In the fall of 2015, I was invited to speak at Juniata College on the topic of my TEDx talk. In my talk, I explain how to die peacefully. During my explication of the method, I usually mention that it’s very important to love the Bully in your soul. For many members of my audiences, this is a difficult concept to digest. For those not yet familiar with my work, it sounds absurd. I understand this. Yet, even as I know these discomforts exist with my stance, I still rarely, if ever, hear questions about it.
Until I met Addy.
Addy is a person who is a girl. She is white. I think she was (at the time of the talk) about 7 years old. She has artistic flair, a bright curiosity, and a keen mind.
She sat in the front row of the large conference room, with her mother (who is a professor at Juniata). Addy was surrounded by adults. She bounced in her chair a little. She smiled a lot. She had a journal and pencil close by. They were sometimes on her lap, sometimes in her hands, and sometimes on her seat (after she had darted out of it).
I smiled when I saw Addy and her mother. I wondered if she might take notes on what I said. I thought about how cute that would be.
Little did I know, Addy did take notes, in her own way. She taught me, again, not to underestimate the sensitive, wondering, perceptive, complex, powerful souls of people based on their appearance or perceived age.
Addy absorbed more than I imagined. She watched my talk, which is about 14 minutes long. It’s filled with a few key, challenging concepts, delivered in bite-sized pieces. I didn’t realize that, as she watched, she was not only taking in all the information I presented, she was appropriating it into her schema. She was working to understand my big ideas, on her own terms.
Here’s the information she was working with:
During the talk, I explore briefly three caricature manifestations of Self in the Spectrum of Personhood. These manifestations are terrifying for a few different reasons, which I mention briefly, below.
Monster —> The voiceless, brooding, engulfing, embodiment of the type of fear that freezes you.
- Monster comes most often in relation to Anyday deaths. These figurative deaths are triggered by uncontrollable meta-life events such as a scary diagnosis, a debilitating accident, death of a close relative, and other steep, quick, anxiety-producing events.
Bully —> The raging, critical, cruel, taunting embodiment of the type of fear that shrinks you.
- Although these manifestations can come in any order, given numerous variables of person and circumstances, Bully comes most often in relation to Someday deaths. These figurative deaths are mainly relational. They are a reaction to the end of a romantic relationship you thought was going to go the distance, the dissolution of a close friendship you thought would last through thick and thin, or a breakdown of communication with parents or siblings that seems irreparable.
Temptor —> The soft, slick, wispy, whispering embodiment of fear that confuses you.
- Temptor comes most often in relation to Everyday deaths. These figurative deaths are social, incremental, random, and developmentally sensitive. They happen when we experience relational microaggressions (which I explore in my first book, The Revelations of Asher). Relational microaggressions happen when we pick up on slights and degradations in everyday personal and professional relationships. They also happen when we encounter social microaggressions such as racism, sexism, and ableism in personal and professional relationships. They are plentiful, demoralizing, and often imperceptible to those who are not marginalized in multiple ways or otherwise subject to them on a regular basis.
In the talk, I mention ways to manage the manifestations of Monster, Bully, and Temptor. I share a hint of the methodology I’ve developed to facilitate the socioemotional processes they signify, and the figurative deaths they represent and inflame.
During the talk, I describe their presence as rising up in the soul and creating signs in the body that we can read. Through my physical gesturing and positionings, I show the importance of kinetic modalities – body movements – in treating and healing terrors. Maybe because of the language or imagery I use, one can imagine that Monster, Bully, and Temptor are encroaching from one’s exterior. One might imagine that they are the presence of a sorrowful, worried physician, a disrespecting colleague, and unknowing “enemy.”
These manifestations of Self are confusing for precisely that reason. They act like an Other.
However, Monster, Bully, and Temptor are not Others.
They are You.
They are Me.
They are Us.
They are the disparate parts of us, the fragmented selves that make up our wholeness, inflamed with the above named t/Terrors (and many, many others).
Addy realized this. She got it.
When I clarified this point, I also said that it’s very important to love your bully. After my talk, Addy raised her hand with boldness. She looked me directly in the eyes. When I called on her, she stood up. She moved a little closer to me, so that I could give her a microphone. Then, she asked her question:
“Dr. Staples, in your talk you said we have to learn to love our bully. Why do we have to do that? How do you do that?”
Addy! I liked her immediately.
In short, this is what I told her:
Loving Your Bully (i.e. You, Me, Us) means loving in totality, radically, without exception, or excuse. Loving Your Bully (i.e. You, Me, Us) means practicing agape, phileo, and eros from the inside/out. Loving Your Bully (i.e. You, Me, Us) means speaking with compassion, respect, even gratitude to the part of you that rages, curses, accuses, and distracts.
Cool water quenches raging fires.
When You love your Bully (i.e. You, Me, Us) —-> extending absolute compassion to the wounded part of you that needs desperately to be seen, heard, and healed by You <—- Supreme Love can take root and manifest.
Thank you, Addy, for asking the questions.
Jeanine Staples is Associate Professor of Literacy and Language, African American Studies, & Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the Pennsylvania State University. Her book, The Revelations of Asher: Toward Supreme Love in Self, is an endarkened, feminist, new literacies event (Peter Lang, 2016). In it, she explores Black women’s t/Terror in love. She produces research-based courses and methodologies that enable marginalized girls and women to realize internal revelations that fuel external revolutions.
Dr. Staples’ next book details the evolution of her acclaimed undergraduate course, The Philadelphia Urban Seminar. In it, she explores Supreme Love in schools. She shows how she generates curriculum and methodologies that incite anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-ableist pedagogical stances among teachers interested in urban education and equity for all people in schools and society.