Turn and face the strange
“Changes” by David Bowie (1971)
Therapist Oliver James talks about the benefit of listening to the voice inside of us. Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you’re crazy if you hear a voice or two. It’s a sign that you’re in touch with what’s happening inside of you. A man who made a career out of bringing out the voices in his head was David Bowie who left us nearly four years ago, just two days after his birthday, which is today.
We can think of life as a stage and different situations call for different versions of us. Many people find it difficult to feel at home when they’re with work colleagues, friends and family members, for instance. They find themselves trapped, playing the roles of the professional, loyal friend, the doting mother, father or adoring child, which may be very different from how they feel on the inside. There may be many unresolved issues and things left unsaid that makes it more and more difficult for them to keep playing their role and slowly but surely the family unit disintegrates, workplaces become stagnant and friends stop talking altogether.
Some people are bound by a sense of loyalty or their desire to be a “good person” that they stick it out in dysfunctional workplaces, families and among friends who don’t support their growth. They feel stuck and pain oozes out of them as if they were a foot inside of an ill-fitting shoe.
If you’re one of those good people of the world, remember to listen to the voice inside, as weird as that voice might be. David Bowie must have heard and listened to this strange inner voice. How else could a boy from a working-class neighbourhood transform himself to an androgynous alien, giving sound and vision to sexually confused, disconnected and alienated people from all over the world?
Bowie’s art too liberated me, not to be gay, but to find the stranger within, the “exile” who always seems to say the wrong thing and gets herself fired or kicked out of social groups.
Exene Exile, my version of Ziggy Stardust, is a punk who says the things others feel but have no intention of saying. She feels “the unsayable” stuff coming to the surface from others’ subconscious and blurts it out. It wouldn’t be out of character for her to bang on about the power of the freelance content creator when people are trying to preserve the power of the big corporations in the publishing industry, for example.
So how to transform this Exene punk to a beautiful swan? Well, Exene will forever stay Exene but Exene isn’t all there is in Eda. It’s good to acknowledge the presence of Exene and know that she will be tone-deaf and out of sync with what is being expressed in groups where individuals are too scared to speak their own minds.
So what must the ugly duckling do to grow and dazzle? In my view, there are three steps in this transformation process.
Allow yourself time to express yourself
Journaling, photography, writing e-mails and letters are ways to get in touch with your inner voice. Give yourself time in your day to feel what’s going on within you. Meditation can also assist and let you observe your thoughts without judging yourself. This is how you can be in conversation with your own version of “Exene” the troublemaking child who wants to be listened to.
If your voice isn’t being heard, try again and be ready to move on
Once you’ve sorted out what the troublemaker within you is saying, you can hear what your mature or higher self has to say. This is the voice from the heart, it is the Self. This is never Ziggy or Exene, which are just limited patterns of the mind.
Getting stuck in the ego is the biggest danger of building an artistic career out of just a small portion of the universe we all hold inside us. David Bowie describes how Ziggy limited him.
“Making love with his ego
Ziggy sucked up into his mind, ah” (from “Ziggy Stardust”)
Only when one opens their hearts can they begin to communicate a broader truth. This is the only way one can continue to grow as a human being, a creative being, an artist.
If for some reason, even after sharing what’s in your heart and you’re not being heard by those you think of as allies in your life, try again.
Move on for the time being. It helps to have faith that when people are ready for your message, they will be there for you. I’m not saying to give up on people, but give up on forcing them to understand you. The fact of the matter is that you probably projected your own hopes and dreams onto others who are not ready to help you co-create the swan lake where you can come to your own.
When a human being starts to heal they create art. See other people on their path and take the time to engage with their creations, not just critique them for expressing themselves.
And never try to get them off your back by pretending you’ve read and understood their stuff when in fact you haven’t bothered or you don’t understand what they’re saying. If they’re important to you, engage them in a conversation about what they’re trying to express. People who “like” or “heart” things on social media without having taken the time to read the whole thing, or listen to the whole song or seen the whole video are only cheating themselves.
“Write every day, line by line, page by page, hour by hour. Do this despite fear. For above all else, beyond imagination and skill, what the world asks of you is courage, courage to risk rejection, ridicule and failure. As you follow the quest for stories told with meaning and beauty, study thoughtfully but write boldly. Then, like the hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world.”
~ Robert McKee
Over to you…
How will you show up for someone in your life who, like every one among us, is looking to change their world?