Week 5 at Escape allowed us to explore our curiosity – what interests us, what engages us, what captures our attention? I also had my first ‘check-in’ with Sophie, one of the Tribe leaders, before the session began – an opportunity to raise any issues I had, or ask for help or feedback if I needed it.
I felt nervous arriving at the school, as if I was being summoned to the Head Teacher, which, as Sophie often says to us, “gives us information”. It was interesting that I booked the check in on the evening we were exploring curiosity because it is in the reflection on what is challenging us, and using the information we have to explore further, that we truly find what is holding us back – and ultimately how to release ourselves.
My check-in focused on my concerns around my ability or lack thereof in group dynamics. The story I tell myself is that I am not good with people – I do not mix well in groups. This is an odd story because in certain social circumstances I could be deemed a ‘social butterfly’, flitting from group to group, entertaining and connecting people. But in Escape, where we are being raw and vulnerable, there is no flitting. We just sit with the discomfort of being vulnerable.
It’s also interesting that the Escape base is called a school, because I believe that is where my story of awkwardness originates. I was not popular in school. I did not mix easily with other children. I was Lisa Simpson. After 5 years of home school I absolutely loved learning, and the over-achieving, high-performing perfectionist in me craved the certainty of good grades. I realised in a therapy session recently that I hold on to the label ‘intelligent’ as if it defines my very being, but the word actually has negative connotations for me! I associate it with disconnection and rejection as it always separated me from other children at school.
And now, here at Escape, in a very different but still a school setting, I was experiencing echoes from the past. Afraid I had to live up to certain unspoken expectations but also aware that if/when I did show off my knowledge that it would result in disconnection and separation. So Sophie asked me, how would it be to name these Lisa Simpson traits? To say to my group that I have these tendencies to seek approval, but actually I’m seeking connection. I immediately felt that knowing lurch in the pit of my stomach – the one that tells you this is going to be tough but so worth it in the end.
So I did. I sat at my table with my circle and I introduced them to Little Lisa Simpson. I told them she struggles with trying to overachieve but really she just wants approval, so if I do give off signs of her appearing, please don’t roll your eyes and dismiss me – instead, can you please just ask if I’m ok? It felt terrifying to even articulate those needs, but so exhilarating to be heard and understood by my group!
For the rest of the evening I focused on the rest of my challenge – not speaking in the larger group sessions, and instead listening to what everyone else had to say. I had noticed that I was speaking with a need that was disproportionate to what I was saying, and I could hear Little Lisa crying out for someone to acknowledge her intelligence, rather than actually adding anything to the conversation. So I sat, and listened, and learned. I invited myself to be curious about what people were asking, why they were asking it, and what is it they wanted or needed at that time.
The revelation came for me when Sophie read an excerpt from Big Magic, a book I know and love so well! I had to almost sit on my hands and bite my lip to keep from blurting out answers to people’s questions! But I am so glad I did, because in doing so I realised that when people asked about the background to the story, they didn’t explicitly want the anecdote that would logically explain it, they wanted reassurance that they had understood its intention correctly. They wanted to absorb the information and make sense of it in the context of all the messages we’re receiving at the moment. My explanation would not have answered that question for them.
I do not have all the answers, but for once in my life I am allowing myself to let go of the unspoken expectation that I do, and just allowing myself to be curious and open to learning.
What stories do you tell yourself that hold you back in life? What ‘truths’ exist for you that you may actually have a choice to let go of? We are often so much more powerful than we even realise.
Siobhan Kangataran is the Founder of ToGetHer Further, and so far the primary writer/content producer! If you would like to share a guest post, to be interviewed, or to write for ToGetHer Further, please get in touch via the Contact page.