October 2, 2011

There’s Nothing to Fear Except Yourself.

Why don’t things work out the way I want them to? When does life get fun again? Am I good mother/father/brother/daughter/girlfriend/boss? Is this all there is–the gradual decline and my inevitable death?

How many times a day do you have a fearful thought or worry about something you have no control over? My guess is more than you are probably aware of on a conscious level. Fear, worry, stress and anxiety take root just below the surface, but these impulses are the biggest motivator for most of the decisions we make in our lives. Some people create entire lives around the idea that they don’t, won’t or are incapable of change. We stay in relationships that are dysfunctional, abusive, and thoroughly unsatisfying because we have children, we need the security, we don’t have a job, we want the house AND the car. Sometimes people stay for all the wrong reasons, but they have convinced themselves that they are all the right ones, the ones that really matter. From your bird’s eye view, you might think, “What is he waiting for? Can’t he see that she doesn’t love him?” or “How could she take his crap day in and day out when he’s cheating on her with his coworker?”

I confess that I don’t have a high tolerance for behavior I deem annoying. When I was younger, I used to pride myself on my ability to walk away once I saw the conflict was pointless, to yell it out and then never speak to the person again. But over time, I realized this was the story that I told myself about why I turned a cold shoulder and walked away. Underneath, I was terrified that they had hurt me in a way that felt unfixable (even if it was fixable) and I could not keep people in my life who would hurt me. Talk about a fantasy land. People are going to hurt us–sometimes knowingly and sometimes by chance–and that pain is the catalyst to discovering a deeper understanding of ourselves. The doorway into knowing yourself is unlocked by emotional experience. Deep, dark, and yes, scary emotions. So if you lock yourself away from experiencing yourself in all your vulnerability, you also stop yourself from ever really knowing what you are made of. And frankly, your relationships will lack the kind of depth and intimacy that you crave.

Nothing can fill the emptiness because the fear of being hurt or exposed or out of control becomes the dam that keeps you from experiencing love. And love is what we came here for. That’s our true purpose. Not money, not ambition, not fame, not passion, not success, not status, not video games, not gossip. Only love. Everything else is a distraction.

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