There are words that create images inside me. For example, the word “strawberry.” I know what it is, I remember the sweet and sour taste, the juiciness, and I think of the little seeds that sit on the outside of a strawberry always settling into the same edge on my upper left canine and only getting them out with the help of a fingernail.
Or the word “effort.” Images form in my mind. The image of a person riding a bicycle up a very steep hill. The image of a 6-year-old sitting in a school desk trying to trace the shape of the number “6” with a pencil.
These images arise in my mind unbidden and without prompting. It just happens and I don’t think about it. My impression is that the images may be a mixture of experiences, memories, books, movies, what I hear, and other people’s stories. Something is connected to it.
There is this story that the natives of an island did not see a warship on the sea because they did not know what a warship was. There was no link to it in their world and so their eyes did not perceive the ship.
Words I hear that are not linked in me I perceive as hollow and dry. Empty. They are shells, empty vessels. They are dead constructs.
The word “dignity” was such a word for me for a long time. I probably heard the word a few times in my life. Phrases like, “He was a very dignified man,” are in books I read in school. The word has always been empty and hollow to me. The internet says that dignity has something to do with respect and self-determination. With sublimity and honor. For me, the word has always been a dry pile of letters.
A little over 2 years ago, I was in a workshop with Clinton Callahan and Anne-Chloé Destremau. It was about anger. Clinton offered me, to do some standing-rage-work. A few months before this workshop, a 50-year-old memory of sexual abuse at age 2 by my uncle had resurfaced seemingly unexpectedly. I had known all my life that I had been sexually abused and the memory had not been there.
Clinton said the phrase to me before the anger work, “It’s a way to get back your dignity.” That was the first time I consciously heard the word dignity. I heard it because I knew that with this standing-rage-work, I would be walking through one of the most important doors in my life. And I didn’t understand that part of Clinton’s references. That’s why it stood out to me. The word dignity. It’s like when you’re about to do a parachute jump and the guy on the plane is explaining what you need to do and he’s saying really important things to you and the moment he says the super important thing, you have a loud buzzing sound in your ears and you can’t understand it. The whole time you’re jumping and sailing through the air, you’re thinking about what the guy said to you.
That’s what it was like when Clinton said that about dignity. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t know what dignity was. My mind was blank at that point. And I knew it wouldn’t do any good to ask him what dignity was. His answer would be Chinese. I don’t know Chinese. I didn’t ask. I jumped anyway.
After that, the word kept coming back to me. There was now this linkage in my mind. The link to the workshop and the standing rage experience. And that’s what I thought of when I heard the word dignity. I still didn’t know what dignity was.
A few weeks ago, I did another Emotional Healing Process in which I brought the issue of my sexual abuse back to the table. I had worked on the issue a lot in the months and years leading up to this process. It radiates into every area like the invisible spores of a giant fungus. My whole life seems to be permeated by it. This is despite the fact that the memory of the abuse was gone for 50 years. Thank goodness! Fortunately, I had forgotten these unspeakable experiences forever each time immediately afterwards! Forgotten what had happened. And I deliberately write “forgotten forever.” I forgot the memory forever as a small child. In a world where it is possible to experience something like sexual abuse, the only option for me was to forget those experiences immediately and forever. I buried them deep. It was a matter of life and death. It was a matter of my survival.
A few days into this process, I noticed a change. Like a small faint sound in the background that had been there for a long time and only now was seeping into my awareness and attention. And became louder and louder. The empty shell of the word “dignity” was no longer empty. It had filled with something. With something that was organic, alive and warm. It’s not so easy to explain it, because it’s more of a perception. Nothing in the head. Nothing mental. It is something energetic.
It looks like this: I can stand on my own! I don’t need anyone to explain to me how to do it. Who tells me what has to be thought and done at this point here. I make my own decisions! I also bear the consequences for my decisions. I take the responsibility. I feel! I feel anger, joy. I feel fear and sadness. I say what I feel and I show what I feel. I do not hide behind others. If I see it differently, it is because I see it differently! It is my opinion and I say my opinion. What I have to say is just as important as what someone else has to say. I don’t have to answer if I don’t want to, I can speak anytime, I interrupt others. I don’t listen to manipulative bullshit stories because it’s my life, my time. It’s my time that goes on here and I don’t have to stay if I don’t want to just so I don’t seem unfriendly! And!! And, no one just touches me without permission. No one touches me without me wanting them to! And there is a lot of anger in me to this point. And a loud scream. And a sharp sword!!! I don’t hold back. I am strong. I am loud. I am uncomfortable and I am a problem. I am a problem!! I’m not protecting you! I am not excusing you. I am a warrioress and my sword is in your neck!
That is dignity. That is my dignity. That’s how it came back to me. So loud! So uncomfortable! So rough! So powerful. So is my dignity.
It’s back again. “Hello, dignity! Hello, my dignity!” “Hello Martina!”