.
Paul Arden

To honor 10/10/10, I created my five-year-plan i.e. the Time Capsule. 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 and a series of four posts.

The first node, I Teach, was the topic of yesterday’s post. The next node that blossomed on the paper was the green one.

I Create.

At the moment, the biggest creation I’m brewing is my MA thesis. Despite all the drama, trauma and self-work associated with it – or maybe because of them – I really want to do some amount of research after graduating, too. There’s a certain appeal to processing volumes upon volumes of information and data, slicing it, sieving it, and distilling it into a bottle of This Is What I Found Out.

In my thesis process, I’m knee-deep in analysis. I can’t see the bigger picture yet, but some shapes and flavors are starting to emerge. The creative process is bubbling within me and within the data, and the scent of something not-quite-finished-but-on-its-way is almost tangible. It’s frustrating, it’s hard work – it’s a prime example of the boulder (the video contains the kind of vocabulary teenagers invariably learn first in whatever foreign language they choose to take up) that has to be pushed up the hill.

But it’s fabulous. It’s a chance to actually create new ways of thinking so others don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Furthermore, it’s learning in the most profound way you could imagine. And after learning whatever there is to learn in the data, you have to write a research report to communicate your new knowledge to the scientific community. Awesome.

Creating through research is also intimately linked to teaching. First, by learning through my research I will become better at my chosen profession, assuming I keep researching the teaching situation. Second, the process of planning what to teach and how is very much a creative one. And finally, if I manage to get a position as a postgraduate student at the university, my job description will most probably include lecturing and teaching, too.

Besides research and teaching, I’d love to be able to create on the fields of music and drama. For the most part, I’m drawn to improvisation. Over the years, I’ve become more or less addicted to the carpe diem effect that comes joining an improvisation, whether dramatic or musical. There is something about a good impro that heals the soul. I wouldn’t mind performing, either, but I’d be surprised if I ended up earning my keep as a professional musician or actress. Happily surprised, mind you. 🙂

One more important channel of creativity is my writing and especially the blog. I’m so happy I’ve managed to recreate a relationship with the blog, since there was a long period (at least in Internet time) of blocks and not feeling like writing anything much at all. The blog allows me to process things out loud and come up with new ways of thinking, much like research – but without as much bibliography or analytical rigidity. 🙂 It is a space for me to spitball, as it were, about phenomena that I find fascinating.

(Some of the areas in this node will hopefully become Contribution ones. While doodling my Time Capsule, I was acutely aware of the fact that all the passion in the world won’t pay the mortgage on its own. Since making “I Earn Money” a node in itself was not an option, I drew a yellow bubble between the I Create and I Help nodes. The yellow bubble represents the money people are willing to pay in exchange for the value my contribution creates in their life.)

Why teach? Why create? There’s a strong undercurrent of wanting to help others. Quite naturally, the following node was I Help. More on that in a few days.

Thank you for tuning in! And, as always, 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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It’s always further than it looks.
It’s always taller than it looks.
And it’s always harder than it looks.
The 3 rules of mountaineering.

As the final step of my MA degree, I’m finally working on my Master’s Thesis (or pro gradu thesis, as it is called in Finland). The thesis seminar started in January, and so far I’ve written a few pages on secondary material and my research plan. In the paper, I’ll investigate teacher discourse in a drama-influenced foreign language class. (I’ll most likely end up posting something or other about my thoughts on teacher discourse later on during the summer.)

The target length of the thesis is between 50 and 100 pages, so it’s the most extensive piece of academic writing I’ve ever attempted to conquer. Since most university students graduate with Master’s degrees in Finland, the gradu is a big deal and there’s a lot of hype about how working on your gradu is about as exhausting as climbing Mount Everest. On the one hand, I’m thrilled to be at this stage of my studies – working on my gradu literally means I’m pretty close to finishing my Master’s. On the other hand, I can’t help buying into the “oh, it’s just so grueling” frame of mind.

Ironically, the Mount Everest metaphor actually helps me with working on my gradu. It’s a big undertaking, sure. But there are similarities I can leverage to my advantage. Not that I’ve ever climbed a mountain in my life, either. 🙂

Practice, practice, practice

Quite like conquering Mount Everest, you wouldn’t start writing your gradu without some preparation or practice. I don’t think there are many people for whom Mount Everest is the first peak they’ve climbed.

My first shot at academic writing was my tutorial essay on my freshman year. It dealt with learning motivation. If I read it today, I’d probably cringe so much I’d dislocate my jaw, so I won’t. 🙂 After that, I’ve written several papers for different courses, not to mention exam answers and other smaller works. Each of them sucked just a little bit less than the previous ones.

When reading other seminar participants’ contributions, I’ve been able to spot points to improve on and questions to consider. That, if nothing else, has showed me that I have indeed developed an understanding of what a piece of academic text should be like. Even if I can’t write fabulous academic text the first time around, I’ll at least be able to see where the biggest gaping holes are.

Support network

Reinhold Messner climbed Mount Everest alone in 1980 – and without any extra oxygen. The thing is, though, that he’d climbed a fair number of mountains before that, and even conquered Mount Everest once before with a companion. In other words, he’d had enough practice to attempt going solo.

For the rest of us, attempting to conquer a huge goal without support from other people would spell disaster. That’s why pro gradu theses are most often written during seminar courses, where the teacher and other participants offer their feedback and suggestions. You have to be able to think of them as helping you instead of judging you, though, for the support to work.

I wrote my research plan on the day of the deadline. I knew the deadline and had most of the material long before that, but for some reason (i.e. pregnancy brain and then fatigue caused by taking care of a newborn) I didn’t get it done. Furthermore, I didn’t even get it started until the week of the Friday deadline.

The reason? My perfectionist mind insisted that I have to create a beautiful, finished piece of text for the group to admire. It took the looming deadline for me to realize that any piece of mediocre text commented by ten people is infinitely more valuable than a fine-tuned text handed in late so no-one has time to read or comment.

Showing up

Nine months pregnant, with hormones fogging up my brain, I gave myself permission to not fret about the thesis too much. After giving birth to a beautiful little girl, I gave myself permission to spend the rest of the spring taking care of me and her, and not fret about the thesis too much. “Come June, I’ll really get serious with the gradu,” I told everyone. And myself.

Two days ago, I noticed it’s June. I managed to stick to my decision and spent 15 minutes working on my thesis. Yesterday, I spent 15 minutes, and today I managed to squeeze in a whole 45 minutes in 15 minute increments. My husband has promised me he’ll take care of the baby during the times I’m working on my thesis, so I won’t have to interrupt the 15 minute focus.

You don’t climb a mountain by hanging out at base camp and talking about it. It takes muscle work. Sure, you need to plan what to do, but in the end, you have to put in the effort. On the other hand, there are days when you just have to rest so as to not injure yourself or burn out. And even then you’re showing up if you’re not packing your bags and heading on home. 🙂

As for the quote at the beginning of this post, I’m sure it applies to my Master’s Thesis as well. Every single time I open the file and spend 15 minutes working on it, my todo-list expands as well. For every paragraph I finish, I find a few points to elaborate on somewhere in the text. But the summit is there, somewhere in the distance.

And once I get to the summit and finish my Master’s Thesis, I’m done with my Master’s degree, and the next step is graduating and getting a Real Job. But I try not to think about that too much. I might get vertigo. 😉

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

Love,

Sari

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