You ever notice how dramatic the difference is between what we think and what we say? Between what we imagine and what we actually do? It's common knowledge that to get by in this world you need to learn how to play the game, act the part, put on the mask. We have so many ways of convincing ourselves it's OK not to be genuine--we can lose ourselves just trying to make it through the day. As George Orwell famously writes, "A man wears a mask, and his face grows to fit it."
I've been thinking of this idea lately, and of course, I've been thinking about how it applies to yoga. There's an essay I used to use in one of my classes by James C. Scott, in which he writes about how people interact with both hidden transcript and a public transcript. Although Scott applies them to the interaction between the poverty-stricken and their imperialist overlords, the terms actually help define what happens to us psychologically on a daily basis.
The hidden transcript are the thoughts we deem too bitchy, too self-conscious, etc to be spoken aloud. For me, with the exception of rants on email chains with a couple of very special friends, most of these thoughts stay firmly inside my head. Therefore, they're hidden--they don't make it to public view. The public transcript is the "edited" version that gets spoken aloud. But in stuffing the hidden thoughts into a corner all day, every day, we can begin to go a little nutty.
Here's a more specific example from just the other day. I was going over a grammar concept in one of my developmental writing classes. One of the students asked a very technical question. We got into the topic a little bit, and suddenly I realized I wasn't going to be able to answer her question. I simply didn't know the answer. Hidden transcript: I'm no grammarian. I have no idea what I'm talking about. I shouldn't be allowed to teach this class. She's looking at me for an explanation of participal phrases! I'm totally fucked!
The public transcript: "What a great question, Student X. But since that topic is so technical and actually beyond what we're discussing now, let's bookmark it and come back!"
The public answer was polite, but I left the class feeling like such a, well, phony. And also tired. I had spent the rest of the class making sure I was on top of my game, as it to make up for my perceived lack of ability.
That's what happens when our inner monologues are incongruent with the face we're supposed to put on for the world. If we put on the mask for too long, we feel like we've stepped out of our mom's or dad's closets wearing clothing too big and too "adult" for us. We pray that no one notices we're just posing, and it exhausts us. Or maybe the mask-wearing just makes us feel irritated. Or want to eat a cookie. Whatever. Point is, there's always a negative consequence when the hidden can never come to the surface.
But in yoga? It's all public. Physically, it's all out there. There's no hiding from the anger or self-consciousness under those fierce florescent lights and brightly-illuminated mirror. I remember the first time I took off my tank top and just wore the sports bra. I held off on doing so for a long time because I have scars on my back that make me insecure about my appearance. But deciding to wear just the sports bra was so freeing.
Emotionally, you're out there too. You can't help but work your edge in Bikram yoga, and when you are giving 110% in a room full of people, you are 110% public. But how healthy--it's even more freeing than taking off the tank top! Everything hidden is brought right to the surface, and you can finally deal with it instead of stuffing it back under the rug. The nuttiness gets quieted down a bit. We can feel less like the kid dressed up in our mother's clothes and more like our own, unique selves.
And now will you ever be able to analyze your thoughts without thinking of the hidden and public transcript? Or was this all just wannabe-intellectual silliness? :-) I know, I know: I really need to go to yoga tonight!