I’m a curious mix of provocateur and introvert. In many ways I’m quite shy and keep to myself, and in many other ways I seek the spotlight, to control and push conversation. To some extent it depends on the circumstances, but exactly when I’m which way is hard to know or describe. Sometimes, when those closest to me would most expect me to want to jump out into the open, I prefer to hide away, and vice versa. Similarly, some of the times when I appear to be either comfortably front-and-center, my inner experience is more introverted: I hide, so to speak, in plain sight. Over the years, this has made it hard for me to recognize some of my fears and limitations, and, even as I’ve come to recognize some of them, it’s also made it hard for friends of mine to recognize them in me. To say, confidently and eloquently, that I am afraid of this or that, seems almost self-contradictory. If you’re so limited, why are you so able to articulate it?
This is partly why I’ve come to embrace provocation – in some contexts. I learned that expressing a feeling like sadness can result in, at best, consolation from friends. Some will just try to escape the discomfort of someone else’s sadness. Others will respond to “I’m sad” with something like: “But you’re doing so well!” These kinds of consolations are well enough meant, but they tend to miss the point. If I am sad, or frightened, or ashamed, or disappointed, often there is a need that is not being met, and it’s that dynamic that needs to be responded to and remedied, not the painful feeling itself. (Actually, if I’m sad, often the sadness itself is the process of healing the fracture; mourning the loss, etc. Sadness is the consolation to the loss it mourns. Fear, on the other hand, needs a response, but often logic fails.) Hence I’ve come to express my joy and gratitude at feeling all sorts of “negative” feelings. Even feelings like shame and fear, which don’t feel good and are often pernicious, are good to feel, because otherwise they afflict us without our notice. I’m grateful to feel fear because then I can actually begin to respond to it, even if feeling it is painful and difficult. Otherwise I’m forced to try to infer its existence and power through a kind of deductive logic. In other words: it is a fact that I experience fear, and that fear affects my life; insofar as I don’t consciously feel and recognize that fear (along with its causes and motivations), I am unable to remedy it; if I feel the fear, this means that I can begin to know and understand the fear, and hopefully start to move through it and move on. But to say, “I’m so grateful to feel my fear,” is, naturally, quite provocative. It’s only when I fully explain exactly what I mean that the sense comes into view. (I’m not grateful that I am afraid; rather, given that I am afraid, I want to fully know and understand it so I can stop it.)