Do you remember when you were Greta?

Reconnecting with the part of us that knew the truth and has yet to be heard

Photograph: Michael Campanella/The Guardian

It finally hit me why I love Greta Thunberg so much. Greta is me.

A friend of mine, while I was processing deep insecurity and inadequacy, when I told her how in awe I was of Greta's dedication to her cause despite the adults that mocked her, said, "I think you were Greta once."

I remember how insane and disconnected the adults that raised me seemed when I was a kid. I remember being horrified by what I learned we were doing to the planet, and to indigenous peoples. I remember being terrified by the adults' unpredictability, and feeling such relief in the presence of trees and animals because they felt sane. And I remember thinking that the world the adults had created made no sense whatsoever. It seemed utterly backwards.

Greta is the clear-eyed child in all of us who could see the insanity of our families, communities, and the world. She is the one in each of us that saw the delusions of the adults and spoke out against it, cried out in horror, and tried to make them stop. But rather than being uplifted, most of us were met with fists, belts, shame, disgust, or isolation. Many of us were abused by the adults in charge of our well-being for speaking out for ourselves and for the vulnerable ones around us. Or we were subtly manipulated out of our grief and horror by being told that everything was, or would be, just fine.

And after being shut down for seeing and speaking the truth, we walked away believing we were the ones that were wrong, so we internalized the same delusions out of necessity, for survival's sake, not because those delusions are at all intrinsic to our being. Those same adults that perpetuated that abuse and indoctrination were forced to swallow the same delusions by those before them, and it goes back as far as we can remember.

Greta resonates with us so widely, so deeply, because we remember when we were her. Maybe some of us can still feel the part of us that is her, and how it aches to be heard. When we listen to Greta and feel that ache, we can heal that same part of us that was abused for knowing and telling the truth by deeply feeling it, by listening to it.

The more I feel the grief around this and notice the longing in me to speak out against the insanity of our culture and the power structures that maintain it, the more I see that empowerment comes when we realize that Greta will not save us. The politicians and the government will not save us. Only when we can be present to our horror and grief - both past and present - the way we are present for Greta as she speaks can we become the fully embodied adults that can truly save ourselves.

Footnote: I was talking to some folks who were claiming she is a pawn used against us by corporate interests, and I think if this all stays unconscious, she absolutely (unwittingly) can be. But if we know how to meet this in ourselves, she becomes a liberator for that part of us and we find a sense of empowerment independent of her.

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