My Tribe

It took a variety of personal tools for me to survive the idea of cancer. A cancer diagnosis is difficult to live with because it holds the possibility of your own death up to your face every day, without fail. After the initial shock and the sheer force of emotional will required to process it, you are faced with the slow torture of doubt, fear, and the relentless shadow of recurrence, even if you are currently cancer-free. But there is hope!

Experiencing my own mortality as a daily concern has taught me many methods of psychic coping. Psychic here means relating to the soul or mind, not ESP. I’d like to focus on one method that has become more and more valuable as I continue to survive.

I troubleshot my own behavior and habits when I got sick and in that process, I got to know the different forces in my own personality. I see these forces as my Tribe. There is a Trinity, a Tribunal, two outliers who answer to neither, and me, the synthesis of it all, here in the chaos of each moment.

Ultimately, the purpose of this deconstruction is to solve the problems of overwhelm and anxiety with joy and fulfillment. The interaction of my Tribe members is complicated, but understanding them is helping me understand why I do things and how to change what’s harming me.

This diagram shows the various elements of my personality, their spheres of influence, and how they balance each other.

Here are some cursory notes about each Tribe member.

  • Fear: Obvious, visceral, easily triggered, constant. To paraphrase Liz Gilbert, you have to ride with it, but you can’t let it steer.
  • Judge: Sometimes subtly undermining everything I do. Sometimes compelling me to superhuman feats of endurance. I recently made him join Starfleet, so his incessant analysis of my behavior is more productive.
  • Brain: The mechanism of control. Often Fear and Judge’s pawn in the battle to keep me on constant, fruitless, maddening alert. Turned to productive purposes, nothing is more powerful. That’s why, when it’s preoccupied with negativity, it’s incredibly destructive.
  • Witch: The source of my creativity. The one who already knows everything. She went into hiding when I embraced a life of slavery in the name of security. Now, I feel her wings beating against my back. And she is gradually enticing Brain to her cause.
  • Warrior: Power. The power of my words, my actions, my intentions. He is the steel in my spine, passed to me from my mother. He is my presence in the World, as modeled by my father.
  • Acrobat: Somebody has to remember where we parked! Acrobat was unbelievably screwed up by the time I started my transformation. No balance, no sense of how off the center was, mired in a scarcity mentality. She’s better now, but still a little gun-shy.
  • Body: My actual physical self. Body has no voice, only signals like pain or fatigue or the billion ways you can get sick. Of course, it also signals with relaxation, pleasure, and radiant good health. So you definitely reap what you sow.
  • Truth: Truth does not visit often. I see it as a lone rider at the edges of the firelit circle of my psyche. It only speaks when circumstances are dire. Seriously, I’ve only heard “the voice” like four times in my life. When it speaks, I am absolutely certain that it is right. And each time it has spoken, it has been to reassure me that I am enough.

If you’re curious about my Tribe, feel free to ask questions in the comments. The diagram is full of stuff I didn’t talk about here. 😀

2 responses to “My Tribe”

  1. whiskeyinateacup Avatar

    this resonates with me in so many ways but especially your description of witch.


    1. Zen Greenway Avatar

      I’m glad you relate. Yes, the witch is key. She’s the one I really want to be. Her voice is getting easier and easier to hear, which surprises and elates me.


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