17 April 2006

between silence and a scream

(at left, Edvard Munch's The Scream)
I've had this blog for a little over a year now, and just 50 posts. It comes out to about 3 and 1/3 posts per month...not terrible, but hardly representative of my desire to share my thoughts and experiences with you all. As I mentioned in my post last week, I have been ruminating over the possible sources of my writer's block.

After some thought, I realize that I have always struggled to "find my voice" in my everday life. Most of the socio-cultural and personal contexts in which I am situated bombard me with unsolicited messages about proscribed topics of discussion (e.g., race, social class, oppression, too many details about my personal life) and prescribed ways of being (e.g., silent, acquiescent, and if I do speak out it should be intellectualized, articulate, and coherent - not emotive, freeflowing). What is the result of such oppression? I am forced into a catatonic state, immobilized by my fears that what I have to say is wrong, stupid, and irrelevant. My fears are reinforced when I speak out, and I am ignored. When I tell a joke and no one laughs until the White person next to me repeats it. When I make a provocative comment in class and my peers do not address it. When I give my opinion on something based on my intuition and am told that I am so "irrational. When I post a blog and no one responds to it.

Now, I like to think that I am not so self-absorbed to believe that every thought I have and word that I say is worthy of the attention of the world...but for so long I have lived with the feeling that what I have to say and my experiences are of no consequence in the world. Now I am realizing that perhaps my silence does not come from my voice being too weak, insignificant, or faulty, it comes from my internalization of all the messages telling me that it is that it is all those things. It is a result of what it means to be Asian in this society compounded with my experience as a woman. And only in these realizations am I beginning to be liberated from the shackles of oppression. I think that the process will be slow in recovering my voice, and I am trying to find ways in which to form the words to represent my thoughts...I would say like a toddler learning to speak, but I don't think that's appropriate. Yes, I am still acquiring the language to express myself but at the same time I feel that it has always been inside me and struggling to get out. There's a strange, recurring dreamlike experience that I have experienced for the past several years that speaks to this.. In my dream, I feel like I am awake and aware that I am lying in bed. Yet, despite all my efforts, I cannot move, I cannot speak, I cannot wake up. I try with all my energy to kick and scream myself into waking consciousness to no avail. When I find that I am stuck in this state, I am overcome with fear that I will never wake up and that I will fade away into the darkness. I feel that I am now rousing from that sleep...and my fear now is that when I speak, will my voice be heard as an incomprehensible shriek? beyond the register of those around me? taken to be part of the background noise? The only way for me to know is to through feedback and dialogue. I want to know that I'm registering, even if you don't agree or like what you hear.


Elaine said...

Thoughtful post. I can understand your feeling that people don't always listen, don't seem to care (have you looked at the comments section of my blog? It's one 0 after another), etc. Some of it is probably related to prejudging on their part, some is related to an individual's tendency to disproportionately see things in terms of how it relates to him/her. I think we all do that, and so that is why I've always appreciated things like cognitive psychology, b/c it helps to reframe those thoughts.

Otherwise, if it makes you feel better, I often read blogs without commenting. I think a lot of people do that. Keep writing; I find it a great release and a good way to build the skill of effective communication even if no one reads.

Steph said...

Thanks Elaine for your comment. You're definetely right about it being a release. The main thing I was trying to say in this post was how I have felt like my ability to actually engage in that release is held back from a number of sources. I think that the lack of dialogue is definitely a big one, but there are other ways in which my voice is silenced. I think that image is one that resonates with a lot of people who feel invalidated or invisible in our society.