The Untold Want by Whitman

THE untold want, by life and land
                                  ne’er granted, 

Now, Voyager, sail thou forth,
                                  to seek and find.

 

Walt Whitman (1819–1892). Leaves of Grass. 1900.

Please Hear What I'm Not Saying by Charles C. Finn

Please Hear What I'm Not Saying

Don't be fooled by me.
Don't be fooled by the face I wear
for I wear a mask, a thousand masks,
masks that I'm afraid to take off,
and none of them is me.

Pretending is an art that's second nature with me,
but don't be fooled,
for God's sake don't be fooled.
I give you the impression that I'm secure,
that all is sunny and unruffled with me, within as well as without,
that confidence is my name and coolness my game,
that the water's calm and I'm in command
and that I need no one,
but don't believe me.
My surface may seem smooth but my surface is my mask,
ever-varying and ever-concealing.
Beneath lies no complacence.
Beneath lies confusion, and fear, and aloneness.
But I hide this. I don't want anybody to know it.
I panic at the thought of my weakness exposed.
That's why I frantically create a mask to hide behind,
a nonchalant sophisticated facade,
to help me pretend,
to shield me from the glance that knows.

But such a glance is precisely my salvation, my only hope,
and I know it.
That is, if it's followed by acceptance,
if it's followed by love.
It's the only thing that can liberate me from myself,
from my own self-built prison walls,
from the barriers I so painstakingly erect.
It's the only thing that will assure me
of what I can't assure myself,
that I'm really worth something.
But I don't tell you this. I don't dare to, I'm afraid to.
I'm afraid your glance will not be followed by acceptance,
will not be followed by love.
I'm afraid you'll think less of me,
that you'll laugh, and your laugh would kill me.
I'm afraid that deep-down I'm nothing
and that you will see this and reject me.

So I play my game, my desperate pretending game,
with a facade of assurance without
and a trembling child within.
So begins the glittering but empty parade of masks,
and my life becomes a front.
I idly chatter to you in the suave tones of surface talk.
I tell you everything that's really nothing,
and nothing of what's everything,
of what's crying within me.
So when I'm going through my routine
do not be fooled by what I'm saying.
Please listen carefully and try to hear what I'm not saying,
what I'd like to be able to say,
what for survival I need to say,
but what I can't say.

I don't like hiding.
I don't like playing superficial phony games.
I want to stop playing them.
I want to be genuine and spontaneous and me
but you've got to help me.
You've got to hold out your hand
even when that's the last thing I seem to want.
Only you can wipe away from my eyes
the blank stare of the breathing dead.
Only you can call me into aliveness.
Each time you're kind, and gentle, and encouraging,
each time you try to understand because you really care,
my heart begins to grow wings--
very small wings,
very feeble wings,
but wings!

With your power to touch me into feeling
you can breathe life into me.
I want you to know that.
I want you to know how important you are to me,
how you can be a creator--an honest-to-God creator--
of the person that is me
if you choose to.
You alone can break down the wall behind which I tremble,
you alone can remove my mask,
you alone can release me from my shadow-world of panic,
from my lonely prison,
if you choose to.
Please choose to.

Do not pass me by.
It will not be easy for you.
A long conviction of worthlessness builds strong walls.
The nearer you approach to me the blinder I may strike back.
It's irrational, but despite what the books say about man
often I am irrational.
I fight against the very thing I cry out for.
But I am told that love is stronger than strong walls
and in this lies my hope.
Please try to beat down those walls
with firm hands but with gentle hands
for a child is very sensitive.

Who am I, you may wonder?
I am someone you know very well.
For I am every man you meet
and I am every woman you meet.

Charles C. Finn
September 1966

You can read a collection of stories about the poem's impact in Please Hear What I'm Not Saying: a Poem's Reach around the World

Hierarchy of Human Needs

I always thought Maslow's Hierarchy of Human Needs (the colorful 5-layered pyramid we've all seen) completely useless.

Here is the real list, from Charles Whitfield's "Healing the Child Within:"

  1. Survival
  2. Safety
  3. Touching, skin contact
  4. Attention
  5. Mirroring and echoing
  6. Guidance
  7. Listening
  8. Being real
  9. Participating
  10. Acceptance
    Others are aware of, take seriously, and admire the Real You
    Freedom to be the Real You
    Tolerance of your feelings
    Validation
    Respect
    Belonging and love
  11. Opportunity to grieve losses and to grow
  12. Support
  13. Loyalty and trust
  14. Accomplishment
    Mastery, "Power," "Control"
    Creativity
    Having a sense of completion
    Making a contribution
  15. Altering one's state of consciousness, transcending the ordinary
  16. Sexuality
  17. Enjoyment or fun
  18. Freedom
  19. Nurturing
  20. Unconditional love (including connecting with a Higher Power)

This is the list I'll work on. Since finding my real self I've struggled to find out how to feel being real. Knowing I have a real self wasn't enough to be happy. I finally found out how. Some I missed out on growing up (those are in italics). Some I found as an adult. Some important ones I found when I married Becky. Some I discovered in books, some with a therapist. Not done yet.

Giving a Voice to My Real Self

There is one thing my real self never got to ask, because of the rather distant way I was raised: if I let anyone see my real self, "will they still like me?" I felt as a kid that no-one did, especially my parents. Last week I finally let my real self ask that, and now that black thing I was keeping safe inside me, the reason I developed my false self back when I was 5 or so, isn't there any more. It's been sort of blissful since.