This post has been formatted to reflect an original journal entry.


Been reflecting lately on the importance of knowing what to ignore. Placing appropriate limits on technology use, media consumption, etc. An interesting thought: I imagine highly sensitive people have less of a problem with this. For me: I want to turn it all off. Those moments when I curl up in my writing room with a cup of tea, an old book, and some soft jazz are among my most cherished. Keeps me balanced as the outside world continues to grow louder and more intrusive.

That’s what it feels like, anyway. Overstimulation. Television, social media chatter, a barrage of alerts and updates. It’s so loud. I realize I touched on this experience in an old poem, Flo On (still one of my favorites): the whole world is screaming and / no one’s got the mic. Fascinating how our brains can do that. How some of us can experience these kinds of stimuli as noise, while others surely process them differently. Then again, I’ve always had a terrible aversion to loud noises. With loud music being the one exception.

Also been thinking it’s time to get back to some psychology books. May re-read Rollo May’s Psychology and the Human Dilemma or Power and Innocence. Have questions about authenticity. Authenticity and vulnerability, confidence, toughness. Specifically the concept of the shadow self and how it relates to these. I think I’ve long held an inaccurate view of the shadow, that which we repress, deny, fail to recognize within ourselves. Had somehow (and I’m laughing to myself knowing what I’m about to write) come to think that once I found my shadow, I’d become like a superhero. Tough and ruthless. A real badass. How ridiculous is this?

And yet, maybe it’s not all that ridiculous. Not in context, anyway. Because I’m beginning to realize I’ve spent most of my life denying, stultifying, and consciously trying to fix some of my best abilities and traits. My creativity. My sensitivity. Especially my sensitivity. Always thinking I had to toughen up. Not be so gentle. So nice. Not allow my feelings to be hurt so easily. Get over upsets and distressing events quickly. Not become overloaded or overwhelmed by things that others seem to ignore or shake off easily.

You have no idea what wonders it did for my self-esteem when I discovered Elaine Aron and her concept of the highly sensitive person. It meant there was nothing wrong with me. But it also meant I’d never become a superhero.

That image was the embodiment of everything inside of me that I believed needed fixing. I was too sensitive, too nice, too weirdly eccentric, and downright childlike to ever amount to anything. But finding my shadow—now, that would toughen me right up, make me invincible. Except creativity and sensitivity weren’t things I ever had to fix. They are capacities I not only have to accept but also learn how to honor, respect, and use to the best of my ability. That’s the biggest reason I am so proud of my first poetry chapbook, Seven Road & Other Poems. Because that book means I’m doing it. And that was the point of The Used Life from the beginning, wasn’t it? To develop my unused capacities. Is that a big part of what it means to find one’s shadow? This requires a real honesty—a transparency—with oneself. 

I’m a big believer that unused capacities have a way of letting us know they’re there. 

Capacities clamor to be used, and cease their clamor only when they are well used. That is, capacities are also needs. Not only is it fun to use our capacities, but it is also necessary for growth. The unused skill or capacity or organ can become a disease center or else atrophy or disappear, thus diminishing the person. – A.H. Maslow

Are those of us who are sensitive to our inner experiences more apt to notice our underused capacities? Maybe so. Kind of like jealousy, rage, resentment, other negative emotions and motivations. They let us know they’re there. I can usually tell when I’m engaged in some kind of double-speak with myself. Refusing to admit what I know I feel and what I know is driving my behavior. One can feel this kind of thing happening. And it’s far different from the lightness of authenticity. (There were a few posts on this blog that were born of that conflicted inner experience. I took them down some time ago. Because I knew.)

It also takes a great deal more courage to be authentic than it does to feign toughness. Also interesting: I think the scariest part is really knowing our feelings. Then, communicating them isn’t all that difficult. But really looking at ourselves with that much honesty. That’s terrifying. Then again, maybe that’s what superheroes are made of.

8 thoughts on “Superhero

  1. I’ve had a time out recently. It’s the only way I know to turn the noise down a little. Then, one post after another this morning, like a flow had been turned back on. The creativity is indeed always there but mine sometimes needs to rest it seems. Jury is out on whether the rest does any good though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha I know what you mean. I take breaks from creative work, too. I think of those periods as a kind of waiting, observing, or extended information processing. Who knows? At any rate, good to have you back. 🙂 It is noisy out there. Sometimes creative work is a great way to silence it for awhile.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a brilliant essay. I love your posts and look forward to reading them whenever I’m online. I think both superheroes and supervillains are born from looking inside and confronting inner turmoil. Raskolnikov confronted his guilt and his dark romantic notions of becoming a Napoleon and found no solace until he wondered if he could share Sonya’s convictions with a Bible in hand. Perhaps that makes him a superhero. The Joker, on the other hand, confronted his darkness and became addicted to maliciousness and revenge. He saw the beast inside and embraced it. Perhaps that makes him a supervillain. In the end, I believe that the most insightful people (good or bad) face their vulnerability, fight their demons, and either come out victorious or defeated. And yes, raw expression is born from turmoil. And like you said, the expression is easy, but dealing with the bedlam isn’t. Once again, terrific post.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you very much. And I enjoy your work, as well. Always such a pleasure to read. I think you’re right. Shadow-type traits can be either positive or negative, depending on the individual, but coming face-to-face with them and integrating them is what really matters. Thank you again for reading and for the insightful discussion.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I have enjoyed this post very much. You are so honest with yourself in the moment. And although I imagine that you were immersed in the writing itself, on some level you must have known that you were not the only one who would observe what was happening in your mind. Your reader would too. It becomes so clear that your inner life is meaningful to you, and for me as a reader, there’s nothing like reading a post like this one to inspire me to be passionate about my own writing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That makes me feel very good. Thank you. As a writer, I’m sure you’ll understand when I say that this post was rather cathartic and emotionally driven. And it was the genuineness of the revelation that I hoped to convey. I am delighted that was what moved you. I really think our inner experiences are a world unto themselves and can teach us so much. Thank you again for the wonderful comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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