Define: Sovereignty

September 18, 2009  |  essays, journal entries

A few weeks ago, Miss Calico tweeted about the craziest thing in her feedreader. For obvious reasons, neither she nor I would call most of the sex stuff that I’m sure we both read on a daily basis “crazy,” so what does that leave really? LOLcats? Perez Hilton?

Well … one of my indulgences, which I’ve mentioned before, is that little stepchild genre of self-help (which I stand by is a combination of spirituality, psychology, and philosophy, some of my favorite topics), and there are of course an abundance of blogs writing on those kinds of subjects. Most of them never stick around in my reader for more than a few weeks. I get bored, I get the idea, I move on.

A recent addition to my little indulgence via RSS has been The Fluent Self by Havi Brooks. The Fluent Self might be the “craziest thing” in my reader. I mean, she co-owns her company with her duck, Selma, and often talks about being the pirate queen of her pirate crew. So you have to be the kind of person who appreciates someone else’s slightly wacky reality in order to connect with what she’s doing.

Havi mentioned “sovereignty” in an entry the other day, and then again today, and it’s so relevant to my emotional work, I’ve got to write on it for a while.

Sovereignty […] is the quality of owning your space. It’s feeling so safe being you, that you can’t be shaken from yourself. […]

Your most important job? Take care of yourself. Because when I’m looking out for my physical and emotional well-being, I can do my best work. And when I’m depleted and exhausted, it sucks for everyone. My external systems — just like my internal practices — keep me grounded so that I can keep working on the sovereignty thing. It all comes back to taking care of yourself. And safety. And finding ways to access that canopy of peace.

- Sovereignty cassarole. And more about shoes. By Havi Brooks on The Fluent Self

I love discovering words to explain emotional states that I’m working on. If there’s a word for it, it feels like it’s a real thing, like it’s a little button I can push to dispense that particular kind of strength or flexibility or whatever that I’m working on. I mentioned “grace” recently, too, and the new definition of that word that I came across (also in a self-help book). If I’m having a strong reaction to something, having the shorthand of “have some sovereignty here” or “just need a little grace, a little grace, a little grace,” is really helpful. It’s the ability to take a whole big giant concept and distill it into a single word, which makes the mantra easier to grasp in moments of need.

This state of sovereignty is one I’ve been working on extensively. I don’t know why exactly (though I have some guesses), but for whatever reason, I have been really prone to giving that up – to letting others make choices for me, to allowing myself to be imprinted upon, to be taken over. I didn’t know I was doing this. If you asked me five years ago, I would have probably said I had no idea what you were talking about and of course I don’t do that. But, sigh, that’s what Saturn Return is for, after all.

Later, Havi writes, one of the things that helps stay in this state of sovereignty is to know your triggers. “For me and my HSP self, it’s loudness that sets me off.” She’s mentioned this before lately, as she’s currently battling jackhammers, and I was thinking about this just the other day. I went with Kristen and my sister to a taping of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and they were having some technical difficulties, so it was more of a wait than usual, and they had the music completely cranked up so loud I could barely hear Kristen sitting next to me, and I started to panic a little. I wanted to leave. Suddenly I felt so claustrophobic and anxious and like I would rather be anywhere else. This feeling calmed down and left as soon as they turned it off – but it just got me thinking, and made me remember, that when my senses are assaulted, I don’t deal well. There are times when it’s okay, I guess, I like going dancing in clubs, I like concerts (though not all concerts – ask me about the AC/DC story sometime). My senses are just so often under assult here in New York City, it’s hard for me not to have that panicked assaulted feeling constantly. Earphones help. Books help. Using my commute and transportation as a meditation helps. I guess I just have to keep building in self-care around this overload of the senses, and try to get some systems – internal and external – in place to keep myself grounded and unshaken – in sovereignty.

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4 Comments


  1. interesting. i think i use "personal autonomy" in a similar sense, in trying to define my own sense of needing to keep myself & my boundaries protected, and accepting that some things (like being assaulted with loud music or an obnoxious person in the next train seat) are upsetting precisely because they upset that equilibrium. i've never used sovereignty in that sense, i think because it makes me think of nation-states justifying why they don't have to do things that are good for the global community like climate change treaties or nuclear disarmament or what have you. but i think for most of us, we're not like a superstate ignoring treaties; we're more like former colonies trying to rebuild ourselves in our own image, with stability and peace within our borders.

  2. Very thought provoking, sir! And, Leo's comment, as well. I like the word sovereign and I like the idea, as you and Have distill it to mean. I am in charge of me. I have sovereignity over myself, my feelings, my boundaries.

    I sometimes need to work on the boundary issue. I think I will include a feeling of sovereignity as I continue that work.

  3. Yes, yes, yes. This is a large part of my current work too – accepting that it's ok to be queen of my interior castle, secure on my throne. That I can rule my kingdom with grace and beauty. That my judgment is enough for my life, my decisions. That my priorities, opinions, and choices are truly of value in my life – at least as much value as the priorities, opinions and choices of others, and probably of more value. Mmm, sovereignty.

  4. Like you, I like to have words for things. I like to drill through a concept to that one descriptive; it makes the concept a little more real, a little more tangible to me instead of the ambiguous concept floating around in my head. Using that word validates the feelings, too. And sovereignty? I like it.

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