Thursday, September 07, 2006

Our deepest fear

yeah, that quote. You've probably heard it before.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

--Marianne Williamson

Often mistakenly attributed to Nelson Mandela; in a way it could just have well have been. And sure, substitute any term for "God" you like; I often do.

But you know what? It's really true. All of it.


Spill The Beans said...

You're right, it is true. I agree. I wouldn't have, ten years ago, but I do now. I tried so hard not to shine so that I wouldn't make my ex feel insecure, but his feelings of insecurity had nothing to do with me. They were all inside of him. My current boyfriend lets me shine, he brags on me and is so proud to be with me, tells everyone he meets how happy I've made him. It's like living on a completely different planet.

transitorrie said...

Power can be a frightening thing. Some fear using it and becoming drunk on it, others have too little fear of that. Still others fear their power for the responsibility that comes with it. And culturally, we've become a society of pass the buckers.


belledame222 said...

What I'm starting to realize is that there are maybe different -types- of power, also.

one really is part of the economy of scarcity: the other comes from a limitless fount.

but in a way you know i think it's that very limitlessness that scares people, all protestations of longing for exatly that to the contrary. It's scary because it might involve, well, losing yourself to some degree.

People don't want to let go.

I am being cryptic, yes. kind of hard not to be with this stuff, really.

Anonymous said...

funny. you remember the client who drove me insane not too long ago? the one who wouldn't communicate his expecations, changed his mind, wanted me to be the pro but then wouldn't trust my pro opinion?

one of m williamson's best buddies. love/sex guru blah blah.

and my ass.

hi google. i'm anon. nice to meet ya! LOL

belledame222 said...

Oh, I've no doubt that the woman herself may well be crammed chock full of it. Most gurus are, sooner or later. But I still applaud the sentiment.

Why isn't google letting you log in?

Amber said...


That quote is exactly what I needed to read tonight.

I'm going to bookmark it and come back and read it whenever I start to feel that familiar ache of, "...but am I being selfish?" (So, I'll be reading it a lot!)

Thanks for posting it.

Amber said...

BD - I think she's saying she's protecting *herself* from Google by remaining anonymous. Ya know, 'cause of the talk of clients.

belledame222 said...

o i see.

i just thought, fuck, there's ANOTHER Blogger weirdness? goddam Blogger

Elizabeth McClung said...

I like that quote, but it seems slightly deceptive as quite often, the cost for standing up is incredibly high. The cost for being brilliant or popular might be small, but the cost for actually coming out of the collective watching eyes and saying, "I see you, and what you are doing is wrong" can be enormous.

People who stand up to those who bully, do scare the bully, but also become the immediate target, one in which they (more often "he") feel the only way to redeem themselves, to revalidate thier view of themselves is to do every abuse of power to destroy the person who has stood up. Just ask Nelson Mandela.

belledame222 said...

Well, right. And, in a way, I think is also kind of her point; or could have been. certainly if it HAD been Mandela saying it it would've been. sure, there are good real-world concrete reasons why people don't...but it's part of the collective whatever that everyone or most people accept this and damp down, and it's what makes people like Mandela the heros that they are.

the idea being, not so much that Mandela is a saint, Special (although people like this have special qualities, the ones who becomes actual leaders, anyway, sure), but that in a way Mandela is not doing anything that anyone else couldn't;

and if we all dropped our bullshit at once, or just all dropped it, why, imagine where we could go, collectively speaking.

hey, we can all Dream.

but, yeah. i kind of put what you're saying in the sam category as what i/we were observing in the butterfly cauldron topic, that this is how this happens on the small, mundane scale: no, mostly, people don't necessarily actually come and try to KILL you or put you in jail or anything; but it's like,

"I see that you have access to something I do not, and it scares and angers me, because it dimly reminds me that I, too, could be different, feel different, live differently; but if I accept this possibility it means (to my mind) my whole belief system, my whole goddam life has been for naught, a lie; and I cannot accept this. So: DESTROY the thing what am disturbing me! or at minimum drag it back down to my own dim level so I can feel safe agan."

like that.

Zan said...

We are programed not to believe we are powerful from the moment we are born. Our families tell us, our religions tell us, our society tells us -- oh, you're just one person. And really, what can one person do? The truth is, everything, absolutely everything starts as one person's idea or dream or wish or hope. Without that one person, nothing would happen.

The belief in our own powerlessness keeps us disconnected and alone. Because what happens when one person decides to step up? Other people see her and think, hey I've been thinking just that myself, and they step up. And then there are two people. And more people see them, and more people step up until finally you've got a whole world full of people questioning the status quo and that's when things start to change. But it has to start with one person.

I think we need to examine our definition of power. Power isn't just having the money or the influence that we think of as powerful. Power is also being yourself, your true authentic self. That's what allows you to resist those who would damage you or change you or make you feel powerless.

Anonymous said...

yes, amber. paranoia has to do with what i did on my old job sometimes and what I saw companies do to spy on their employees.

quote reminds me of what someone I know used to say is an element of charisma (in the older notion of the word): a charismatic leader tells people who they are. His example was Ken Keasey.

belledame222 said...

Hm. so what did he think of Ken Kesey?

i mean i am assuming this is a good thing but, it's been a while (i know who he was, yes).

in a way I'd call charisma itself a sort of power. could end up as power-over, could also not. it, well, i am inclined to drift off into more esoteric terms that will probably lose people here. or, well, you know what some of them might have been once: as you say, in the old sense: "divine grace."

which without making it that reified or whatnot,

let's say it's a sort of energy, a transaction that happens.

some people who are "charismatic," well they don't TELL people who they are, they SHOW them. or they allow them to see themselves.

that is i think a more beneficial kind of charisma. it attracts people because of the power, but in fact the power is a shared power; the power is coming from, well, somewhere else; people are drawn to this, they learn that they, too, can harness this themselves; that this power is not a scarce commodity.

the other kind claims to be doing this but in fact is getting its power -from- the people; it is a sort of vampiric exchange. and it becomes a self-perpetuating loop, as the people feel more and more drained and weak and thus more in more in need of this powerful "leader."

That's over-simplifying, and there are a lot of ways in which to talk about this. And there are a number of people, i think, who don't actually believe that the former transaction really happens at all: it's too dangerous, or, well, they're skeptical, or cynical; and you know, they're right to be so. at minimum the latter type far FAR outnumbers the former. who, as Elizabeth suggests, when they do emerge, have this unfortunate tendency to be shot, or at least jailed.

and maybe at the end of the day "we" don't need that distillation of whatever it is in the form of a single leader at all. as Americans, as lefties (more or less, non-authoritarian lefties anyway), we tend to be particularly skeptical of the -idea- of such people; even though somehow they always seem to end up cropping up one way or another anyway. some sort of hierarchy at least. (yeah, i want to read "Tyranny of Structurelessness"). which well, often is what that is.

but at any rate i am here mainly thinking about what differentiates say MLK from Hitler. like i say: a million and one ways to look at it, and by using THOSE examples it seems pretty self-evident, you know.

but it's the sort of thing i like to look at. okay, both powerful people. where'd they get that power? is it the same place? and what is the fundamental difference between the two? does it boil down to the respective societies they were in, their respective upbringings, respective historical contexts? well, yes, all that. personal character? however you define that.

but again, i want to say, in terms of the -transaction.- watch or listen to a speech by MLK. then one by Hitler. if you're -watching- it, pretend you don't speak either language for a moment. what's happening? can you tell? this is vague because i don't actually have the answer already in mind; i am groping a bit.

or for that matter, you know, doesn't have to have a leader as such; compare and contrast: Woodstock '69 and Woodstock whatever year it was trying to recapture the glory, was pretty ugly. some highlights, i mean.

or the difference between how it -feels- to be in one sort of crowd and another. what happens to -you- while you're in it.

prosphoros said...

It sounds like the kind of power you're referencing is almost Foucauldian (what he said he meant, rather than the Bourdieuean meaning often assigned to him); the realization that, yeah, it doesn't have to be the way you're told, and because you're swimming in power, coming from all directions, that means you're a part of that, too, and can tap into/use it, rather than just expecting (and thus ensuring) that it will be used on you, to your detriment.

belledame222 said...

You may well be right, if i can ever puzzle my poor head through Foucault.

mebbe the real deal is actually easier; alls i know is, wuz looking at a "Foucault for Dummies" in the bookstore, i simply put it to the side and wept.

belledame222 said...

anon, i keep getting this image of you here with a trenchcoat held over your head and a Groucho nose and mustache; it is making me giggle.

Alon Levy said...

What I'm afraid of is that quotes like these will be used to essentially justify hierarchy. If individuals rise to the top based on whether they're morally capable of standing up, then no additional measures to promote equality are needed; after all, why should we help these meek conformists?

Even the intended form, which is gentler, isn't that enlightening. As Elizabeth says, the problem is not the fear of standing up but the fear of standing out.

I mean, sure, I've had problems in the past with people who made me feel like I have to dumb myself down. It caused me to be unnecessarily culture-shocked at the 3QuarksDaily party, where the typical response to "I'm starting Columbia in a week" wasn't "Oh, that's a good school" but "Ah, I/my good friend graduated from Columbia a few years ago," and where some people actually made me feel like a moron. But that feeling I had to act dumber certainly didn't oppress me, except in the most debased and ameliorated sense of the word.

belledame222 said...

Eh, well, I s'pose. but then so can pretty much anything including the cereal box, really. anyway that'd be a rather serious contortion, not that such things don't happen. regardless.

really just a declaration of Be All You Can Be, you know. in the Maslow sense i guess.

Anonymous said...

awww dang. i'd much rather a vision of trenchcoated flasher. *sigh*

Anonymous said...

my thoughts about the quote are not good ones. i would think the same before I met Mr. Guru who wouldn't know how to live by the principles he practices if he tried.

i think if it helps you in your daily life, that's all that matters.

i wouldn't think it's very foucauldian since foucault's view seems to be post-humanist and not at all in the tradition of, say, humanist psychology. (Although I just read the other day that in his last book on the history of sexuality, he was supposed to have done a turn around, circling back to critique his own post-humanist position.) Have never gotten around to reading his "Care of the Self", either, though I should.

belledame222 said...

"post-humanist?" Is this anything like "trans-humanist?" cuse those guys kind of freak me out.

honestly i don't think this quote is anything so complex really; 'tis what 'tis. take it or leave it, pretty much.

belledame222 said...

and i get how would could read this as, how you say, individualist, New Agey blahblah, which it is; at the same time, well...

something about the fear, what it really is, at some level. that is resonating for me right now.

Alon Levy said...

It's not entirely individualist, I think. Generally, individualists don't claim things like that the greatest barrier to success is not only moral failure, but also moral failure based on the fear of success. Rather, they (or, I should say, we) mostly blame social structures that put emphasis on the group or the ideal more than on the individual: the patriarchy, racism, excessive government regulations, conformity, religion, etc.

belledame222 said...

well, and you know, i think "moral failure" is a bit harsh, connotation-wise, here.

it's also kind of for its own sake, if you see what i mean.

eh, maybe not.

kind of speaking in several different languages here, perhaps.

Alon Levy said...

I know what you mean, Belledame, and I pretty much intended it that way. The "will to succeed" crap tends to come from the same people who think homosexuality, femaleness, liberalism, and non-business interests are all evidence of moral failure.

Amber said...

I sort of can't believe there's been so much debate about this quote. To me it is nothing but good, good, good.

I mean, I guess I can see how someone could try to use it to justify hierarchy, or whatever. But that doesn't mean the quote or the sentiment it expresses is bad or wrong. I mean, the Klan calls themselves Christians, ya know?

I can only speak for me personally, of course... and of course anyone is free to disagree with it... I guess i'm just saying I don't really see what there is to disagree with. I see it as empowering more than anything else.

it's definitely the kind of sentiment that helps me get through my daily life. YMMV.

lilcollegegirl said...

I think it's a good quote, but it doesn't really resonate much with me, because I really am very, very afraid of the darkness. Not necessarily because there is soo much darkness in me (although I go back and forth on how much there is or is not, and predictably when I'm down, I think there's much more), but because to me, at least, it seems like the line between the two is so thin and easily crossed. And I know how easy it is to really hurt people. Like everyone else on earth, I've been hurt, and I don't want to hurt anyone else (except that I'm probably more paranoid about it.)