When there is no judgement, what is alive in you?Shaun Matthee
The multi-award winning documentary, Ensoulment, created and directed by Loris Simón Salum, explores the feminine principle in present day Western society. It is a journey in search of meaning, belonging and the path back to the authentic self.
Watching the documentary, I was content, dare I even say happy with my life and completely unprepared for a question so powerful, that it hit me between my solar plexus and left me breathless. A question that filled me with excitement and at the same time terrified me. The question – When there is no judgement – what is alive in you? What wants to be lived inside of you?
Suddenly I couldn’t breathe, tears welled up, my heart began to pound, my hands started to tremble. Something inside of me demanded that this question be answered and yet I knew instantly that in answering this question my life, as I know it, will never be the same again.
Growing up we are told that we can become anything we want to be, be anyone we want to be, but it doesn’t take long before we realise that there are conditions to this acceptance, that the world around us reacts more favourably to us if we are beautiful, funny, entertaining, helpful, kind, good, successful, rich, powerful, (feel free to add any adjectives that best describes what you were told the world wanted). And bit by bit we mould ourselves into what the world views as successful, what the world sees as beautiful – all that which will win us kudos and win us favour. We buy into the more or less well-meant advice and suggestions from others surrounding “you should,” “you must.” We become hyper sensitive to every passing comment made by others, is this good, is this bad? We buy into messages from the media that bombard us daily about what beauty and success looks like. We scrutinise ourselves for any flaw that can be seen and immediately set out to conquer it. We buy self help books and attend course all in the hope of becoming an idealised version of ourselves, more gorgeous, more successful, just more! And hide all our perceived weaknesses deep down inside the shadows. Hoping against all hope that even we might forget that we are just not good enough.
Somewhere along the way my personal longings, desires, dreams become blotted out of the picture. Somewhere along the way those very things that made me individual, that make me unique, got pushed aside in favour of the adapted personality, the adapted mask I put on to meet the world. There are so many subtle ways in which I was taught to mould, suppress, cover up and deceive: Style your hair, wear make-up, wear matching underwear. Young ladies walk, they don’t run. Use your inside voice (quite, demure, never loud), tame that loud boisterous laugh into a polite chuckle. And then of course the biggest curse was still to come. The good girl curse! Good girls don’t flirt. Good girls are kind, loving, supportive, put others first. Good girls are not loud, argumentative, and stubborn – well you know the list. Good girls grow up to be good wives and good mothers. They are not overly ambitious, selfish, opinionated, rebels. Being a rebel, I was expelled from nursery school at the age of four – definitely not good girl, I fought against all these restrictions, I fought against the adaptations but slowly bit by bit, somewhere along the way, the steady stream of messages got through, and Fear showed up and began to whisper, “What if no-one can ever love you the way you are?” My need to be loved became stronger than my need to be authentic and my training was complete. I adapted, I put on the mask. And life moved on. But somehow I never felt quite complete, something churned up inside of me, a restless set in and I began my search for a better version of myself.
I travelled through positive affirmations, visualisation, the Secret. I read self improvement books, took self improvement course. But somehow I just could never become enough.
I began to study Jung and encountered my shadow, my animus, my inner wisdom. I began to peel back layers of myself I had never encountered. And then at The Centre for Applied Jungian Studies screening of Ensoulment, a maverick stepped out from the crowd and asked the question: When there is no judgement – what is alive in you? What wants to be lived inside of you?
Somewhere deep inside of me, some long discarded part of my soul, some unmoulded, unrefined, unshackled part of my soul awakened and was screaming to be heard. This was the question the Jung work had been preparing me for; this question articulated the restlessness in my soul. Something deep inside of me was fighting back, fighting to free itself of the restricted adaptations. Something inside of me felt cramped, inauthentic, stuck. Something inside of me longed for life and movement and freedom. Something inside of me longed to be authentically beautiful, authentically success by my own definition. But what?
Setting some quite time aside, I withdrew to a place where I would be undisturbed, got myself comfortable and resolved to connect, to listen to my inner voice. I waited to be surprised. I longed suddenly for the revelation that was to come. I waited and waited and waited. “What is alive in you? What wants to be lived inside of you?” echoed like a mantra in my brain. Feelings churned, I knew there was something insides, something desperately trying to claw its way into the light. Be patient, wait for it….
I could feel everything, BUT ACCESS NOTHING!
How could I make my way back to my soul?
In Ensoulment, Loris speaks about having inside her, ‘the blood of Lebanon, the heart of Mexico and the mind of America; “mix it all together and you have a soul in your hands,” she says.
In his autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Jung says:
“I feel very strongly that I am under the influence of things or questions which were left incomplete and unanswered by my parents and grandparents and more distant ancestors. It often seems as if there were an impersonal karma within a family, which is passed on from parents to children. It has always seemed to me that I had to answer questions which fate had posed to my forefathers, and which had not yet been answered, or as if I had to complete, or perhaps continue, things which previous ages had left unfinished.” (p.260)
Could this longing, this stirring in my soul be found, be named, by looking at the family from which I emerged?
I must confess to a certain disconnect from my roots, I am no historian, and the lives lived by my ancestors, whilst mildly interesting have held no fascination for me. Consequently I know very little about who these people were.
I began my journey by digging into my paternal line. My father was an artist, a rebel, a wanderer of Dutch descent. The Dutch for are restless, always seeking, adventurers. But how did these things live in me?
Suddenly the young girl I once was appears in my imagination, memories of the tomboy racing from adventure to adventure re-emerge. The young girl who grabbed at every new experience, who wanted to taste, smell, hear, see all that life had to offer. The young girl who wanted to grow up to be a traveller. The young girl who was loud, self-assured, courageous, grabbing centre stage, joyful, carefree and wild. I began to see that from my paternal bloodline I had inherited a restlessness, a need for new discoveries, new adventures, unbound by rules, conventions, norms and standards. Ah, there is still life in these things. This is what lives inside of me, when there is no judgement. This is what wants to live!
Next I turned my attention to my maternal line. My mother is a networker, a mover and shaker, an entrepreneur who comes alive when she is she is entertaining others. The women in her family are of French descent and are all great storytellers with a love of entertaining and being entertained. But how do these things live in me?
I remember all the concerts we held as a family. Entertaining each other by creating a stage and then taking turns to sing or dance or tell stories. I see the soulful young girl light up as she performs for her family, the summer evening concerts under the stars, the stories told around the fire. I remember all the wonderful times I spent with my own children holding ‘concert’.
I think back to all the wonderful stories I was told, all the wonderful stories I read, all the adventures and experiences I found in books. I remember the young girl who experienced life, different worlds and fascinating people and ideas in the world of books. I remember smiling and dreaming about the day I would open up new worlds for other people with the words written by me. But that was before the time of fear, before the time of not being good enough.
But there is still life in these things. This is what lives inside of me, when there is no judgement. This is what wants to live!
It is time for me to step out of the shadows. It is time for me to take off the mask. It is time for my public confession. I am not a good girl! I am not kind, gentle, caring, unselfish or good. I am not interested or impressed by the job you hold, the car you drive, where you live, the brands you buy. I am easily bored and can’t abide small talk, watching sport or dare I say it? What is happening in parliament, the stock exchange or the climatic conditions. For those who I leave disappointed, my sincere apologies. Thank you for thinking of me so kindly.
I am a rebel, a non-conformist. I am loud, outspoken, stubborn and opinionated. I love to flirt, to laugh until I cry, to be crazy. I am a warrior, unafraid of confrontation and will challenge your opinions, ideas and prejudices. A good debate makes my spirit soar. I am wild, passionate, spontaneous, and unpredictable. I will talk obsessively about my inner journey and the latest book I am reading. I am passionately Jungian. I am much that is yet to be discovered.
As Jung said, you can be good or you can be whole. Today, I choose wholeness! I want to live fearlessly and with passion. I want to live out loud! I want to live on my terms and not yours. That’s what lives in me when there is no judgement. That is what is alive in me. That is what wants to live in me! Warts and all!
Ps: Thank you Loris Simón Salum for reminding me to pay attention to my soul’s longings. For awakening within me once again the spirit of adventure, for the gift of the quest.