Who Am I?
An Essay by Silvia Hartmann
For many years, I had a note by the front door of my house.
It read in big black thick letters:
YOU ARE NOT WHO YOU THINK YOU ARE.
That was a message from my energy mind, from my higher self who knows me better
than I do. It *knew* all along - but it took me 45 years until I finally found
out "what was really wrong with me ..."
When I first started in personal development, I was 25 years old. I wasn't very
happy as a person. What I mean by that is not that I used to sit around and cry
a lot; I didn't. But there was something not quite right and whatever that was
was making me miserable and angry as a general state of being, and all the time.
Twenty years of full out research, 24-7, 365 per annum, approximately 700
therapies and techniques and three paradigm shifts later, and where are we?
That's an interesting question. It's like the "Who am I?" question in that sense
- interesting but difficult to answer.
One of the complaints I regularly get by random folk who come across me and my
work is that I'm too ugly, too fat and clearly too unbalanced to be taken
seriously as an ambassador of mind/body healing.
That used to really, REALLY annoy me.
I used to have all sorts of replies to that along the lines of: "Sorry but I
don't have the time to have lipo suction, plastic surgery, spend hours with
personal trainers, hang around endlessly in beauty parlours, hair dressers and
designer clothes stores, have all my teeth knocked out and fake metal posts with
perfect porcelain drilled into my jaw bones just to please YOU - I've got work
Still, I can't say that it didn't use to bug me.
Here am I, creating the best contribution I can during this lifetime, and all
these fuckers seem to want is some Californian beauty queen so we can all
dissolve ourselves into even more delusion.
What is wrong with these people?
Or, conversely, (for I never fail to be brutally scientific, I just can't help
it ...) what is wrong with ME that I don't get my fat arse down to the gym, get
that extreme make over the seminar attendants are crying out for, PLAY THE GAME
so I can sell more books and go on Oprah?
What If It Was The ONLY Way ...?
In 2000, I saw a pattern of human behaviour which I unconsciously already knew
about but it came to my attention just then. People always pre-suppose that
ANYTHING a person does which is contrary to the then acceptable societal
conventions is in essence, a mental illness or an aberration. Thus the behaviour
is classed as "madness" and put on a heap with all the other behaviours for
which there seem to be no explanation.
Often, if not always, if one turns the enquiry around and says, "What if the
behaviour is actually LOGICAL and CORRECT? What if what they are doing is, given
all the circumstances, THE ONLY POSSIBLE WAY it could possibly be?"
To look at behaviour, one's own or other people's, that is completely consistent
and just can't be changed for love, good money or drugs, at that, especially
over time, you can't just brush it aside and think it is nonsense.
It must have a reason, it must have a JOLLY GOOD reason for being there.
If I look at *my* "beauty behaviour" over time, there is a rock solid foundation
there that won't budge, no matter what you throw at it.
I've tried to change this with jemmies, with energy psychology, with beating
myself up to the point of bleeding, but it doesn't change.
And the other day, whilst watching America's Next Top Model, I got an insight on
what I am dealing with here.
This particular show was all about "who you really are".
The Strong Central Place
The presenter said that as models are constantly made up to be one thing, then
another, it is essential that they should know EXACTLY who they are "when all
the make up and the clothes come off", so they have a safe, central place, a
strong place from which they can operate and to which they can always return
after the photoshoot is over.
If they don't know, they will get lost and they won't be able to stand the
pressures of the business.
It was also explained to the competitors that when a model goes to an audition,
she will have to face a lot of rejection and criticism, because the people who
do the shoot have a certain thing in mind, and when the model doesn't fit,
they'll say things like, "No, she's too tall, her eyes are too close together,
tits not big enough, arse too wide, wrong hair, go away, we can't use you."
There is no malice in that and it means NOTHING about the girl or HER beauty;
it's just a question of matching the objective of the session to a model that
will be correct for that.
There is a converse to this as well. Models need to know exactly who they are in
every way so that they can head for the right auditions, the ones where they
have more chance of fitting in with the artistic vision of the people involved.
I was watching this with fascination and loved it; this is such good advice and
indeed, every young woman should be given it and taken through the psychology
exercises, the psychic reading exercises and the practical exercises and
consultations that lasted all week long and were designed to help the girls find
out "who they really are".
What struck me particularly was one girl who was half Japanese and half
Caucasian. She looked Japanese as well, but she didn't AT ALL think of herself
as having anything to do whatsoever with that genetic ancestry.
It wasn't a question of "rejecting" her oriental ancestry - she just thought of
herself as an ordinary American girl and had never thought of herself as "half
oriental" or even, amazingly, "oriental looking".
She was quite upset when it was put to her that she would obviously not be
competing with Caucasian models for jobs where Caucasian models were asked for,
but that she'd be competing in the "exotic" model market.
We may shake our heads and laugh at the girl and say, "How can she NOT realise
that she's exotic? Oriental? Doesn't it stare right back at her from the mirror,
every time she looks into it?!"
But as I was watching that I began to have a notion that this is far more wide
spread, and covers much more than just genetic heritage.
"Just" Genetic Heritage?
Now it's getting up close and personal.
Until about one year ago, I had NO IDEA of my own genetic and social heritage.
Not consciously, at least; unconsciously, absolutely and I'd been acting in
accord to behaviour that is natural to "my kind" all my life, only I didn't know
that and I just thought I was mad or that there was something seriously wrong
One year ago, all the puzzle pieces that were swirling around in a disconnected
fashion in my consciousness clicked together and I had a revelation. I checked
on the details of this and I was right.
I didn't know this - but I'm half Romany.
Half Romany and half German.
My mother's family are Romany from East Prussia, and in order to save themselves
from being carted off to a concentration camp, they went across country and
underground, pretending to be just poor people in a major industrial city.
I knew my mother was going by a false name but for all those years I had NO IDEA
of her (and thus mine) cultural and social heritage. All I had was the
omnipresent sense that EVERYTHING WAS WRONG and IF ANYONE EVER DISCOVERED WHO
YOU REALLY ARE, YOU ARE DEAD.
Not just you, but your whole line, your whole family, everyone.
It finally all made sense. So much of it. Why I got beaten within an inch of my
life for singing in public. Why any attempt at creativity was met with the most
deepest of rejections you can begin to imagine. Why it was so important that I
should wear shoes at all times that my mother would be beating me hysterically
and screaming insanely if I ever forgot.
Any kind of non-bourgeoisie, Romany behaviour was a red flag for the Nazis to
come and drag us all out of our beds - only that had all ended in reality ten
years before I was born. In my mother's mind, that reality was OMNIPRESENT -
even on her death bed, she would not, could not tell me the truth.
That's what personal development is then.
You find yourself one day in your house, in your garden, and finally, a HUGE
part of your life clicks into place and you find out that you're not who you
think you were at all.
It is extraordinary, really. Sometimes, when people used to bitch about me not
being pretty enough to present EmoTrance in public (and I believed that to be
true, as well, and that is scary beyond measure indeed) I used to say to them,
"You have NO IDEA of the problems I have. NO IDEA what goes on in my mind, in my
body, in my life. How is it that you presume weight loss and stop smoking is
high on my personal development agenda, or even on it AT ALL?"
I'm half Romany. And half German.
I knew this unconsciously.
I once wrote a poem which had the line in it:
"I feel the fascination, know my downfall,
for I'm the rapist and the victim both today."
I also wrote a poem called "The Alien Hunter" (which won a prize because, as the
judges noted, "the feeling of paranoia is so palpable, you can cut it with a
knife") which goes as follows:
The alien hunter is in town.
Tonight, I saw him
at the crossroads,
standing straight and pale.
I've come to tell you:
no more meetings,
no more phone calls.
He discovers one of us
and we are all in peril.
I have always lived in fear
in the shadow of this day.
No matter how sweet the morning,
how colour blessed the night,
below each pleasure,
I've always felt
the dread, below
that fragile veil, below
these furtive lives we lead.
Tonight, the time has come.
The fear is here, the fear
is finally made real;
heart beating, fast breath,
steel strung silence,
The alien hunter's here at last.
And I am strangely glad
that what I feared so long,
has come to pass.
I wrote that in 1996, but now we can see it is a tribute to my heritage and my
experience of childhood. That was my life in Germany, and I suspect it still was
my life in England too, until the moment all the puzzle pieces fell together in
the garden and my Romany heritage was revealed to me in consciousness.
And you know what?
In *my* culture, and for *my* kind, you don't go out and get plastic surgery.
When you're my age, and the head of your own house, responsible for all around
you, you are big, and you are fat.
You don't wear push up bras, and you don't wiggle your arse around any more as
though you were a 16 year old prom queen.
You don't dye your hair.
You look EXACTLY LIKE I LOOK.
But I'm not just Romany.
There is a big strand of me that is also a priest, a shaman. I'm a scientist.
And I'm also a German, an officer, and a gentleman.
Put those things together and you get - ME.
EXACTLY as I am, and EXACTLY how I have presented myself TO myself to try and
tell me that for all these years.
And that, Ladies and Gentlemen, is WHY I couldn't change myself into something
more Louise Hay- or Brandon Bay-like.
They do THEIR cultural thing, but mine is vastly different altogether, other
than in every way, and in every detail of every day.
It is fantastic to think that for all the NLP and Energy Psychology in the
world, "I" could never erase myself.
My mother couldn't either, and by Jove, she tried.
And this business with putting my most personal thoughts and vulnerabilities on
the World Wide Web, search engine optimised and out in the open, for anyone to
Well that's just the kickback from my youth spent in the fear and silence of the
lies about who we were, and what we were about.
Personal development is an extraordinary thing.
I never thought it would be this, or would be THIS GOOD - this deep, this right,
this healing, this reconciling.
To be honest, I still haven't quite gotten my head around all of that.
But I do feel it is a new start, a new beginning, and this time around, from a
very different place.
April 2nd, 2006
Text/Images © Silvia Hartmann 2006