You can fall
but you can rise also.
- Angelique Kidjo
Often many of us don't take risks as we may fear looking foolish or falling flat on our faces. This fear of falling, whether literally ( ice skating, riding a bike, climbing) or metaphorically ( public speaking, studying something new, communicating differently) may hold us back from growth, connection, expansion, mastery and enjoyment!
This brings to mind what it's like for babies who are learning to stand and walk. If they gave up the first time they tried to stand up and fell down, they would never master walking! Luckily, human development is biologically programmed so babies don't and can't give up. On the other hand, it's also more than biological programming. Watch a baby mastering something new like walking. They are curious, they are determined, they are not afraid of failure or of looking foolish, they have fun! Although they fall repeatedly, they also rise again repeatedly, with determination and delight.
How does this translate to us as adults? It is not always as easy to have this same determination, as over the years we have learned to feel shame or inadequacy, we may compare ourselves to others, we may have been laughed at, made fun of or bullied. So trying new things and the fear of falling or looking foolish is more loaded. Yet as Angelique Kidjo's lyric says, though you may fall, you can always rise up again.
What is to prevent you from rising up again if and when you fall? How has the fear of falling become greater than the determination to rise up again? The next time you get trapped in this cycle of fear and inhibition, make a point of watching a baby learning to walk! They fall repeatedly but they determinedly get up again and again, until they have mastered the skill. They may wobble around for a while, but then they walk, then run and skip. Can you apply this idea to anything in your life?
If you would like assistance in breaking this cycle of fear,
call me for a consultation
Don't worry that your Life
is turning upside down.
How do you know that
the side you are used to
is better than the one to come?
Human beings are creatures of habit. Change that arrives without having specifically been invited is often viewed as disastrous.
Life is really minimally under human control, but most people carefully craft and attempt to control their lives, to not have to face this reality. Many people think they know what is best for their individual lives (not to mention the world at large); everyone certainly has their preferences ( based on their lives so far).
When that carefully crafted life is confronted with a challenge, when life feels like it is turned upside down, panic often ensues. A health issue, a lost job, relationship or home can all feel catastrophic. It's hard to imagine that the upside down vantage point might be beneficial, might even be better!
How life being turned upside down effects each individual has a lot to do with how change was experienced and dealt with in childhood. Was it something to be avoided at all costs? Or was if faced head on, encouraged?
It can be growthful, although upsetting, to be forced to see things from a different perspective, to shake things up and challenge what has become known, familiar and comfortable. There may be grief for what is lost, but there are new things to experience, see and live when the world tilts in the other direction.
Your assumptions are
your windows on the world.
Scrub them off every once
in awhile, or the light
won't come in.
Most of the time perceptions are based on past experiences, rather than what may actually be going on in the moment. The brain organizes experience by sorting, generalizing and categorizing. This was certainly important for survival in ancient times, and to a certain degree, still is important to make our way through the world without having to learn everything over and over again.
On the other hand, the mind seizes on past experience and makes assumptions about what you are experiencing now, or what you anticipate you will feel or experience in the future. In this way, your "windows on the world" become clouded by your past.
Each person has a long list of usually unquestioned assumptions about life, based on past experiences. These assumptions may be about what life is like in general, about how people treat you or how you expect to be treated, about what you can or cannot have, about how safe or unsafe you are or life feels.
Making assumptions allows you to feel safe and in control, since consciously or unconsciously you know what to expect. But it also creates a limited life, a life where the same scenario is lived over and over, since you see the world through windows covered with the shadows and grit of your assumptions.
There is very little space to grow, to learn new things, to see things with what the Buddhists call "beginners mind." Maybe it's time to take a sponge and soapy warm water to the windows of your world, and see what new ways you may experience yourself, your relationships and life.
Curiosity will conquer fear
even more than bravery will.
~ James Stephens
Fear can be an overwhelming mental, emotional and physical experience. It can paralyze you, or push you into fight or flight mode. It often gets to the point that you may be afraid of fear, a vicious cycle that perpetuates the state of fear. It may reach the point that you are frequently in a state of fear or have set up a complex defense system of avoidance, where you aren't consciously aware of the fear, yet it is still effecting you.
I was fascinated by the above quote that suggests bringing curiosity to fear, rather than will power or courage to power through it. If fear could lose its stigma as the internal bogeyman, how might you relate to it differently? What might you learn from it?
If you try approaching fear with curiosity, you might ask yourself what the fear feels like in your body and where you feel it. If you keep your attention there, does it stay the same or does it shift? Is there a color, an image, a memory associated with the fear?
Can you trace back to the trigger of this feeling of fear? Was there a particular thought, or image, an interaction with someone or an imagined interaction with someone? When exactly did you become aware of the fear?
Does fear come up when you imagine a particular outcome in an interaction of some kind? Are there particular situations or imagined future situations or outcomes that tend to evoke fear?
There are many questions to ask yourself in an attempt to get to know, even to "befriend" the fear, at the very least to look behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz and see the little man behind the scary image of the Wizard.
Your willingness to
Wrestle with your Demons
Will make your Angels sing!
It seems to be part of human nature to avoid "wrestling with your demons." People tend to avoid the demons below the surface that may be troubling or haunting them, keeping them stuck, stagnant or unhappy. Who would want to wrestle with something that feels so big, scary and overwhelming? Yet ignoring these demons, is not a useful or growthful defense or strategy. Turning away from them, refusing to face the demons within, simply gives them more power to control your life.
Often you may not even be aware of the demons, simply feeling a malaise, a lack of energy, fear, nightmares, anxiety. You may find yourself turning to food, sex, substances, the internet or work, obsessively or compulsively. Maybe it is time to question what is beneath the ways you distract yourself from your inner life ( and from living a richer outer life).It takes courage to look deep within and face the demons, the ghosts from the past, and the pain that unconsciously motivate many of the feelings, thoughts and actions in your current life.
A common theme in nightmares is running away from someone who is perceived as dangerous, feeling terror as the person draws near, waking up before s/he reaches you. Yet rarely does anyone turn and face their pursuer in the dream ( when they do, it shows that something has shifted within, that they are ready to face their demons).
What might it be like within the dream, or in waking life to turn and face what is most feared, to confront and wrestle with your demons? Clearly the fear of annihilation often cuts off this possibility. What might it be like to remember, even in the moments of terror, that there is growth, light, peace, self-mastery, living your life more fully, that can emerge from having the courage to wrestle with your demons? Would you take that risk, would you be more likely to plunge in if you could trust that this effort would truly "make your angels sing?"
Peggy Handler, MFT, is a psychotherapist in San Francisco's Noe Valley