When the pupil is ready, the teacher appears <- that’s a phrase I came across on a regular basis decades ago when I was burying my nose in books which were classified as New Age.
Before the New Age movement happened, esoteric books, which included astrology, could usually be found in the “Occult” section of a bookstore… and that section was tiny, hidden away in a dark and don’t go there or been seen there if you go there corner. And if you buy anything from that section expect to get funny-not-funny looks from the cashier and anyone else who is spying on what you’re buying and judging you for it.
Of course you could go to a specialised bookstore which had a bigger selection, but you had to figure out where it was and how to get there, and the people working there had a strange aura emanating from them – it was a bit like visiting a porn shop.
The Self-Help movement had just started to pick up pace. As it got more popular and Self-Help Gurus started making loads of money… other people who wanted to make money like that tried to come up with new ideas for Self-Help systems, so they started to mine the “Occult” and mainstream it.
It was in some ways similar to the Influencer movement… which is now jam-packed with people who want to get rich from Instagramming, You-Tube-ing, Live-Streaming, etc.
The Occult people saw the Self-Help people stealing their shit and decided to do the mainstreaming themselves, create their own movement – The New Age.
Eventually Self-Help and New Age became pretty much the same thing, and was so popular that mainstream bookstores had ginormous sections for it which you could browse openly, and when you bought it you’d get a thumbs-up from the cashier and other spies who judge you, they’d even make recommendations because they were reading it too.
Or at least that’s how I perceived that period of time. I’m sure I misunderstood what really happened… misunderstanding is a skill of mine, and not just because of my dyslexia but it does help up my misunderstanding skill level.
Which brings me to one of several inspirations for my writing this post…
I actually told myself not to write posts or comment on other bloggers’ posts, and be careful when replying to comments on my posts for the next few weeks, or at least for the time being because transiting Mars, Sun, Mercury are all joining forces to stimulate on my Asc (the Asc-end-ant of my natal chart, oh I totally pronounced it like that) but fuck it, I’m ignoring myself.
Sometimes I go through periods of thinking astrology is bullshit, but not at the moment, right now it doesn’t feel like bullshit at all. I’m feeling very combustible-ego-mind-ish… thus liable to blow a lot of turbulent hot air out of my verbal face hole.
The other day I read Rory’s – Do You Misunderstand Me? – wherein he shared his own frustrations with feeling misunderstood by others, and at the end of it he asked: What do people constantly misunderstand about you?
I wasn’t going to say anything but then I did. Here’s what I said in a comment on his post:
After I’d pressed “send” on that comment, I thought – what I said will probably be misunderstood.
I was half-joking and half-serious about my comment being misunderstood.
I tend to think that way about everything I say which others read or hear.
Partly because I express myself in a rather garbled manner, I often speak in a round-a-bout way, go off on tangents, blurt blunt bits, and say too much for ears and eyes to take in.
I do simplify myself when I really need someone to understand me and hear what I’m saying, but… I’m not particularly adept at simplifying myself so I often leave the important points out, don’t explain what I should explain, and leave the other person just as confused as when I don’t simplify myself.
When people do understand me… it’s all down to them being really good at understanding others (I bet they’re really good at unscrambling anagrams, solving cryptic crosswords, riddles and morse code). It’s a wonderful surprise, a bonus, a moment of climatic connection.
It can also be rather scary because my comfort zone is in not being understood. I kind of rely on people misunderstanding me… and not because I’m up to something nefarious.
Where people misunderstand me has become an opening for me to understand them. It’s the point at which the pupil (that’s me) meets a teacher (them).
For years I approached people misunderstanding me with a similar attitude to how I interpreted (please note, Rory, if you read this that I probably misunderstood you and understood things only from my own P.O.V and experience) what Rory said in his post – frustrated, and confused.
I kept thinking that others should want to understand me – why didn’t they want to understand me!?! I kept wanting them to make the effort to understand me, wanting them to basically do lots of work, focus their minds on me, and solve the puzzle that I was.
I kept thinking that I was very interesting and therefore others should be interested in me… and I was deeply wounded by what I perceived as others not being interested in me.
A few years ago when I was on Twitter, I tweeted something along the lines of: You keep pretending you’re interested in me but you’re only interested in me when you want me to be interested in you. You’re not really interested in me and never have been.
Someone on Twitter who also happened to have my email, took my tweet personally and wrote me this very angry and hurt email about it. They misunderstood my tweet… or did they?
They did misunderstand it – it wasn’t directed at them, it wasn’t about them, it was one of several tweets I was sending to my recently dead father as I worked through the issues which I’d had with him.
But they also didn’t misunderstand it – Our relationship with our parents (or anyone else who was the first relationship we had when a child) creates a template for our relationships with others, with society.
Both of my parents weren’t interested in me – who I was, what I felt, thought, dreamed, loved, etc. They were only interested in me when they wanted something from me for themselves – sometimes it was as simply as they wanted me to be interested in them.
If you want someone to be interested in you the easiest way to make that happen is to be interested in them or, if you’re like my parents, to fake interest in them (quite a few books labeled as Self-Help advised faking it until you make it, and often suggested pretending to like/care/be interested in people to get them to like/care/be interested in you in return).
Because of my relationship with my parents, and my interactions with those in their social circle who were a lot like my parents, I grew up into an adult who believed everyone found me uninteresting, boring, unless they wanted something from me, for me to be interested in them.
So my tweet was not just about my relationship with my father, it was also about how I perceived my relationship with everyone else, with the world of human – the humaniverse… therefore it was about the person who took it personally even though it wasn’t about them in particular.
Their misunderstanding allowed me to understand something about them. We had a long email argument which eventually evolved into a deep and meaningful conversation where we both shared our stories and worked things out together and separately.
They understood some things about themselves, such as why they took my tweet personally.
I understood some things about myself.
The fact that I still remember as much as I do about that misunderstanding informs me that there is still more to learn from it.
I’m still a pupil learning from a teacher.
It’s one of those stories which are a personal point of reference for me. Which remind me of something I mustn’t forget, and from which I constantly learn new things – as my perspective changes position in the present so I see the past slightly differently, and find new lessons to learn within it.
I find other people interesting, whether they want me to be interested in them or not.
Sometimes people who want me to be interested in them regret that they wanted that when they get it – that might have something to do with my natal Mars in Scorpio, once you get my attention it might feel like you’re being probed by an alien.
One of the things about other people which interests me, especially when they’re talking about themselves being understood and others misunderstanding them… is their understanding and misunderstanding of others.
I have a thing about flipping things around – because it helps me to do that with myself, and with others. If you have a problem, often the solution to it is on the flip side. If others have a problem with you, look at them too not just at yourself.
Rory’s post received several comments from others sharing their stories in answer to his question. It was interesting to see how he replied to them. If he replied to them. Who he replied to and how. How he understood them.
I’m always intrigued by how bloggers handle the comments on their posts.
Some bloggers don’t realise that the comments are an intrinsic part of the whole post, and that those who read the post will most likely also read the comments too because they’re not just interested in you, the blogger, and what you have to say, they’re interested in others and what they think of what you had to say – it helps them with understanding what they think of what you said, and so much more.
The more interesting the comments are, the more interesting the post becomes… and not just for others, but for you as the blogger who wrote the post.
There used to be a person who regularly commented on my posts who referred to their comments as posts and kept telling me how great it was to blog with me. It made me angry every time they said that because this is my blog not theirs, I’m the blogger here not them… but you know… they were right and I was right too.
Your replies to comments as a blogger are also part of your post, not separate from it.
“Joy, happiness, good, bad, all those terms are meaningless to me. If you think of yourself as a separate soul, you’re fucked.”Harry Dean Stanton
On Rory’s post there was a comment from Melanie which I found to be interesting for several reasons.
It was deeply personal and revealing.
It showed a complexity to Melanie… which is in her posts, but this particular facet is often hidden behind a show a strong face to the world attitude.
And I used to have a similar issue (which isn’t totally resolved, I’m still learning from it).
People somehow always seemed to assume that I was so self-assured that I couldn’t be hurt. I’ve had people tell me that I couldn’t possibly understand them because I don’t feel pain.
Of course it was often narcissists who said things like that to me and it’s part of their narrative. Only they suffer, no one else knows suffering. Only they are multi-dimensional beings, everyone else is one-dimensional.
Then I realised that because I didn’t want to bother anyone with my hurt, pain, suffering, because I didn’t think they’d be interested in me or my problems, because I didn’t think they gave a shit about anyone other than themselves, I’d put on a brave face and… that’s all they saw because that’s what I was showing them.
If they tried to see behind the brave face, I’d stop them from doing that using those methods we all use when we don’t want people to see the real sad hiding behind the false bravado.
It doesn’t take much to put someone off trying to understand you.
They made the effort, you denied them access… there are other people who will appreciate their effort unlike you and allow them access.
You made understanding you too hard for them… maybe you’re making it too hard for yourself too.
After sharing her raw and real, Melanie told Rory that she might use his question in an upcoming Share Your World. Yet in her latest SYW she asked a similar question – What is one thing you don’t understand about yourself?
I think the questions are complementary since often what people constantly misunderstand about you is something you haven’t truly understood about yourself.
Their misunderstanding of you is a teacher appearing before a pupil who is perhaps hoping the teacher has done all their homework for them and will just tell them the answer without the pupil having to figure it out for themselves.
One of the things I don’t understand about myself is something I spotted the other night while watching a Dave Chappelle stand-up.
Lately the viewing theme has been – Comedians who are actually Philosophers.
First it was Simon Amstell in Set Free.
Now it’s Dave Chappelle in several of his more recent shows on Netflix. I started by watching Sticks and Stones.
Then moved onto other recent-ish shows. I’ve never seen any of his earlier work, his TV show or stand up before he left show business for a decade, but I do enjoy listening to him talk about those times, the reason he left, his perspective of himself and his experiences since then.
He’s a very interesting person.
While doing some searches online afterwards about Dave Chappelle, including looking up his astrological chart, I saw that a couple of results had a – Do Not Watch Dave Chappelle’s Sticks and Stones – blurb underneath them.
He does say a lot of un-PC things, but he doesn’t do it just to get a reaction, just to get publicity, attention, just to make mommy and daddy angry so they’ll notice their child who they only pay attention to when the child is being bad, naughty, saying things which offend and upset the adults forcing them to look at what they’ve been ignoring.
He does it very intelligently, he’s done his homework, he’s thought things through for himself, and he’s passing on what he’s learned. He’s teaching…
One thing which was interesting was that both of his parents were teachers.
I do feel as though I’m a pupil being taught by teacher Dave C… and he’s making learning fun.
I love those long pauses in his routine where he gets serious and tells a tale of black history. He makes history come alive, takes you on a journey back, then forwards through time passing up, each moment affecting the next, until you reach this moment where he is now (or was during the show), where we are now, with all this social upheaval with everyone arguing with everyone else, wanting to be heard, understood, feeling unheard and misunderstood.
After the serious part, he smiles… he has one of those complex smiles which tells a long story of personal struggles to understand the self and the self’s place in the greater self, the humaniverse.
There was a sketch in the film Lucky with Harry Dean Stanton where his character and another grizzled old dude are discussing the trauma of war. The other dude related a tale of seeing this little girl pop out of her hiding place in the middle of a devastated zone which used to be her home and give the invading troops a big beaming genuine smile. He was floored by that smile, the only sunshine in a deeply dark place, and it was explained to him that she wasn’t smiling at people but greeting her fate with a smile.
The fate she was greeting was her death at the hands of the invaders because that’s what she’d been told to believe would happen if the foreign soldiers found her.
In one of his shows Dave Chappelle says of the things he says which may make people want to advise others to – Do Not Watch Dave Chappelle’s Sticks and Stones – in his routines – So I just figured, “Fuck it, I’ll say it for everybody else”.
Listening to him say the things he says… tapped into something I don’t understand about myself but keep trying to understand.
I’ve figured out some of it… but there’s still so much more to figure out.
Grow up with narcissists, or spend a significant amount of time with them, and you’ll get paranoid about the consequences of saying anything. Every little thing you say has the potential to get you killed… not physically killed (although the threat of that will be there), but in all other ways.
It got to the point for me where I was afraid to say anything at all, but not saying anything will also get you killed when you’re in the company of narcissists.
Every word I uttered sounded louder and more violent in my head than it actually was. A simple “Yes” or “No” would BOOM inside of me. And go BOOM outside of me too if I said it out loud. There was also nothing simple about a “Yes” or “No”…
The amount of times that something which I thought was innocuous and quiet to say appeared to cause a cataclysmic drama to explode… and keep exploding, aftershock after aftershock… were many, too many to recall them all, they blurred together into one big giant blob following me around always about to swallow me whole.
One time which I do recall fairly clearly, and which became a point of personal reference, the world exploded over the word “hotdogs”.
In recent years, since I turned 40 (I’m now 50) I’ve become more “Fuck it, I’ll just say it” not for everybody else but for myself.
Blogging has been helpful in allowing me to hear my own voice, and realise it’s not as loud or as violent as I think it is when it says things.
Some of the experiences I’ve had since I’ve been blogging remind me of some of the experiences Dave Chappelle shares about his career. Of course mine are very small scale compared to his, but this isn’t about comparing, so much as understanding your own story when someone else shares their own understanding of their story.
A blog is a bit like a stage. A post is a bit like a sketch. Each post is part of your routine on the stage of your blog.
Sometimes what you say in a post gets a lot of applause, reaches a wider audience, gets repeated and shared, and if that happens you might get more people coming to see your act on your stage… and once you see that more people are watching and listening to you, you might end up losing yourself to play to the crowd.
That happened a few years ago to me… a couple of my posts on narcissists got a lot of attention.
It was great at first because – Wow, people are actually interested in me, in what I’m saying!
A few people didn’t like what I was saying, heckled me, but more people liked what I was saying so… there!
But then what gave me freedom began to feel more like a trap. It wasn’t anyone else doing this to me, it was me going through growing pains, facing a pattern repeating itself which was throwing old inner demons, challenges, and new versions of old issues at me… in some ways testing me to see what would happen if I got what I thought I wanted, and other weird puzzles.
There’s a guru of healing from narcissists who took a lot from my posts and used it in their work. One of the people who collaborated with them checked with me first to see if I was going to write a book, if I was planning on capitalising, making money from my writing, and how easy-going I was about copyright infringment… they didn’t tell me why they were asking and I didn’t ask. Fair enough, and if helps people help themselves then all’s good. But then that guru decided to tell me I had to promote their system… and they were rather narcissistic red flag waving about it.
I just put that in here because it still pisses me off even though I keep telling myself it shouldn’t because this guru is helping people help themselves and that’s a good thing.
Besides, I was never going to write a book, create a system, or anything else which required spending more of my life energy and attention focusing on narcissists.
And… well, to put it bluntly without sugar, you attract narcissists when you write about narcissists.
You also attract a lot of non-narcissists who’ve been messed up by narcissists, but it’s the narcissists you attract which get your attention because they want all of your attention on them… and they make you wish you’d shut up about narcissists, make you wish you’d never said anything at all in the first place.
Another reason not to be pissy is that not too long after that…
I changed the way I approached the subject.
I changed my routine.
Now it doesn’t seem to attract narcissists only non-narcissists who are determined to learn from their experience and change their routine which was so attractive to the narcissist/s in their life.
I changed because it was time for a change in how I approached the subject.
It was time for the routine to change.
It was time to take a long hard look at the flip side, at myself, at everything which had been revealed after I allowed myself to say all those things I hadn’t had the balls to say before.
My routine changes every time there’s a shift within me… my blog and I have a pact, we made it when it was created – this is a place where I get to be all of me (except for the bits I keep strictly private – what those bits are may change over time).
My routine changes are not always a good for you shift, you may hate what I suddenly start writing about, or more likely you’ll just find it uninteresting.
No worries… I did worry a bit about that, when my blog went from regularly having thousands of views a day to several hundred, my ego made itself very felt.
It’s quite good for me to get in touch with my ego as I went for a long time thinking I somehow didn’t have one and wasn’t sure why it was missing. Hmmm… the collaborator of the narc-guru particularly liked the fact that I had spoken about not having an ego in several posts at the time… hmmm… still learning from it.
Now… I’ve sort of returned to where I was when I first started blogging, chatting with myself, out loud in public because that’s healing for me, saying whatever because no one is listening or so I tell myself… although the return is different since doing this has helped me be different. It’s old style but also new style old style.
I don’t mind if no one reads… I do enjoy it when you do. Thank you.
I don’t mind if you misunderstand me… reading isn’t necessarily about understanding what the person writing is saying, it’s about what you get out of it and understand about yourself.
But when you do understand exactly what I’m saying… it scares me 😉 Thank you.
So… time to wrap things up…
If you find all the people in your life are constantly misunderstanding you… it’s time to flip the eyes around and look at yourself, what you’re doing, saying, being, thinking, attituding, wearing on your face, etc.
Not to criticise yourself, or change yourself for them, but just to look and see if perhaps you’re a pupil who is ready and the teacher has appeared in the form of everyone misunderstanding you and it’s driving you nuts.
Being with narcissists is a bit like feeling as though you’re surrounded by people who don’t understand you and have no intention of making the effort to understand you – you have to understand them, but they don’t really want you to understand them at all.
Maybe you’re surrounded by narcissists…
Or maybe you’re making it too damn hard for others to understand you no matter how much they may want to understand you because they’re understanding people.
We can all be narcissistic sometimes, especially if life is stressing us out, we’re in pain, we’ve spent too much time focusing elsewhere and our internal self wants us to focus on ourselves… but we haven’t quite understood that our need for others to understand us, and our frustration that they don’t seem to be doing that, is really our need for us to take a time out to understand ourselves, and we’re rather frustrated with ourselves for not doing that.
That’s one of the things I loved about Dave Chappelle’s recent routines… years ago he took a huge time out to understand himself, and it shows in his shows.
Sure people called him crazy at the time – I do recall seeing headlines about him many years ago and all the assumptions the media made about him having a psychotic break of sorts. How could anyone walk away from all that money and fame and success, they must be batshit cray-cray! But I didn’t know who he was and really didn’t care. I didn’t find him interesting at the time.
I find him and his story interesting now because… I’m ready for that now, he’s the teacher to this pupil, teaching me some things I’m open to learn.
What about you… have you found anyone suddenly interesting recently, and what are you learning from being interested in them?