The presence of disguise

I’ve been hidden from view for most of my life. Nobody really knows who I am. I am so good at disguise that I often do not know who I am.

In my childhood world, revealing one’s true self brought about punishment and familial exile. It is not surprising that I chose to live in disguise. I made that decision over 45 years ago and I don’t remember the incident that crystallized my reality. I do remember being 5 or 6 years old, sitting outside on the sidewalk in front of my family’s house, knowing with full recognition and ancient wisdom, that my life was crappy and it was going to be a long, long time before I could do anything about it. In that crystalline moment, I saw the years ahead of me before I would reach adulthood. To survive my childhood and become an adult, I knew I would have to hide who I truly was, not only from my parents, but from everyone else, including myself.

I don’t remember anyone ever asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I know my answer would have been “alive.”

Years of disguise become tiresome and genuine disclosure of self (even if only to myself) brings relief and the realization that I can choose to reveal or not reveal. I learned that I had to reveal something or else unconscious people (which is pretty much everybody not reading this blog) would project whatever they were feeling at the moment on to me. They would declare me as being a certain way and then act shocked, surprised, and deceived when I would resist their label and often prove them wrong.

Such a way of being in the world did not bring about lasting and supportive relationships.

I learned to extend my boundary and to reel it in depending upon my safety within any specific relationship. I learned to wear the persona of “what would work best here?” In my employment, I have had numerous supervisors who I thought were complete idiots, yet they never knew (and probably still do not know . . . again, they are not reading this blog!). Such people have often written me glowing letters of recommendation.

But there comes a time when the disguises need to be put away and brought out only upon specific special occasions. I am learning to live from my truest presence, trusting my wisdom to be wholly who I am, choicefully revealing my thoughts and feelings when appropriate. And, my true presence would always choose honesty dressed in a way so as not to bring harm to another.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

©2011 by Barbara L. Kass

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16 Responses to “The presence of disguise”

  1. holessence Says:

    Barbara – I enjoyed reading your post this morning (We’re currently on the west coast, about 3 hours behind you in time). The two sentences that particularly made me shout “Yes!” were:

    “…when I would resist their label and often prove them wrong.”

    and

    “And, my true presence would always choose honesty dressed in a way so as not to bring harm to another.”

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Laurie — I hope you are having a good time! Thanks for taking time out of your vacation to read and respond. Writing is one of my honest outlets where I feel completely who I am and this blog has been both a compass and a measure.

  2. dadcraige Says:

    I must apologize for sending words of advice . Too much emptiness and little compassionate concernI feel you will forgive my arrogance with the love and kindness of your capacity to tune in with the infinite transformative power of jnfinite gracious perceiving of perception.
    A sound of stillness silently lifts our heart above the
    the cacaphony of our two valued reaction to external
    conditions of reality.I adore your honesty.

    respectively, David

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, David — welcome, as always. The infinite always beckons me (after all, we all came from the infinite) and somewhere in that endless, boundless energy, I exist complete and whole. I hope you are doing well.

  3. passionatepresence Says:

    Goodness Graciousness! Reading this was like reading an overview of my life story. Yes, the circumstances and details are different, but the commonality is amazing.

    There are 2 types of survival orientations I have seen in myself and others. There is physical survival. There are the behaviors, survival strategies, and and activities we engage in to have food, clothing, shelter, and hopefully some fun and comfort.

    The second type is survival of the conceptual self. It is the identity or identities we try on to see what fits and how we can be seen as valuable if not truly lovable to a group of people we work, live, or associate with. Sometimes it is just to get by as well. That was one of mine.

    Then there are fixations which are below the level of personality and what I don’t clearly see because it is just the way I grew up, my family situation, school, community, and other affiliations. Simply put it is my conditioning that I am not or have not been aware of. I would include coping mechanisms in biological response to fear, anger, uncertainty, and a desire for security.

    All of these things and others I don’t see work together to create the disguise or the role the body\mind plays in life.

    When the opening came by whatever means, methods, or life circumstances, it can be quite surprising what I saw and learned. In fact, there are times when I feel like I am walking around totally naked, open, and raw. The total living embodiment of vulnerability as far as I have known up to that point. Totally defenseless feeling.

    I can’t really say anything philosophical about this process because I would be just disguising it. What I can say that it has been both enlightening and a divine ass kicking at the same time. What I feel is happening is that what is here that witnesses the play of life is starting to turn its attention away from self fascination to something else that so far is ordinary and at peace with itself beyond the disguises and circumstances.

    This was an eye popper post here.

    Thanks so much Barbara!

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Ben — there is an element to this recent “outing” of me that I have not encountered before. It is like I have been waiting for the time to arrive so that I could be who I truly am, but it is not like reaching for a goal. I have arrived at a place and space where I can emerge, discard the disguise or even wear it still knowing I am real. Part of me is saying “enough of that noise” – the noise being disguise and distraction. I have uncovered my incredible strength and I no longer worry about how I will handle anything. I have not yet experienced being my vulnerable raw self in the world.

      Or perhaps I have and that was called my childhood.

      thanks for visiting and for your words of wisdom.

  4. ntexas99 Says:

    barbara – I read this post with great interest, as it speaks to something that has been reverberating in my head for quite a while, now. When I began blogging (’98), I didn’t dare blog under my real name. As my voice evolved over time, I still never felt comfortable revealing myself, and chose, deliberately, to stay hidden behind multiple layers of disguise. I found it interesting that people were more receptive to me, the more disguised and elusive I remained.

    Still, over time, there was a movement towards integrating my online self with my actual self. Some of the fear dropped away as I gained more and more acceptance, and I thank my online friends for the encouragement and support they shared so generously.

    Then I noticed an unexpected direction. As I began blogging under my real name, (or the moniker that most people already knew was me), I found that getting feedback from people that I knew in real life (versus online only) had a way of quieting me again. It was one thing to get comments from online buddies, but another thing altogether to get them from sisters, or co-workers, or neighbors. I went silent again, not wanting to reveal too much. I felt too exposed.

    Which is sort of where I am these days. Wanting to speak, but finding that using a voice that is associated with my actual self is very limiting. I’m stretching towards being able to speak freely … all this time online I had convinced myself that I’d finally learned how to communicate openly, but when my name became associated with my words, I suddenly lost my voice again. I preferred to hide behind the disguise.

    This post gave me lots to think about. I know the next step in the evolution of who I want to become includes becoming comfortable with stepping out from behind the disguise. I’m working on figuring out how to do that, and still feel safe.

    Thanks for lending your gentle voice and contemplative discernment towards the necessity for disguise as a protection at times, but also to the idea that honesty and revelation bring us closer to our truest selves, and by stepping out from behind the disguise, we give ourselves not only relief and respite, but freedom. What a great post.

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Nancy — it is always so good to hear your voice! The topic you bring up is one that I struggle with a bit, too. The line I wrote about dressing my honesty so that my words harm no one (including me) is my way of bringing myself safely to the surface. I can reveal who I am by dressing my words in a way that I know exactly what they mean and what they reveal and others (even those who know me well) still must interpret based on who THEY are, not who I am.
      Transendence is all about being the way you desire to be in the world in spite of circumstance, history, future, or consequences. People who live fully reveal and put themselves out there in spite of the fact that they might get hurt (emotionally or physically) because they just can’t live any other way. I am living more of who I truly am each day, yet I am not completely sure I quite know myself as totally as I can. Under my disguises I have developed some sturdy and reliable traits that serve me well and I know I can always rely upon. I find it very supportive to own these traits and ways of being KNOWING THEY CANNOT DESERT ME. They are who I am. I choose when to apply them.
      Know that I use them subtly and cleverly depending upon how safe I feel in the company of others. Know that I choose my way of being in the world even here in this blog in a way that best supports me.
      Take good care of you, Nancy.

      • ntexas99 Says:

        barbara – you asked me once to let you know if I ever started blogging again, so here’s the link: nancyfromtexas dot wordpress dot com

        I’m still undecided about how far I’ll go with it, and even though I hope it becomes a regular practice again, I can’t be sure at this point. Either way, it’s a new blog space, and hopefully, another chance to expand my life.

  5. ntexas99 Says:

    sorry … just saw your message … yes, okay to post on your blogroll, if you choose to do so … thanks, Barbara … talk to you again soon

  6. novicenet Says:

    Barbara.I didnt have a contact mail id and just wanted to wish you a wonderful birthday and wish you the realisation of many of your dreams and aspirations.
    Roamer from the good old days

  7. Barbara Kass Says:

    Roamer! It is very nice to hear from you! Are you on the new Gaia? If so I am there, too.

  8. holessence Says:

    Barbara – I just want you to know that your blog — ETERNAL PRESENCE — is mentioned over on WONDERS IN THE DARK. If you scroll down, it’s about half-way through the interview. Here’s a link: http://wondersinthedark.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/laurie-buchanan-a-tireless-crusader-for-premium-health-and-mental-well-being/#comment-49561

    • Barbara Kass Says:

      Hi, Laurie — what a great interview of you! I read each word (it was delicious!). Thanks for mentioning Eternal Presence. I seem to be on hiatus right now but have a couple of things simmering on the burner and expect to be back at full tilt before the week is out.

  9. holessence Says:

    Barbara – I love your posts. Each and every one is food for thought. So when you don’t post, you’re starving me to death.

    How’s that for no pressure?

    🙂

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