Most conversations I observe occur to me as a form of acrobatics – split between the dominators jumping in, beating their chest and demanding attention – and the victims sitting paralyzed, collapsed and fixated on feeding the dominators with their silence and nods. No matter what the subject, the dance of “normal” conversations feels familiar in my body – especially in my throat, chest and stomach. Often my throat closes when I’m in an unconscious conversation, as I watch myself move between being a victim and a dominator in the same conversation.
I frequently feel trapped in conversations and I assume they’re not conscious. When I notice that moment of being trapped, I have more immediate access to pivot towards a conscious conversation. I don’t sense that I have conscious conversations when I’m feeling trapped.
For many years my dad would regularly ask me to write or speak or contribute to his work. I would jump at that opportunity, would feel important and wouldn’t consider saying no. I wanted my dad’s attention and approval, and conversation seemed like a way to get that. I wanted him to notice how smart I was and to see me as someone with something worthwhile to say. I would manufacture work product or strive for an interesting conversation in response to his invitations. Along with my efforts would come a strong sense of pressure and tightly coiled urgency: my conversations needed to flow, be interesting, bold, compelling, adventurous, transformative, spiritual and deep.
Underneath these efforts was a disorienting current of seething. As much as I wanted the approval and attention, I would feel trapped inside these conversations, searching for the exit, dancing around pretending to be interesting or interested. Now my dad rarely reaches out to talk or collaborate. When I reach out to him it’s rarely with a desire for collaboration, coaching or work – it’s mostly to connect, hear his voice, and share a moment of love.
I know my dad loves me and he knows I love him. That’s a conscious conversation that doesn’t need words. I know there are days when he feels that I’ve abandoned him and his mission, and there are days when I feel that he’s abandoned me. I know we’ve tried for years to have a conscious conversation about men, women, love and marriage. While we rarely get there, my curiosity and desire to mine this landscape remains. I know the truth of the matter is the love we share – always a conscious conversation waiting around the corner.