Sh*t To Help You Show Up February 5, 2021
So. Much. Emotional. Juice.
Do you ever have those sorts of days, or weeks, or months, when everything keeps lining up, like there’s some larger story that keeps unraveling, getting delivered to you installment by installment? The first one or two could be isolated incidents, but by the third or fourth thing you think, “Something is going on here.”
That is kind of how my week has gone. I write an advice column over on Medium every week, and this week I got a question about why people spread COVID conspiracy theories, and how to deal with them. You can read that column here.
I have some personal history with conspiracy theories, which I talk about in my column, but to prepare my response I also started researching the psychology of conspiracy theories so I wouldn’t just project my own experience into my answer.
At the same time, a friend on Facebook posted this wonderful TED talk by Sonya Renee Taylor, which articulated beautifully the mechanics of calling in vs. calling out. I encourage you to watch it.
Taylor’s talk provided me with the language to address in my column how to interact with folks spreading conspiracy theories, but it also tweaked my interest in this whole question of calling in vs. calling out vs., as Taylor so artfully explains, the option of “calling on”.
We’re here to talk about integrity, and inherent to integrity is this notion of standing up publicly for what we think is right. The question of how to address problematic or harmful behavior by others, therefore, is central to how we show up with integrity.
So, I started to go down the rabbit hole of that question, and uncovered some good resources that I will share with you. This article in Bustle explains the notion of calling someone in. This article from KQED walks you through some useful questions to ask yourself when deciding whether to call someone in or call someone out. Finally, I came across this article, from The Body Is Not An Apology (Taylor’s organization, not surprisingly), that walks you through thinking about your motivations for calling someone out, so you can assess whether or not you’re acting out of your emotional integrity or not.
Why should that even matter? When people are doing harmful things they need to be dealt with, don’t they? Who cares what emotional juice you may be getting out of it?
Because I’m having one of those weeks, as I was asking myself all of these questions, my partner and I unexpectedly got into a fight. We’ve been fighting a lot recently. It has all felt very dramatic. I woke up thinking about the latest batch of suck between us, and received an email from a teacher of mine, Carolyn Elliott. The email was all about dissatisfaction and conflict in love relationships, and how to turn them around.
Because, of course, it was.
Elliott’s approach is to actually allow yourself to feel all of the dark, shadowy, unpleasant, uncivilized pleasure that you get out of engaging in all of that drama with your partner. Let in all of the emotional juice that you get from feeling wronged, neglected, righteous, misunderstood, etc. Not to act on it, but to actually appreciate how perfectly you have created the environment in order to get that juice, and how weirdly, intensely delicious it is.
Inherent in this approach is the idea that the reason taboos have power is that we shame ourselves for being drawn to them. We hide from others, and ourselves, that we desire them, and shame never, ever transformed anything. So, by not just intellectually acknowledging the things we secretly want, but actually allowing ourselves to feel the incredible emotional juice we get from them— the power, the lust, the shame, the wickedness, the superiority, the righteousness— we bring them into the light, creating space for radical transformation.
What does this have to do with calling in, calling out, and calling on? Everything, my friends. Integrity is about wholeness, which means all of ourselves, including all of our taboo emotions which fuel our decisions about how to stand up for what is right. The article I linked to above from The Body Is Not An Apology, about confronting our egos, is a beginning, but I would argue it does not go far enough.
If we want to work on showing up with ever greater integrity, both when we are challenging others and when we ourselves are challenged, then we have to get down and dirty with ourselves about all of our shadowy, juicy emotions, whether they be about having power or being the victim of it. Then we are not at the mercy of our taboo desires, nor is anyone else. We have the power to radically transform ourselves, and potentially anyone we encounter.
Over a lifetime of engaging in social justice work, I have come to believe that the stamina to stay in the fight for the long haul is born out of the understanding that you are constantly planting seeds of trees whose shade you may never enjoy. You cannot focus solely on the outcome of the journey. You have to find joy and satisfaction in the process of change. For me, seeking ever greater wholeness, authenticity, and integrity brings that joy and satisfaction, and sometimes that unexpectedly delicious, emotional juice.
Sending much love to each and every one of you. Thank you for supporting my work. Please share widely, like (click the heart!), comment, and SUBSCRIBE if you haven’t already. Let’s grow this conversation.