This series of posts are based on the outline of an exploration session presented at The Silent Eye (a modern mystery school) “The Feathered Seer” weekend in 2017. Whilst I have attempted to retain some of the flavour of the actual talk, the interactive elements of the exploration are absent, and since most of it was done “on the hoof” it is not really a true reflection of the session. Many of the sections are expanded considerably from that presented on the day…
Not sure what I was thinking, really. It’s a massive topic, and whilst I did mention this during a previous exploration session, in 2016 on Spirit Animals, I somehow found myself agreeing to attempt the subject the following year.
April 2017 came far too quickly, and finding myself, the night before the session, scratching down a few notes on the back of a Corn Flake packet, was rather concerned that I simply didn’t have enough to fill the hour assigned.
I shouldn’t have worried. The elements of this post were barely covered, as the interactive elements went much deeper than I could ever have anticipated, and I found myself shoe-horning in elements of later parts in a vain attempt to give full coverage of the planned discussion points.
What is it about shape-shifting that is so hard? We are ALL masters of shape-shifting. We simply don’t recognise the shape-shifting that we do, every day of our lives. Indeed, it is such a powerful urge within us, that we simply cannot help ourselves.
Copyright: Ni Qin / Getty Images
Of course, we are not nearly as good at it now, as adults, as we once were. As children, shape-shifting comes so naturally, that we never question the reality of it. That little guy on the right is NOT wearing goggles and a cape in order to “play” Superheroes. He is, for all intents and purposes, a fully fledged superhero; capable of feats of incredible strength, leaping buildings in a single bound, saving the planet at every turn.
As adults, we dismiss “whatever it is he is doing” as “imagination”. How is it that we forget that, for him, the experience of donning the cloak and goggles goes way beyond what we adults mean by “imagination”. Have we forgotten what it was like to lose all sense of self in the deepest moments of “play”?
Without the “self”, only the Superhero remains…
Whilst we may grow out of goggles and capes, we remain bound by the possibilities offered us through the art of shape-shifting. We go to work, and present as the perfect employee or the perfect boss; coming home we shift to become the perfect partner, the perfect mother, the perfect son; on a night out we are the life and soul of the party, the best friend, the jovial host.
Yet, deep down, if we were truly honest with Self, we are none of these things; and all of these things. It’s just incredibly difficult to be all of them at the same time.
Our teenage years taught us this; if nothing else. Who can forgot the horror of turning the corner with our friends, each in full-on hyper-cool mode, and bumping into our parents? All “cool” segues immediately into unbearable, incredibly annoying, complete and utter embarrassment; as they remind us to be home by a certain time, or that we have to do our chores before it gets dark, or (god forbid) our Mother cleans some dirt from our face with her own spit on a kerchief… By our later teens, we usually develop coping mechanisms for such incidents.
Yet they remain, quite possibly, one of our greatest sources of stress, well into late adulthood for some. Our perfect husband doesn’t “quite” make the grade as the man we have described to our colleagues; our perfect child is a complete brat in sophisticated company; and we constantly fear getting caught out, at any moment, in a whole range of situations that we never feel fully prepared for, yet, ever cool, have claimed to be “down with”…
Ironically, it is the coping mechanisms we develop as teenagers that allow us to deny any form of shape-shifting in our day-to-day lives; choosing instead to believe, a self-imposed fantasy, that we present the same persona in all and every situation.
Far from being ever constant, our persona shifts constantly, as we change masks, effortlessly, in order to meet the circumstance of each situation in which we find ourselves throughout the day. As we shape-shift to accommodate everybody else’s needs, expectations and desires, we run the risk of losing our truest self.
The shape-shift that most of us executed to be here this weekend?
We never even considered it.
(Part 2 – coming soon)