This note is triggered by having recently encountering my Shadow
There are times when I cannot run away from a part of my shadow – that of the misogynist within – albeit disguised and hidden very creatively in my multiple narratives and perhaps even fantasies of victimhood, of castration, of rejection, of mistrust, of possession, and of helplessness. The frequent discovery of the misogynist within – impacts me in a fairly predictable rollercoaster – beginning with an initial shock and denial, then into shame, and finally lapsing into prolonged sadness and self-hate.
I close another year of ageing in the coming day or two, and I thought about the multiple gifts that I have been offered over the years, many of these gifts that I have perhaps not graced nor dignified enough, from women who have befriended me, loved me, supported me, challenged me, walked with me, trusted me, and been very generous to me.
It is my naïve belief, that articulating these gifts to you may help me deal with the shadow within, and perhaps my relatedness to each of you J. Some of the gifts that I deeply treasure would include:
- Of seeing, feeling, and experiencing the Other:
It was in 1988 when I first became aware of my propensity to be very self-absorbed, and to completely disregard the other inside and outside. A stranger and a beautiful woman came up to me and challenged my narcissism and my blindness – I was deeply shaken from this wondrous as well as painful encounter. None of my friends had ever offered me such a gift and it took enormous courage and compassion for this person to even encounter me.
2. Of accepting my own vulnerability without judging myself harshly:
This has been a tough one for me for I tend to hold on to one of my identities (cultural as well as psychological) of being the omnipotent Warrior – but I have over the years, learnt to hold my vulnerability as precious and wonderful only because of how women have engaged with it and graced it themselves.
3. Of Receiving without the compulsion to reciprocate:
However crass it may sound, but being able to just receive has been very difficult for me over the years. There is an immediate impulse to offer back, to not feel ‘obliged’, and to walk out with a need to balance the books. This is an arrogance that makes me almost untouchable and yet there have been so many who have continually demonstrated how loving and inclusive this simple gesture can be.
4. Of multiple adventures, journeys, and new discoveries:
Even when I walk alone, the experience of a journey cannot be digested alone – it has been a series of exciting conversations with women along with me, women in my head and my heart, that have made these adventures and journeys memorable. Most of my adventures and journeys, if not all, have been triggered by encounters with women – encounters that are imbued with several tints and shades and defining any seems to take the magic away.
5. Of believing in the Collective:
With my propensity to over-value the Agency within and in others, the experience of the Collective and the Communion has at best been cognitive and in the mind. I am amazed at how women seem to stand on the opposite shore, upholding the community, and yet make peace with this location of mine, without feeling anxious and afraid. However I get to encounter my claustrophobia and my fear of being made faceless at the prospect of believing and anchoring myself on the opposite side.
6. Of defining and upholding boundaries without violating the other or trapping self:
I think I have witnessed very creative women and their gracious ways of defining and reinforcing boundaries. I think for men, boundaries are drawn because of externalized threat as opposed to nurturing and inter-dependence. I have much to learn on this front. I think many fellow men and I are more worried about violations and attacks as opposed to permeability of boundaries and how this aspect nurtures and transforms systems and its members.
Women reveal the magical mystery of maintain and nurturing such boundaries and without these encounters, I get reduced to a caricatured guardian upholding a rigid yet fragile boundary.
7. Of offering unconditional love and dignifying dependency:
My transition into the role of a parent was extremely tedious for others and frustrating for myself on one key aspect – that of being able to offer unconditional love and to dignify dependency.
It has been a tough process to even deploy to within the family for me, and I marvel the ease with which women offer it to adults, to strangers, to friends. In this process, they create a sense of safety and nurturance that is equally transformative and creative for the one who receives this.
It has taken many years to even realize the value of this gift in the systems I work with – of how others blossom and change at times, when dependency is graces (and not ridiculed) and love is offered without any pre-conditions.
8. Of integrating spirituality with love
As a young teenager, one of the most memorable books I had chanced upon reading (one of my mother’s) was Narcissus and Goldmund by Hesse. While Narcissus represents the Apollonian / static masculine symbol, it was Goldmund’s inner femininity that was both intense and deeply spiritual.
While as a young adult, I would have identified more with Narcissus and the Monk, my encounters with women has only made me realize the hollowness (for me) about this preference.
Women integrate spirituality with love and femininity and offer it in a way that is deeply humbling and beautiful.
I can go on and on and marvel at these gifts that I have been fortunate to receive … and yet every leadership theory that I read that is peddled in Business schools and corporations, none of these gifts are even mentioned.
I think the worst conspiracy theory that I can subscribe to is how Men and Masculinity has trapped the economic world with instrumentality and dryness – making it difficult for women and our respective femininity to even have a voice.
It is not surprising then that ISIS and Trump, Modi and Materialism hog the headlines as well as our fears and imagination as we reduce a powerful force – that of the feminine into a hubris, attempting to build the new world using the hubris as a grist.