Monday, June 15, 2015

decentering the self

During the doula workshop a couple weeks ago, one of the most valuable lessons I heard, over and over, was this: it is not about you.

That sounds obvious, right? You're there for support. It's the birthing mother who is the center of attention, and everyone knows it. Or should.

But learning to decenter the self, in order to place someone else at the center, is always harder than it sounds. It is obvious. And never easy.

For me, this means two distinct tasks. First, it means working very hard to deliberately drop the "prove myself" attitude that has been my lifelong default. I don't know when it started, because I don't remember ever not trying to prove myself to everyone around me. At school. At church. At home. On the field. I'm good. I'm smart. I'm capable. I'm fast. I'm strong. I try harder than everyone else. I know more than everyone else. Watch me and see. Tell me I'm awesome. 

But being a doula isn't about proving yourself, to anyone. Not to the mother and partner that hired you; not to the nurses or midwives or doctors around you; not to yourself, even. It's about being there. It's about paying attention to what's happening with someone else, so closely that you anticipate needs and meet them as they arise, without needing any acknowledgment because it's not about you, what you know, what you can do, or even the lovely selfless noble reasons you're there doing it.

Second, it means identifying, owning, sorting through and leaving at the door all my own emotional baggage around sex and relationships and bodies and pregnancy and birth--baggage both good and bad. You can't leave it behind if you don't know what it is.

You can't decenter the self if you don't know who you are.

Okay, fine, yes, I just went and feminist-cyborg-philosophized on the simple profound "it's not about you" message. But that's how I roll. :)


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