I See Your Power Play and Raise You an Open Heart

Interactions that are routine for many can be unusually difficult for me. The interpretation of aggression in written exchange can spin me right into the earth. Any context-lacking comment on Facebook, a tagged tweet, a cryptic text message . . . I prefer talking face to face and with individuals who are able to meet me at a common place of understanding, who are willing to consider what I have to say without first applying it to themselves. But I prefer to avoid everyone else face to face in order to protect my vulnerability. Compassionate communication requires an open heart and honesty.


It’s hard not to lock my heart back up even knowing what a painful way that is to live. 

This is an imperfect skill for me, but I have worked so long on this style of connection it is all the more shocking when individuals do not receive my communications as compassionate. I feel tossed in the wind and have to scramble to find my feet. Being a survivor is like that. A light breeze can sweep your legs out from under you. You find yourself splayed out while everyone else gapes with incredulity.

I want to talk about being grounded. Being rooted to the earth. Having firm footing from an emotional or spiritual perspective which plants you firmly in the physical realm.

Why is it so quick for me to lose my footing? For me, it is an issue of survival. The best way to be grounded is to be confident. I am plenty confident in myself. I am plenty confident in the earth. I lack confidence in the people surrounding me. I do not trust others to understand what I am saying and to not try to hurt me. Again, when I am talking I am open and honest. I am vulnerable on purpose. And yes, I have had people take advantage of that. When I stutter, for example–when I get caught in a mental loop and am unable to find my verbal footing–friends and loved ones talk over me. They feel free to do so because I am unable to speak for myself. This happens with all manner of people.

Especially privileged people, and especially especially privileged people who recognize their privilege but consider themselves sensitive and believe others must see them that way. Individuals vulnerable not from their hearts, but from their egos.

These people frighten me the most. They have all the power in this world and choose not to see how they use it against those of us less privileged. They demand we are grateful and punish us when we are not by tightening the ropes of their privilege around us to hold us outside, to keep us other, lower, contained while they rehabilitate their belief in their moral superiority to others like them, but especially to Others like me.

My survival is physical, racial, religious, female, sexual, intellectual and successful. If you are like me, we must stop requesting the world step down and help each other step up even as we step on.

To my fellow mental health, survivor, writing, special needs parents, self-care and life writers (and more! If you see yourself here, you too.), I offer a hand to help you stay tethered. Let’s only get swept up together.

Shawna Ayoub

Shawna Ayoub is an essayist, fiction writer, poet and instructor with an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University. Some of her work has been published in The Manifest-Station, Role Reboot, [wherever], The Huffington Post, The Oxford Review and Exit 7. Her writing explores the intersections of race, place and survivorship. She writes with honesty about her own experience in order to transform pain.

6 Discussion to this post

  1. You certainly have a way with words. I was emotionally touched. Usually when I am in a situation where other feel the need to talk over me I shut down especially if they are loud. “Toss in the wind” my dislike for any confrontation. Leave my confidence level low.

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  2. I am a straight white man. You cannot get much more privileged than me. I really appreciate what you’ve said here, especially about heart vs. ego. I would love to hear from you if you feel I’m losing sight of my privilege. I want to support you, not get in your way. Thank you.

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  3. Charli Mills says:

    “Especially privileged people, and especially especially privileged people who recognize their privilege but consider themselves sensitive and believe others must see them that way. Individuals vulnerable not from their hearts, but from their egos.” Well said! That frightens me, too as I have had much to overcome in my life and I’m at a place where I can see how hard it is for others to rise up without help. We need to create a synergy of love and kindness. Be open to curiosity about one another, find connections and relevancy. It really isn’t that hard to do with an open heart.

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  4. elainemansfield says:

    Thank you for sharing your soul and having the courage to speak out, Shawna. I’m a privileged woman in outer ways, but that doesn’t save me from being tossed into the Underworld where I deal with events and experiences far beyond ego control. I’m freaked out by the toxic political and ecological situation in this world. I use Nature to ground myself on the Earth and the goodness here. For example, the tallest red pine tree in my forest is my vertical axis. I imagine it before meditation or when I’m doing something scary like giving a talk or a radio interview. My inner tree is grounded and rooted in my feet. I reach up to the heavens with my arms, heart, and voice. That old pine has withstood a few centuries of life. It knows something about staying calm in a storm.

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