Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am?
I was introduced to this book by Dr. John Powell during my Sophomore year in College in a class called Personality Development. Little did I know at the time that it would have a profound impact on my life and I can safely say on the lives of countless others who I have met through the years. More on that point later.
“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” – Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am, page 12.
Before sharing a few points below regarding why I think it is a great read and that every person should read this booklet at least once in his or her lifetime, I’d venture to say that outside of wanting to be loved, being understood is a close second and experiencing safety is third in line.
For me, I really needed help in all 3 of those areas, especially during those turbulent college years of my life. I needed to learn how to love myself and others appropriately. I also needed to learn how to understand what feelings were, then share my feelings, which helped me to then communicate “who I am” much more clearly to others than I was doing, in order to experience being understood.
I also needed to learn how to be a safer human being versus “playing” harmful games and repeating unhealthy roles that Dr. Powell described in the “category of games and roles” section of the book. It wasn’t an overnight process, as I’m sure my classmates could attest, but eventually the insight from the book (and the class) took to me, and I’ve been a convert regarding the benefits that a person could achieve if they took some time to read the 167 page book. Over the last 35 years, I must have purchased it well over 50 times, then “loaned” it to others, and if given another 35 years, I’d be more than happy to repeat if not surpass those totals. Dr. Powell’s book rocks folks!
“There is no fixed, true and real person inside of you and me, precisely because being a person necessarily implies becoming a person, being in process. If I am anything as a person, it is what I think, judge, feel, value, honor, esteem, love, hate, fear, desire, hope for, believe in and am committed to. These are the things that define my person, and they are constantly in process, in the process of change. Unless my mind and heart are hopelessly barricaded, all these things that define me as a person are forever changing” – Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am, page 8.
So here are a few more reasons regarding why I’d like to recommend the book to you:
1) We all want to be understood, but self-disclosure is really hard to accomplish sometimes: Many of us fear the possibility of being misunderstood or even rejected if we open up to others: “If I expose my nakedness as a person to you, do not make me feel shame” (page 10). Although none of us wants to be rejected or shamed for who we are, what I learned in the book is that my fear was anchored in my “younger ego state” (emotionally and cognitively falling back into an age range between 8 – 12) which was programmed to think any encounter I’d have with others was doomed to fail, therefore I was a failure.
What helped me to “deprogram” and overcome my fear and this “failure schema” was to “develop and grow” my loving, healthy “Functional Adult” (the wiser and maturer part of me who is actually my chronological age) who could nurture, coach and “come to my assistance” at any time, which helped me to put an end to the negative self-talk, come from behind the wall and open up to others for my own good.
2) There are 5 different Levels of Communication, that I could either use to help me to disclose who I am or, to “hide out” on and continue to be superficial. Learning about these different levels of communication was invaluable. The levels are in descending order of importance:
- Level 5 – Cliche, in which almost no amount of self-disclosure about who I am occurs (i.e., “Hi how are you? Fine, and how are you?”).
- Level Four – Reporting the Facts, in which I reveal a little more about what I like, but its only factual and anyone could report having the same likes/thoughts (i.e., “I like the LA Lakers and enjoyed living there during the Showtime era and during most of the Kobe Bryant era”).
- Level Three – My Ideas and Judgments, where I reveal a little more about who I am, but like Level Four, these could also be ideas and judgments that others hold just as well (i.e.,“This has got to be the craziest election campaign that I have ever seen. I can’t wait to see this election cycle on CNN’s ‘Race for the White House'”).
- Level Two – Gut Level Communication, where I share with you exactly who I am, because I share my feelings attached to my ideas and judgments, values, etc., and my feelings are exactly mine and mine only (i.e., “I feel so much joy when I think about my wife and son; I feel really blessed and proud to be her husband and to be his Dad”).
- Level One – Peak Communication, which is likely to occur when you and another (your partner or a close friend) experience such a connection you may not even need to use words, (i.e.., during times of grief or during times of love making).
Since we don’t live in those times permanently (Level One), Dr. Powell encourages us to try to live in Level Two, Gut Level communication about our feelings. Trying to operate at Level Two communication ensures that at the very least you’ll position yourself to be known by others authentically. Click here for a listing of “Emotion and Feeling Charts” which could prove to be helpful as you work to identify your feelings and emotions.
3) Learning how to deal with my Anger was just as valuable, as Dr. Powell suggests that I (we):
- Become Aware of my emotion, that is, learn to read my “emotional thermometer.”
- Admit it to myself (and the other involved) that I’m angry, versus denying it.
- Investigate my emotion, that is, where did it originate and what’s my part in it?
- Report my emotion to (the) others involved, so I could take responsibility for what I own.
- Integrate my emotion, that is, what did I learn about me, my emotions, you, conflict and how to resolve conflict?
Learning how to think, feel, manage and communicate my emotions in this manner proved to be very beneficial for me and for others who I shared this material with.
4) The Catalog on Games and Roles was very revealing, enlightening and helpful, as I was able to see how I (and not taking the Inventory of others but they…) lapsed into roles and played games (which he defines are not for fun) that harmed my ability to know my self or to be known by others.
“These games have one thing in common, no matter how different they may seem; they mask and distort the truth about the one most important thing that I could share with you: myself. I must ask myself: Which of these games do I play? What am I seeking? What am I hiding? What am I trying to win?” – Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am, page 121.
Some of the games and roles I identified with are:
- “Always Right” – I didn’t handle my anger well; Losing meant defeat and defeat meant failure so self- and other deception in order to win prevailed. What a mess!
- “The Crank” – I demonstrated such a low frustration tolerance with myself and others and I projected my “dis-ease” upon others when they unfortunately came too close.
- “The Drinker/Dope Addict” – I escaped reality into the fantasy world via drink and drugs because I did not feel comfortable around others and in my own skin.
- “Inflammable: Handle with caution” – I had a short fuse and I made loud noises to sound off about things when the powder keg blew. I told you I needed a lot of help!
- “Resentfully Yours” – As Dr. Powell stated, I looked for a scapegoat to cast my hurt and harm onto. I knew there were some legitimate injustices that I experienced but the way I “handled” them were maladaptive at best. As I stated earlier, the Anger section helped immensely!
Dr. Powell elaborates on 37 “games” in total, and truth be told, I could identify with many more of these. Today, I’m just glad I can recognize them and choose to do something a lot more constructive with my energy, that leads to problem resolution versus sweeping the conflict under the rug.
5) My last reason for getting this book is that I have personally seen how it has changed the lives of others. You know that experience, when you open up with someone or pass along a “tool” that could help them, and they come back and report that they finally understood how to use the tool for their personal benefit.
I have seen people who were homeless, college students, people in drug court, in residential treatment, religious and spiritual people, old and young people, as well as friends and family members “get it” after reading this book. It is readable and understandable. Thank you Dr. Ron Rife for your insistence that I purchase and read Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am. It has changed my life and many others!
Let me close this post with a cool story about the book. In 2000 I was working as the Clinical Director at Homeless Health Care Los Angeles. I was in the conference room getting ready to facilitate a Parenting Group when in walks a woman who had among her books Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am?
Seeing the easily recognizable cover, I asked her what she thought about it, which she said it was helping her. I in turn told her how it helped me and that I’d recommend it to anyone. As I moved closer to her, I could see something even more recognizable on the cover: “Please return this to Ken McGill” written in size 72 pt. font, which was what I began writing on the cover.
Further discussion revealed that she had received the book from someone who I “loaned” it to when I worked for the Union Rescue Mission some 4 years earlier! Needless to say, I encouraged her to pass along the book to someone else who she thought could benefit from it, and I trust she did. Funny how God works sometimes huh?
My hope is that if you’re struggling with the question of Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am, then I hope you’ll secure the book, read it, then (give or) loan a very valuable resource to them that I’m sure will help them as well.
Thanks much, Ken M
Ps – I ordered 2 more books yesterday. If you’re in Dallas and wish to check out a book from my library, I’ll be glad to provide a great loaner title to you!
Thanks for visiting and please visit the other blogs written by Dr Ken McGill: Daily Bread for Life and “3 – 2 – 5 – 4 – 24″ for additional information that could be helpful. I welcome your comments below or via email and your favorites, your retweets and your “+1’s” if you have a brief moment and find the information helpful, please pass along a rating or review of my book “Daily Bread for Life, Vol. 1 in the Amazon bookstore. Again, it is my desire to provide the very best info for your consideration.
TeleHealth/Video counseling sessions are available for those who prefer to meet online – Dr. McGill
Quite by happenstance, I read my notes from this book this morning. You loaned it to me over a year ago, October, 2014. After reading my notes, I knew I wanted to read it again! I’ll purchase this time.
pg. 9: Please do not give be a batting average, fixed and irreversible, because I am in there constantly taking my swings at the opportunities of daily living. Approach me then with a sense of wonder . . . .
Thank you for loaning to book to many, and I’m sure MANY are grateful that you have approached them with a sense of wonder rather than assigning batting averages. I certainly know that I am.
Thank you Nancy for your commitment and work and grow in your ability to love God, love yourself and to love others. I so respect your dedication to health at all costs!
I really enjoyed reading this post and got SO inspired! Thank you so much!!
I was wondering if by any chance you have pdf version of the book “What i am afraid to tell you who i am” that you may share with since i’m not able to order it online considering the country i’m living in.
I feel it may change my life as it already changed many.
My email is: firstname.lastname@example.org just in case you have the opportunity to share resource with me.
[…] 5. UNGUARDED FREEDOM to be COMPLETELY HONEST with another. We can legitimately self-disclose to 1 other or in a safe group, & they reciprocate. We share our deepest dreams, fears hopes & emotions, because the risk factor is no longer an issue. Each side have proven to be available & caring & reliable, so it’s OK to trust. (“My deepest secret is….”) From John Powell […]