January 16, 2009

Afraid to Tell

Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am? by John Powell, S.J. (Tabor Publishing, 1969, ISBN: 0-913592-02-1)

This book was written by:Father John Powell, S.J., retired professor of Theology at Loyola University and author of several introspective books designed to provide insights into the workings of the human mind, including Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am?, Why Am I Afraid to Love?, Will the Real Me Please Stand Up?, A Reason to Live! A Reason to Die!, and Abortion, the Silent Holocaust.

[UPDATE: You may be afraid to tell who you are if, like the author, you are an alleged sex abuser.]

What is in this book: 167 pages of text and images used to explain the answer that the book provides on page 12: “I am afraid to tell you who I am, because, if I tell you who I am, you may not like who I am, and it’s all that I have.” Father Powell examines some of the ways in which we avoid telling each other who we really are, noting that to truly communicate on an authentic level, it is not only necessary to share our judgments such as “I think you are intelligent,”(p.59), but also the emotional reactions accompanying those judgments (e.g., “...and I am jealous,” “...and it makes me ill at ease with you,” “...and I feel the desire to humiliate you.”[p.59]).

What is not in this book: Timidity or ambiguity. Father Powell himself communicates authentically without using overly formal or confusing language. For example, as he explains that in order to relate to one another on the most genuine level of communication we must report our emotions at the time they are being experienced, noting that:

All communication must obviously respect not only the transmitter of the communication but also the receiver who is to accept the communication. Consequently, it could occur that, in the integration of my emotions, my judgment may dictate that this is not the opportune moment to report my emotional reaction. If the receiver is so emotionally disturbed himself that he could hardly be in a receptive mood, and my report would only be distorted somehow by his turbulent emotional state, it may be that I will have to defer this report.(p.78)

Would you recommend this book to Christine McVie? Not really. She wants you to tell her lies. Sweet little lies.

Would you recommend this book to someone in the witness protection program? No, I think that they’re pretty clear on why they don’t want to tell you who they are.

What was interesting about this book? The final chapter’s “catalog of games and roles,” which is completely unlike anything produced by Parker Brothers or Gary Gygax. This catalog describes the roles played by the loner, the hedonist, the poor mouth, the pouter, and the flirt, as well as the reasons behind some of the games that they play to keep us from finding out who they really are. While Father Powell notes that “most girls who play the ‘Sex-Bomb’ game do not do so because they really enjoy genital sexuality or because they are ‘highly sexed.’ It is rather because they feel they have nothing else to offer but a provocative body,”(p.162) he neglects to mention that the Sex-Bomb game is only a game until someone loses an eye. Then it’s eroticism.

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