Words by: Charlotte Clark
Recently I went to my first Women’s Circle.
The circle was held at a friend’s house in Hilton, was small, only six of us, and most of us knew each other. As a Circle Virgin, I wasn’t sure what to expect, although from what I understand circles are meant as a place where women hang out and are encouraged to be authentically themselves. They often have a general theme, and there are a few basic guidelines: be respectful; no judging; no interrupting anyone else; and it’s not meant as a place to give or receive advice. Get therapy if you need it, this is an empowerment gathering.
It was, surprisingly, an incredibly real experience and not at all the spiritual, new-agey, sugar coated stuff I imagined Women’s Circle’s to embody. The theme of our night being Authenticity in the Shadow, we were told to bring our inner bitch.
I don’t consider myself (much of) a bitchy person, but I was preeeetty intrigued.
We introduced ourselves briefly, and quickly established that the bitch in all of us felt incredibly suppressed most of the time, and was screaming to be let out. We felt unreal without the bitch.
After some tea, fruit and chocolate, some story-swapping, and some interesting (and bitchy) existential discussions, we moved on to a guided meditation. I have done a variety of these, some I could take seriously, some I could not. After being led into a state of loving Zen, we were asked to identify a particular negative thought pattern, whatever struck us as pertinent at that moment. I’ve had my fair share of issues, some of which I’m still working through, so I had plenty of material, but my immediate thought was a feeling of total incapability, utterly unable to accomplish anything.
I know, that’s everybody at some point or another, and this was no news to me.
A bit of body awareness later, and I came to another not-so-new realisation: that my head was constantly bowed at the neck, as if in a constant state of deference. My neck felt physically stuck, unable to right itself.
Yep, ouch. It gets better.
Next we were asked to connect with the age of this pattern, which is where it starts to get hell metaphysical, just stay with me. Almost immediately I heard the number 8 in my mind. Now, normally I get very confused by these sorts of things and feel the need to either follow it up, or question it. ‘Was that really right? What happening when I was 8? Did I just make that up?’ Etc. Classic mind-babble. Nonetheless I managed to seamlessly connect with that little girl at age 8, and ignore my left hemisphere for a while.
Now, the aim of all of this was to rewrite that pesky, unhelpful thought pattern that we had been holding on to; in my case a chronic, overwhelming feeling of the incapables. I said to an ex-boyfriend about 5 years ago that in practically every situation I was in I felt utterly useless and what was the point of me being anywhere as there would always be someone else who would be able to do a specific something (anything) better than me? And I absolutely believed it. However, I’ve been noticing a lot recently that gosh-be-darned I will be determined to do things on my own terms, by myself, without anyone’s help thank you; often making things a fair whack harder for myself. Mix the two together and you get a rather split and confused state of existence. I had subconsciously been shutting people out of my head, as well as shutting myself out of theirs, rarely fully participating in any situation, but not feeling capable of pulling away.
Believe it or not, all of this was feeling rather positive and liberating. THEN (cue shadow music) the second part of the meditation asked the ‘now’ us to connect with the ‘then’ us (8-year-old me in my case), sending her love, support, and all the help she would need to rewire those negative thought habits.
Not surprisingly, this is where I came undone.
I could connect with the strength in the ‘now’ me. I have managed to whittle my life down enough so as to only encompass things that I know I can manage. I could also comprehend the ‘then’ me, scared, useless and unsure of what to do, how to do it, or where to even start. But when I tried to connect the two with each other…let’s just say there was some serious interference in the signal.
My background thoughts were something along the lines of ‘How could I possibly support her? How could I possibly change the patterns she has going in her head? How is this working?’ And from 8-year-old-me’s perspective: ‘No, I don’t want this. I don’t accept this. Stop looking at me, don’t touch me. Can you just leave me alone, please?’
Not quite so liberating.
These two were going on in my head, simultaneously, and they sure as hell did not want to meet in the middle. ‘Then’ me clearly didn’t want any help, just as ‘now’ me refused to accept help in carrying six empty cups to the kitchen at the end of the night – “Nah, I got it, it’s fine, thanks *smiley face*.”
Is it possible that my refusal to accept support stems from a subconscious refusal to give support? Sure. Logically and compassionately I know that we all need help from time to time. But the brain-mutilating train of thought goes something like this: ‘People can’t help me, so why would I be able to help them?’. Or, more accurately (and selfishly): ‘I don’t want anyone’s help, so why would they want me to help them?’ Even more accurately (and embarrassingly): ‘I don’t want anyone’s help, so why would I want to help them?’
Needless to say there are some basic underlying assumptions in each of those statements that are well backwards. I’ve been seeing people about it.
Perhaps my belief in self-sufficiency is so deeply ingrained that to require help from anyone is a sign of weakness, laziness, or indulgence. But, unless you’re an exceptionally exceptional human (and even then you’ll likely wither away into lonely bitterness without companionship) the exchange of services, ideas, and day-to-day assistance is seemingly fundamental to a well-functioning, healthy human.
I believe it’s a matter of questioning; question yourself, your motives, other people’s motives, other people’s perceptions of you, your perceptions of them… Cut the questioning, and a whole lot of bullshit drops away. But is questioning not the lovechild of curiosity and intelligence? This is surely a mental split that most people can, on some level, relate to.
I will keep on questioning, I’ll question what I’m questioning, and why I question it.
I will also continue simply accepting, hoping that with increasing regularity I will find a balance on the trip-wire that I constantly reset for myself.
In the meantime, big love to all the bitches.