My sexy, sexy vulnerability

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Last week I watched Iliza Shlesinger’s latest stand up show “Confirmed Kills” on Netflix and she was making a lot of jokes about sexuality and male porn fixation that I found interesting rather than funny. Especially what she said about female vulnerability and how men only think they want strong and independent women but it’s the vulnerability they really want. Think about it. High heels. You can’t run in high heels. Makes him feel in control. Makes her vulnerable. A skinny body – now that’s just oozing vulnerability. Silly, stupid blondes – a vulnerability that makes men feel smarter and better about themselves; “please help me do this because I caaan’t!”, “please help me explain that because I don’t understaaand”. He’ll be happy to help her.

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My most vulnerable looks (2009-2010)

It’s a thing now days for young girls to PLAY stupid in front of boys. I’ve done it. I’ve lived in relationships where that role playing was the foundation of the attraction. This was of course my ‘Lolita’ curse, that I’m dealing with in my art right now.

It was partly my fault – I was looking for security and a authority figure because it was a familiar pattern from my childhood and I had no idea that I could be my own authority figure (my own Goddess). My need to feel comforted during the years with daily PTSD symptoms also played a big part in my Lolita role playing.

My vulnerability has been my most attractive quality – both in my art and writing but also when it comes to men. They have loved it. They couldn’t get enough of it. And their hunger for it almost destroyed me. It mostly attracted narcissistic men or men who wanted to feel powerful. I once had a brief online flirt with an English teacher from Baltimore. He was charming and showed himself vulnerable so he could get to mine. And he did. After a while he started to be cold, harsh and unreliable – and became very domineering. I ended it. After a year he showed up in my inbox with a link and said “I’ve found a girlfriend that I can be myself with and I’ve started living faithfully to who I am”. I didn’t understand what he meant, so I opened the link and it was a blog about their sado-masochistic adventures where he was the dominate partner and she was the submissive one. He had a talent for writing so he made their adventures into little short stories. I read a few. And I felt shocked. He described how he loved cutting her with razor blades while having sex and how she loved being cut, how she enjoyed being fucked while suffering from a stomach flu with a very high fever. It was all about her suffering and the empowerment of his ego. It was so sick. I felt nauseous.

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In one of the posts he described exactly how he got his victims. How he played vulnerable to get under their skin. How he played their vulnerability like a puppet master. I couldn’t believe it. That’s what he had been doing to me! He saw me as a potential victim, during our conversations. Gross.

It wasn’t until I met a similar guy online that I realize that I have to change my behavior in order to stop attracting these abusive men. I stopped being over-vulnerable and started to protect it. I will never stop being vulnerable in my work, but I don’t have to waste my vulnerability on strangers or people who doesn’t deserve it.

My vulnerability is one of my most precious qualities and it isn’t for other people to play around with so that they can feel stronger, smarter or better about themselves. It is sexy because it is me in my most naked form,  it isn’t sexy because it makes me look weak in front of a man. Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. Taking advantage of someone else’s vulnerability to be able to stroke the ego is a weakness. Being unable to be vulnerable is a weakness. Not being able to appriciate vulnerability is a weakness. Judging vulnerabilities is a weakness.

Daring to be vulnerable is beautiful. And real. So fucking real.

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The danger of non-acceptance

I had a little breakthrough in my self-therapy yesterday. Psychological breakthroughs are equally tough to face as they are liberating. It means you have pushed through a wall – and acknowledged something that you haven’t been ready to admit to yourself before and suddenly you are so clear in your mind – and things finally start to make sense.

I'm not a crazy cat lady, I'm the crazy notebook lady! (self-therapy)

I’m not a crazy cat lady, I’m the crazy notebook lady! (self-therapy books)

As I am working with my self-therapy and making research and notes in my notebooks, I often return to the same conclusions, but always with more understanding or new theories which will add something important to the old ones. I gradually build a clear understanding of my own behavior and emotions – and then I can move on and hopefully change from the core out.

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notes from 2013 explaining the main movement of the ‘dance of death’

One thing that I keep coming back to is my theoriy about the dance of death (the destructive relationship, see older post here). I’ve filled notebook after notebook with theories and illustrations about the cycles of abuse and psychological submission/dominance.

The basic foundation to the dance of death is one person feeling submissive to another who’s acting like a victim that the submissive person is trying to rescue but being dominated and damaged in the process – and ends up a real victim (and the abuser won’t recognize or acknowledge the process of this dance which leaves the submissive person feeling lonely and powerless or doubting the whole experience).

A simple movement of a bad cycle going round and round but each time becoming more toxic and damaging for the person who’s trying to rescue the other (and the fantasy of what it COULD be like if the other person would change their behavior). A base for co-dependency.

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This is the first step in getting caught in a destructive relationship – and the reason why many women stay with men who abuse them (or vice versa). But there’s more. Here is a ‘destructive ladder’ I’ve found in my work yesterday:

  1. Lack of acceptance. I could not accept that the person I loved (and the victim I wanted to rescue in them) could ever abuse me or use psychological manipulation to put me down, to force me into a submissive position, to blame me for their damaging behavior etc, because that meant that I had to leave. The thought of leaving scared me so much that I’d much rather accept being treated badly. Because the abuser doesn’t want to take any responsibility for their actions or words – and their damaging behavior, I was left with all the guilt, shame and the heavy responsibility of blame. That makes it even harder to accept that the relationship is toxic and leaving the ‘victim’ I was trying to rescue is very difficult when you feel responsible. The lack of acceptance made me stay and paradoxically accept the abuse .
  2. Expectations. Instead of accepting reality, that I was being abused, I turned to my expectations that things would get better or that the person would change, that they would come around and understand what they’ve done and apologize, that I could change them and make them see just how toxic their behavior was, that they would suddenly be full of remorse and regret and cry and promise never to repeat their abusive behavior. Of course that never happened. The lack of acceptance made me stay and accept their abuse and the expectations of a future time where everything would be alright, would make it even harder for me to quit the dance of death.
  3. Responsibility / Guilt. Because I wanted my expectations to come true, I had to carry the responsibility all alone and not make anything worse by saying the wrong thing, by being confrontational or provocative, I had to adjust my own behavior and censor myself to not make the abuser angry or more hateful. Here is where I would lose myself completely to THEIR expectation of who I should be to them and the guilt I felt for being who I really was made me even more submissive and cemented my role in the dance of death even stronger.
  4. Blocking out negative emotions. Because of I had to live up to their expectations of how I should behave, what I could or could not say or do, to make them comfortable and happy enough so that they would live up to MY expectations of them (to stop being abusive and start being empathetic and loving), and because I refused to accept the real nature of the relationship, I had to block out the negative emotions in order for the ‘lie’ of the dance to go on. This repressing process of real and powerful emotions is very damaging and leads to a disassociative state, memory loss, depression, separation of the self and makes the dance of death seem natural and normal. It will take a long time to reclaim all these emotions if a dance would ever end.

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And it’s not easy to disrupt the cycle or end the endless rotation of the dance. But I did, more than once. If I’d only accepted the reality of the situation and the destructive nature of the relationship, I wouldn’t have stayed in the dance.

This is one of the most important discoveries I’ve made in my self-therapy so far.

The season of pain

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It’s been one of the worst summers of my life. I’ve been dealing with so many different kinds of pains. First the pain of what’s going on in the world – there is so much pain and fear right now with terrorism, increasing of rape cases, especially in groups of men, demagogues and dangerous political drama. But I’ve also endured physical pain. Emotional pain, stirred up by my self therapy (but necessary in order for me to continue my inner journey). But then there’s the pain of knowing that my second trauma is in a way still on going. I don’t talk about this in public because it can hurt people close to me, but even if I don’t talk about it, it’s still there. I’ve learned how to live with it and the pain is mostly about not understanding why. I’ve let got of both shame and guilt, they don’t belong to me. They never did. But it’s this little word “why” that keeps haunting me. To not being able to understand something difficult is not easy to accept. The heart needs closure. And to give up looking for an answer is definitely the best way to heal. That is extremely hard to do. It’s so hard to accept that there aren’t any answers and looking for them is pointless. Trying to figure out why someone hates you, why you are not good enough for them, why they think you deserve to suffer like that, why you are stuck with all the pain while they can live their lives without being bothered by what they’ve done or the consequences of their actions and the lack of responsibility.

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But when I think about it, I don’t think they are happy and living their lives without any pain. I think people who hate other people hate themselves even more. I think these people know more pain than their victims, but in order to survive they project their pain and suffering onto other people. If they wouldn’t hate other people, who would they be? If they didn’t feel superior to other people – how would they feel about themselves?

The most toxic relationships are often between an empath who’s trying to rescue a wounded soul but being the object of projected self hatred and pain. The empath becomes a victim of a dangerous dance of wanting to rescue the wounded soul but end up with a wounded soul because of the dance itself. You can’t rescue other people if you are trying to rescue yourself through them – and you can’t hide from your own pain by inflicting pain in others. It’s that  simple.

Because once they stop hating you, they are faced with their shame, guilt, self loathing – and their unbearable pain. But there is a way out of it, and it’s by facing it. By wanting the dance to end. By surrendering to the reality of things instead of hiding. Instead of escaping into numbing and separating the mind from the soul. Daring to be vulnerable is the key. Daring to be naked in front of oneself – without judging, without feeling shame.

So I wouldn’t trade my pain for theirs. I wouldn’t even trade it for their lack of pain for hurting me. But I do want closure. Whatever it looks like. Accepting that they won’t ever be vulnerable enough to be held accountable for their actions. Accepting that they aren’t strong enough to do that, and I can’t do anything about it. Accepting the feeling of helplessness and powerlessness when it comes to resolving the situation. Accepting the waste of years being part of the toxic dance and allowing them to treat me like a door mat. Accepting that I deserve happiness, success, love, pleasure and freedom, in spite what they think I deserve (which is basically nothing). Accepting that I can’t change another person or make them see what they’ve done or who they are. Accepting that the pain they have caused has helped me become who I am today and feeling grateful for being strong enough to make something good out of it instead of becoming a slave to it. I will never be a slave to my own pain. I want to cut it off and let it go. Maybe one day I’ll be ready to do that or perhaps it’s a slow process and I’m already working on it, what do I know.

Feeling hated is difficult and painful but I imagine it’s nothing compared to what it must be like hating oneself. I am finally in a place in my life where I accept myself for who I really am – and I am able to love myself without feeling shame. It’s a big victory for me – and from here I’ll be able to deal with whatever life throws at me, because I know when something is happening because of me or because of other people’s weaknesses and shortcomings. I used to take on the responsibility for everything, even for things that had nothing to do with me. If someone would hit me, I would think it happened because I was being difficult, that I probably deserved it and that it was my fault, not theirs.

Now I know exactly what belongs to me and what doesn’t. And it makes it easier to live with the pain of being hated and punished for who I am. It’s not my fault. It’s not my responsibility. It’s not my problem. It’s not my choice. It’s not my place to ask why.

Even if this has been a crappy summer, I will make the following months the best autumn of my life. The season of pain is over.

All the different versions of me

With old boyfriends, photos from 1999-2011
Since my [re]birthday earlier this week, I’ve been thinking a lot about who I used to be and all the different versions of me that I played like roles in my relationships, love affairs, at workplaces and in front of myself. I think I will create a collection of face masks, I want to explore this in my art as well as in this post.
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Self-portrait, 2011

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I don’t think I’ve fully understood until now, just how deeply we are influenced by other people’s visions of who they believe (or want) us to be. When we enter a new relationship, we also enter a new lifestyle – and a brand new self-image, mirrored through that lifestyle and the eyes of our lovers. We are upgraded in our latest understanding of love as well as our position in another person’s life. It’s a dangerous illusion of self-perception. We adjust our behavior to fit the perception. We feel like we are starting over. But are we? It’s been such hard work to redefine myself after the last break up, where I also broke up with everything I knew about myself and the world. It’s a different clean slate now than when I jumped directly from one toxic relationship into the next. It used to feel so new in the beginning of each relationship – but I was only numbing reality and adding more self-deception to myself. I wasn’t contemplating or allowing myself ask those important questions: “When I feel like I can be myself with this person – am I really being myself or am I being their perfect version of me?”, “Are we equals or am I submissive or in a strange position?”, “Is this really me or is this who I wish I could be?”
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I have been so many things to my old boyfriends and lovers. I used to be someone’s punching bag, someone’s mirror, dog, nurse, child, sister, nanny, whore, therapist, life coach, piece of furniture, toy and muse.
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Here is a collection of a few voice recordings which was part of an audio correspondence between me and a lover, a married man, in 2014. This is not who I am anymore – but it was who I once was. It fascinates me.
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They were all versions of me, but at the same time, none of them were me, not really. It is fascinating. It reminds me of the “self-portraits” of Cindy Sherman. I love her work and the way she’s exploring themes like identity and self-perception. She’s both the photographer and the subject matter but they’re not self-portraits. Even though the collection of these false self-portraits creates the most true self-portrait ever made. Identity is so much more than who we are on the inside. The metaphysical sense of self and the physical body can both separate and reconnect – match each other or be like strangers to one another. We can feel close to ourselves or lost. Weak or strong. Adrift or grounded. Like a winner or a loser. There is duality and unification. Inadequacy and perfection. We can be all that, but never at the same time. We are colored by the choices we make, the people we let inside our hearts and minds – and by the way we mirror ourselves in other people and in different contexts. We can be many things to both ourselves and to other people, but our core stays intact and will never change – and we forget about that sometimes. When we are lost in life or in ourselves, the journey back to the core may be long and painful, but it leads to enlightenment and gratitude. It’s hard to get lost after that kind of awakening. It has totally changed my life and the way I allow other people to add to my shape (but never reshape me). A very few people are allowed to be an influence of how I look at myself now. My core and my own eyes have helped me redefine who I really am – to myself alone. The rest is not important. I will always be a thousand different versions of myself to other people but it doesn’t mean anything to me anymore. It’s like that quote; “What other people think of you is none of your business”.
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Works by Cindy Sherman:
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From my diary in 2013:
“I am a starving lioness, I’m the headwind that slows everything down, I’m a tree that’s growing, I am an actor moaning, dying on stage, I’m the sun, I am the light, I am the beast who could tear you apart, I’m the sleeping beauty, a dying swan, I’m a porn star under your mattress, I am the secret you forgot, I’m the freak, a fragment that doesn’t fit anywhere,  I’m trash, I’m a glass of water someone spilled, I am a worm, I am the apple, I am the death and the shadow on your back, I’m magic, the moon and the planet you sit on when you’re lost, I’m the machine, I’m yours, I’m mine, I’m here, I’m gone, I’m the camera on the wall filming myself, I’m the cat with a hundred eyes, I’m the hole, a monster, I’m Lolita, I’m the girl in mirror, its surface and the nail it hangs on, I am a sin, and the hair in your lasagna, I’m alone, I’m the fire and ashes in your computer, I’m the neighbor that looks like a box, I’m a ventriloquist, I am the price you won at some point, I’m under, I’m over, I’m the scent of a tear, I’m a cloud, fickle and fragile, I am a roaring volcano, I’m almost done, I am dissolved, I’m everything outside myself, I am a thought, I’m an astronaut, I am the memory of a blonde, I’m a burn, I’m an electrical shock, a button, I am life.”

Building an invisible house

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I made this image to illustrate my process of self-empowerment

I’m taking big steps in my self therapy – which I will refer to as ‘self-empowerment’ from now on. I am on a different journey now than during the years I lived with the PTSD where the cruel symptoms ruled my every day life.

During my abusive marriage, 2003

I might not be the smartest person in the world, I might not know much about anything really – but I am an expert when it comes to the process of losing the connection to oneself – and finding a way back. It’s been taking me about 15 years to accomplish that.

My old journey was to overcome PTSD and my new journey is all about reclaiming life and the power I lost to other people by accepting (and encouraging) a submissive position.

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2009

It all comes down to vulnerability. For a long period of time, I was trapped in various situations where it was forced on me from many directions. Vulnerability became the texture of my identity – and so also the visual expression of myself. I couldn’t see it. I was busy reliving trauma every day because of the PTSD (that I didn’t knew I suffered from at the time). But the vulnerability was the only thing I could offer men in relationships, I confused it for warmth and love – and so I attracted the narcissists, the aggressive ones, the assholes, the ‘strong silent’ men without any empathy – and the broken souls in denial with a tough exterior to overcompensate for their own vulnerability issues.

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2010

I payed the price for their repressed pain or for their lack of emotions – and I let them. I gave them my vulnerability as a currency so they could buy my loyalty, love and sexuality with it, over and over, without losing any of their own currency. I cared so much, they didn’t care at all. I risked my life for them, they neglected me and took no risks at all. I thought that love would either ‘make me or break me’ – they thought of me as a submissive addition to their lives which had no real influence on their hearts. Indifference is a perfect armor, it allows no emotional risks at all. I can’t relate to it  – it’s a blind spot for me. I was an easy target for their selfish conquests when it came to what my vulnerability was worth – and  how it was perceived. They were addicted to it – and it made me look weak so they could look stronger, better and smarter.

Therefore, the first step to self-empowerment is self-forgiveness. I have forgiven myself for being so careless with my vulnerability and for letting men do whatever they want with it.

And with self-acceptance – where I am accepting both my weaknesses – and seeing my vulnerability as something precious that I have to protect and maintain (which, ironically, makes it shrink) and my strengths and resources (where vulnerability is a great one if handled with care) – I have a good foundation for what I need to achieve success, happiness and self-fulfillment.

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2015

It’s not a random coincidence that my recent artworks all have houses in them – and that I registered my new website as “The House of Mia Makila”. I am slowly building an invisible house around myself – a protection of inner strength and an uncompromising integrity – an empowerment of everything I am – to myself and to the world.

Iceland (digital)

Iceland (digital)

Boundaries

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[photo found on tumblr]

I’ve been faced with some setbacks lately. I’m disappointed in myself and it feels like I am failing. It’s one step forward, two steps back at times; the self-doubts are seeping into my mind again and I lose the connection to myself. It happens when I am around “power people” – people who wants to exert their power over me to feel better about themselves. Because of the PTSD – and the toxic relationships in my past, I am highly intolerant to this personality type.

I am a strong person, I am celebrating who I am and I never want to be something I’m not – and yet this is happening, over and over again. I lose myself in their vision of who I should be – submissive, quiet, a puppet for them to control, without a voice of my own – and who can’t stand up for myself even though I am so good at doing that in so many other areas of  my life.

It’s something with these power people,  the narcissistic personality type with no empathy or emotional intelligence, and me. Like a dangerous chemical reaction. I don’t know what happens. Why my boundaries all of the sudden are melting, bouncing or expanding so that they can do things to me that I don’t like without me responding to it. I hate this. I need to find a way to keep my boundaries intact around these power people, even if they are hungry to destroy them so they can control me or use me to fill whatever need they have in themselves, to feel superior or to feel in control – or both.

The worst thing is that this is totally distracting me from making art and enjoying my new relationship and the happiness it brings to my life. My PTSD symptoms are back.

But the good thing is that I’m aware of the dynamics between me and the power people, and  I am willing to work hard to keep my boundaries intact. At least I can see when it’s happening and I feel how wrong it feels – it’s unnatural for me to be submissive even though I am following a destructive behavioral pattern that happens when I am forced into that role.

I need to be more selfish – and to grow a tougher skin.

And I need to make art, I feel lost without it. I will start on a new project – tonight.