My Selfie-Confidence Trumps Your Narcissism

There are times when I feel like I’ve stepped into an alternate universe, a world where Donald Trump is celebrated for his lack of empathy and overt arrogance while women are slut-shamed on social media and called “narcissistic” for taking a selfie.

But then I remember that it’s just another day in patriarchy.

In patriarchy, no one is really all that concerned about a cis, white, straight male strutting around, stroking his ego, and ruthlessly attempting to crush anyone who makes him feel like less than the absolute most superior being in the universe.

Trump could be a stand-in for Narcissus himself, but cis, white, straight men are used to being able to indulge in self-grandiosity at other’s expense. No one finds it shocking when they do so because patriarchy has established that as a man’s prerogative.

However, women daring to self-validate—that indeed is a threat to society.

If women began to learn that they could appreciate themselves outside of the male gaze, they might decide that they don’t need to cater to the male gaze.

If women discovered that they could recognize and declare their own value—that their value came from within rather than from without—they might discover that respect and humanity is something they deserve simply because they are, not because it is “generously” bestowed upon them from the menfolk.

If women were able to love themselves and continue to love others, they might figure out that they don’t need to sacrifice their own well-being in order to be in relationship with others.

Selfies give women control over how they reveal themselves to the world and power to self-determine their own sense of who they are.

In the face of such a threat to the control of the other half of the population, patriarchy could only respond in a handful of ways—convince women that selfies are still about the male gaze and gaining approval from men or, when that fails, shame women for being self-absorbed.

If patriarchy is so threatened by women who self-validate by snapping a little picture, imagine what would happen if women became conscious of the power they have at the tip of their fingers….

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Jealousy: Neither a Right nor a Wrong

From the Bible declaring “I am a jealous God” to Nick Jonas crooning “It’s my right to be hellish. I still get jealous,” our society has this romanticized concept of jealousy as being a necessary part of true love.

Once, I even declined to date someone because I couldn’t imagine feeling jealous if they hung out with another girl; if I couldn’t feel jealous, I didn’t think it was love.

A decade later, I’m little by little unlearning that ridiculous message. I don’t think jealousy is necessary for love or that it indicates a healthy relationship. (It certainly doesn’t work very well in my type of relationship).

It’s rather tempting to recategorize jealousy as a genuinely negative emotion and try to eradicate it from my life, feeling shame in the process for every time that I feel jealous. Indeed, it would be all too easy to adopt such a mindset between the evidence of jealousy’s destructive role in domestic violence and the “you should never be jealous” attitude that permeates the poly world.

But that’s not how I operate. I’m committed to the idea that nothing we feel, in and of itself, is ever bad. Thus, I want to get an idea of what jealousy might look like as a neutral emotion.

In The Ethical Slut, jealousy is portrayed as a conglomerate emotion rather than a pure emotion. Jealousy it the name we give to feeling a mixture of anger and fear or fear and betrayal or insecurity and anger…the combinations can vary, but you get the idea.

For some, that means that jealousy isn’t an emotion at all. However, I’m not one to dismiss “secondary” or composite emotions since they are, after all, composed of primary emotions.

However, I do appreciate that perspective because it reminds me to take a look at what might be underlying the initial name. Is there jealousy because of betrayal? Or perhaps it’s related to a fear of abandonment…a fear of not having enough love in the end.

A single word actually encompasses a wide range of possible motivations and meanings. There’s a really awesome PDF called “Making Peace with Jealousy” on practicalpolyamory.com that outlines at least four different types of jealousy, from possessive jealousy (Nick Jonas) to fear of being left out. I highly recommend it as reading material for nuances on the emotional and story content of jealousy. Note: the link above will download the pdf rather than take you to the site.

But I digress.

To a degree I have found it helpful to consider jealousy from the perspective of it being composite and able to be be analyzed as separate components. However, I feel there is more to explore beyond just “what am I feeling?”

Recently, in reading Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch for an upcoming class, I came across this quote: “Jealousy is a form of emotional fusion.”

I adore this concept as an additional layer of knowing and analyzing jealousy. It frames jealousy as a developmental task.

Since none of us start out differentiated, we are all struggling with fusion to some extent. Viewing jealousy as evidence of areas where further growth towards differentiation is needed in the relationship reframes jealousy as a potentially useful, not to mention normal, part of relationships.

However, on some levels, it still feels shaming, with this sense that if you’re well-differentiated, you should never feel jealous.

Certainly I don’t want to walk through life like Nick Jonas thinking I have a right to be an asshole because of my jealousy, but neither do I want to walk through life seeing every twinge I ever experience as an indication of a flaw within myself.

However, if I take that thought and expand upon it, framing jealousy as an emotional response stemming from the tension of connection and separation, then add a dash of existentialism by also assuming that such tension can never be fully escaped/resolved and must, instead, be tolerated—then I get a concept of jealousy that feels more rounded to me.

In fact, jealousy then becomes not just a symptom of a need for personal growth but the catalyst itself for personal growth. It is a relational existential crisis in much the same way that anxiety about mortality is a personal existential crisis.

With crisis comes possibility for transformation—transcendence really. Existential crises are the things that catapult us into the next phase of growth…if we can embrace them constructively rather than merely reacting to them (or conversely resisting them, which is also a form of reaction).

Perhaps the solution to the jealousy issue is not to either adopt it as a means of controlling another’s actions or to shun it as something that “healthy,” “mature,” or “differentiated” people won’t feel, but rather to embrace it as a valuable opportunity to appreciate the tension of interdependence. After all, duality is a dance, not a wrestling match.

 

Sometimes Magically Mundane (I had to make a pun on my blog name at some point)

At the beginning of every seasonal change, I find myself dusting, vacuuming, and rearranging.

When I get out of work after a long day, I often find myself changing my clothes, washing my hands, or even showering.

Both habits seem entirely mundane, but they are actually incredibly important spiritual rituals.

Yes, I called them rituals.

Often rituals get characterized as formal ceremonies, requiring special attire and tools.

In reality, anything that someone does on a regular basis in a specific way can be considered a ritual. The way you make coffee in the morning is a ritual. The way you get ready for bed is a ritual.

We are creatures of ritual and habit. We all have dozens of rituals in which we participate every day. It’s just that most of us don’t realize that we are performing them.

It’s not a bad thing, per se, to go through a ritual without thinking about it. Part of a ritual’s purpose is to create continuity and stability in life, and mundane rituals certainly do that. Anyone who has ever had their morning routine fucked up can attest to how much it affects the rest of the day.

But there is so much potential in recognizing the rituals of the mundane…so many ways to bring magic into one’s world without even having to try.

I first became aware of my after-work ritual when I found myself unable to leave “work at the office” for the first time in my life. Moving into mental health from retail meant that my interactions carried considerably more significance than before. I wasn’t prepared for the way that conversations, stories, and interactions would come home with me, haunting me, plaguing me with what should have been different or what to do next.

I needed a way to signal to myself the end of the work day and the beginning of my private life.

At first I spent some time trying to devise something to help me, until I realized I already had it. The very first thing I did when I got home was to kick of my shoes and rip off my bra. They were the most uncomfortable things on my body, and I couldn’t wait to be out of them at the end of a day.

Taking a ritual that was already in place and creating intention around it was transformative. Suddenly, changing my shoes and clothes came to symbolize switching out of a role and transitioning into a new space.

On days that I found it particularly difficult to signal the end, I began using a ritual of washing grime off to also wash off energetic grime and energy.

Not every ritual is daily like that. My seasonal ritual of giving my home a miniature “spring clean” happens every few months or so. Before, it may have just been a compulsion I had to deep clean after doing surface cleaning, e.g. dusting around but not under knick knacks, vacuuming what I could see or feel under my feet, etc. However, at some point I realized that it was a perfect way to reset my focus and spiritual intentions.

Now, giving my apartment a good dusting provides me an opportunity to clear out or stir up the energy that has become stagnant. I can refresh my altar with new items and identify a goal for the next couple of months. It helps prevent my own spiritual life from becoming dust-covered and forgotten.

We can’t take the mundanity out of life. Indeed, I’m not sure that any of us would really want to, even though it’s tempting when we’re bored.

However, we can infuse our mundanity with magic. The mundane can become significant and meaningful with a little attention and intention to our habits.