Dungeon Prompts: Staying Mum

English: The dining room

English: The dining room (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week’s prompt from Sreejit Poole on Dungeon Prompts is:

There are certain situations, whether it is at work or around particular family members or friends, where you know in advance that you will have to humble yourself to get through the day. Tell us about a place where you force yourself not to react in a natural manner, but humble yourself to make things work. Do you have any techniques, such as visualizations, or breathing to help you get through it? Do you prepare yourself in advance or is it always a sudden biting of the tongue that happens. Take us through your processes of humbling yourself.

I’m stumbling a bit on the word “humble”, but the sensation of keeping mum to avoid trouble, fit in or keep the waters calm is all too familiar.  I think of it more as repressing myself and I repressed so much I wound up feeling like a robot who spouted programmed answers but could only speak as a unique human with certain people.

My mother’s sister played a big role in this.  She didn’t have children of her own and I was the only child of her only sibling so whenever I was around she tried to rope me into her “horse people” world of racetracks, thoroughbreds, breeders, cocktail parties, etc.  While those folks –at least the ones of her era; not so sure it’s true any more — could be charming and incredibly funny, they were also extremely conservative both politically and in life.

I sat through many dinners in her formal dining room with the insides of my mouth clamped between my teeth as they dissed on, well, pretty much everybody.  This was a White Anglo Saxon Protestant crowd of rich people and they had snotty remarks to make about just about any group you can think of that wasn’t WASP and rich.

Generally I kept my mouth shut throughout unless anyone directed a question at me and then I responded as succinctly as possible.  One time, though, she’d taken me to La Jolla and invited some of her crowd to join us for dinner.  It was the seventies and they were all discussing their hopes for then-governor Reagan and the White House.  I carefully kept my mouth shut… except to take an occasional bite and try to swallow it past the tension in my neck 🙂

Eventually someone just had to turn to me and ask point blank who I favored.  “Eugene McCarthy”, I said and smiled before taking another bite.  Silence fell.  Forks were suspended in air.  Chewing stopped.  After a moment they swallowed their dismay and continued talking.  No one said another word to me.  Which was actually kind of better.  Fortunately my aunt was just drunk enough (the norm) by the end of the evening she forgot to yell at me for daring to say “McCarthy”…

At that stage, I frequently felt as if I had to repress my personality and opinions and there was a lot of rage being repressed as well.  I’ve always marched to a somewhat different drum than most of my family and few of them had/have much tolerance for opinions or lifestyles other than their own.  But I coped by staying silent because I’d do anything to avoid conflict.

Silence is still a frequent refuge for me but the why and wherefores and feelings of it have changed.  When I’m with like-minded friends I express myself pretty freely.  But I spend a fair amount of time around people who don’t believe the spiritual principles I espouse and who look at the world differently.  Now I don’t angrily repress myself to keep them from being angry.

I’ll often point out another possible way to look at something.  But I’m also aware of the fear behind their closely held beliefs and how deeply they want to avoid rocking their world.  I don’t jump in with disagreements because I’ve learned that lesson about which I’ve so often written “People are who they are and they do what they do.”  See here for one of those posts.

It’s not my job to proselytize or change their minds.  I accept who they are and I speak with care because I don’t want to shake them up.  I don’t need for them to accept who I am any more; I share my views and my self with people who are comfortable with my alternative viewpoint.  I don’t need anyone else to have it or share it.  Once I know that someone isn’t comfortable I dial back what I tell them.  I can chat inconsequentially when it’s called for.

Those relationships are just different.  Sometimes close in their own way.  Some will always be casual.  Generally I stay pretty calm around these folks (if my bitchy aunt were still alive I’m not so sure that would be true but now I’d have no fear about telling her to f**k off).  I’m comfortable enough in my own skin that I don’t feel a need to have everyone “see me” or “get me”.  I have plenty of beloved friends who do.  And I’m fine with filtering for those who are more comfortable that way.

When someone’s anxiety or fear-based thoughts disturb me I often silently start saying the lovingkindness chant for them.  It’s amazing how quickly the tone and feeling of a room can change once you start chanting, even in your head.

I also sometimes use deep breathing to shift out of someone else’s energy.  If I’m in tune enough to feel the energy, I also use the chakra shifting I learned at Nine Gates.  If love and compassion feels called for I might move into heart space and focus on heart energy till it builds and starts moving outward.  If someone feels really ungrounded I put energy in my feet and concentrate on grounding.  If someone is trying to say something but having trouble I move into throat energy and hold that to help them find their voice.  I do it for them but once I start consciously shifting energy and building a certain vibration it takes me to a different place too.

Whether repressing anger or calmly accepting who people are or silently shifting energy gears, I’m not sure whether I ‘d say I feel humbled.  But it’s what I did and what I now do when I feel I can’t quite be all of me.  I’m pretty sure that furiously keeping silent is not being humble.  The breathing and energy shifting and chanting, I don’t know.  Is that being humble?  Or just calmer and more kind?

10 thoughts on “Dungeon Prompts: Staying Mum

  1. Hi Leigh and welcome back to the blogosphere. I always enjoy your prompt posts. I do understand where you are coming from ( except the horse WASP people, lol!) However, I have a question for you. If the people you encounter now are free to totally be themselves in your company, why aren’t you also? I am not suggesting you try to shake people up or force them to accept you. Is it kind to you to behave in such a manner?

    I hope you will let me know. I ask because I have been in similar situations.

    much love and chanting,

    PS Happy Equinox and total lunar eclipse!

    • This is one of those fine line areas. Part of knowing who people are and what they do, to me, is realizing a big part of who they are may be that they’re incapable of seeing/understanding/accepting who other people are. There’s something about understanding that that changes the equation for me.
      It also changes it that I’m not insecure the way I once was; from an insecure place other people’s perceptions of me mattered so I changed myself and my behavior to conform .
      I’d say in certain circumstances now it’s not so much that I’m not myself but that I choose which aspects of myself to present. The big change is I still feel like me because it’s my acceptance that counts now, not theirs.
      I’m not sure if I’m explaining very well..
      And thanks re equinox and eclipse

      • Hi there.
        your response did not show up in my reader so I am glad I returned here.

        I’d say in certain circumstances now it’s not so much that I’m not myself but that I choose which aspects of myself to present. The big change is I still feel like me because it’s my acceptance that counts now, not theirs.

        The passage above does explain it quite well. This topic is important to me because often fear or rejection of conflict results in people making themselves small to deflect any triggers of hostility or judgement.

        thanks for provoking my thoughts and my consciousness.

        love, Linda

  2. Pingback: Dungeon Prompts: Humbling Ourselves | The Seeker's Dungeon

  3. I think being humble and humbling oneself is slightly different and maybe that is why it’s hard to talk about. Because if you call yourself humble then of course, you are not humble. But if you are humbling yourself to get through a situation where no good would come out of fighting, then I think that is totally different. It is just trying to be a kinder person like you said with the the techniques that you use. I know that I will have to humble myself in certain situations because if I don’t I’ll just create bad feelings where nothing will change afterwords. Creating bad feelings that affect change however is a totally different situation, and each one has to be seen through its own parameters. Thanks for sharing.

  4. What really worries me is the apparent lack of contrariness among the generations now because it sometimes feels like no one wants to jeopardize a possible internship but there is some hope with Bernie Sanders. However it is good to humbly remember that our revolution sizzled out.

  5. Like you Leigh I spent many years repressing myself to please/appease others. As I became more comfortable in my own skin, and more comfortable with all the ‘bad’ emotions I became bigger in the world but not necessarily nicer. I can get angry pretty easily and these days am (mostly) okay with the expression of it. It is what it is. Still, each time I wish anger was not my first reaction, though I must say there are many situations that would have made me angry in the past that no longer do so that’s an improvement. I have nothing much to hide these days.

    • I still struggle with the anger too, though oddly it’s less often directed at specific people and more about frustration. I’m better about stepping back when I’m about to snap someone’s head off (except some close family members; snapping at one another is ingrained…) and taking a breath. The day we were leaving Flint and the hotel luggage cart I’d filled with our stuff fell apart in the outer doorway and got stuck along with the stuff… talk about grouchy! Like you, so much less makes me angry though.

  6. Pingback: Dungeon Prompts: Live to Work or Work to Live? | The Seeker's Dungeon

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