Unorthodox Idea #10
Dive Into Fear to Find True Hope
So, here we are; this is our chance. If we are going to talk about self-healing, let’s talk about what’s really on the table: Fear. We are standing at the threshold of — let’s say it — painful or premature death. Blech. What about your 90th birthday you imagined you’d make it to? What about that second career you’d been planning on? What about knowing your grandchildren?
The truth is, we can’t expect to heal ourselves — by any means — as long as our fears are the forces coloring our lives. We’ve got to dive in. When we say “dive into fear” what that really suggests is experiencing a fear — the full physical and emotional sensation of it — versus talking about it. It’s the difference between saying something from a detached place, “This is the worst thing that could ever happen. The next year is going to be terrible and I’m probably going to die. I don’t even want to think about it,” and going into the actual manifestation of the fear, “In this moment, I feel my heart race and my throat close up, and I feel unspeakably sad.”
Yikes! Why bother? Wouldn’t it be easier to just set it aside and talk about something else? It would be easier in the short run, except for one important detail. As we discussed yesterday, your body is no fool. We think, “maybe if I just avoid this, it’ll go away.” Unfortunately, that’s not what happens most of the time. Rather, our fears — espoused, giant, and ominous — circle like vultures and disallow us to truly know and accept who and where we are. Instead of the fears diminishing when we ignore them, they grow larger. You might have heard the saying, “what we resist, persists.” When we let fears hover and resist the full sensation of them, often times, we remain ignorant about what they are at the core. Rather, we just feel them controlling us, wreaking havoc on our emotions, causing resentment and anger, getting us out there trying to find someone to sue or blame for our bad luck, and perhaps the worst, causing us to slap a smile on our faces and act like everything is okay.
Diving headfirst into the waters of our fears requires a certain amount of bravery, and I know you’ve got it. The opportunity to do so invites us to let go of who we think we are (entitled, invincible, etc.) and see what else is there, present, awaiting us. Diving into our fears is a kind of death — a true look at what moves within us; a true experience of what isn’t comfortable; a true, visceral presence with what is. Remember when you were little and would see scary shadows on the wall at night? You’d bravely get out of bed, flip on the light, and see that what caused the big shadow was a harmless stuffed animal sitting in a chair. Big fears behave the same way. When we go in and really look, we get to see them for what they are instead of the larger story we make up about them in our minds. What dies are our attachments. But what gets reborn?
True hope. Hope in a profound sense — not in the way of seeing progress or investing yourself in a likely and optimistic outcome — but rather a willingness to tread daily towards something that is right and true, and holds all the integrity that you do. Eco-therapist Bill Plotkin draws a distinction between what he calls “mature” and “immature” hope, saying this, “[immature hope] believes there’s nothing we can do to change the outcome; we can only sit helplessly and hope for the best. Mature hope, however, motivates action until the outcome is achieved or abandoned. It inspires us to become the change we seek.” It is with true hope, hope that emerges from the dark and fearful places within you, that you will find a body that has always wanted you to be free.
“May you live all the days of your life.” Jonathan Swift
I woke up this morning knowing today was the last day of this personal (and now public) journey, thinking, “how do I conclude?” What is there left to say about this delicate and mysterious thing we’ve come to call self-healing? What can I offer that will sufficiently put a period at the end of this 10-day sentence? What’s left? I pondered this for awhile…had some tea…had a few client sessions…and pondered it again. And then I realized something: this is hardly a conclusion. This is just the beginning.