Defining Reality

A demand for women to submit permeates Western culture, underlies our whole understanding of reality. I learned to get along in that reality. But some part of me protested, even after I had been programmed to assume “that’s just how things are.” Working on this book has been a process of uncovering that rebel, who never consented. Whether or not some memory is occluded, that self has been hidden away. Now I want to heal the rift between her and the part that consented, the part that still is programmed, the part that I dislike now.

The wild one, the one who refused to live in consensus reality…. has been nourished by Hecate, dark goddess of crossroads and witchcraft, “she who works her will.”

Paradoxically, my dad encouraged the rebel, though he was enraged when she showed up. He really believed in “thinking for yourself,” but didn’t see how it was inconsistent with his idea of discipline.

Believing consensus reality is consenting to it. The part of me who consented is responsible for karma I now want to change; to do that I need to accept the consenter, as much as I accept the rebel. Not to identify with either of them, but to stop this internal war. To own all of myself, hurting or Shadow or whatever role I take.

When I say the victim is responsible for her karma, I am not absolving the victimizer. By accepting a distorted reality, a victim consents to abuse. But the responsibility for that consent is not the same as the responsibility of the victimizer. The victimizer, an active agent, directly wreaks harm to self and to victim. The victim, only to self. (They both, of course, contribute to the destructive consensus.)

If I consent to being victimized, my karma is building the habits of being a victim. Creating a character, a persona, a psychology, based on fear. All this was my way of coping with the world I grew up in: I am not to blame for the self-destructive results I now dislike — but I am responsible. I did it, I have to deal with the fact that I did it; I am the only one who can heal it.

But it does help to name the elements of the culture that frightened me into consenting.

I have always been afraid of the reality police — the “mental health” establishment that defines the accepted cultural reality, judges people who deviate from cultural norms as defective and forces deviants to conform. I’m scared of being put away as mad, having my rights taken away, being tortured in the name of treatment.

For a long time I have known there’s a lot more than one reality. But for most of that time, I was not able to say this fact to myself — let alone others. During the hiding time I have had an “irrational” fear of being committed to a mental institution, a horror of the reality police. Now I know it is not irrational. If I want to avoid the ministrations of the Reality Police, I must learn to function well in my multiple realities, so that my distress does not attract their attention.