My racing heart bashing against my chest briefly distracted me from the perpetual screams.
Is 16 too young to die from a heart attack?
The pounding was so loud the person next to me must have heard it. Fear held me captive—I was paralyzed by the unknown, standing motionless. What lurked around the next corner? What must be confronted despite my resistance?
Safety wasn’t in jeopardy, this I knew. Yet the uncertainty of the next moment kept me frightened. Eyes stayed shut, despite the black that already surrounded me. Victim to the darkness I pushed through.
Jumping back, I knocked over the person behind me and tumbled to the floor.
“Why the F*#@ do I keep doing this to myself?” I asked out loud. When I opened my eyes for the first time, the goblin’s face was in front of my own. A playful laugh came from behind the mask.
He answered in a muffled voice, “Because you looooove being scared.”
I picked myself up off the floor and quickly found the way out of the Haunted Winery. My confidence grew after coming face to face with the not-so-scary-monster. Eyes wide, clarity revealed, I held my head high and walked through to the other side. Finding my group I asked: “Ok, really, why do we love this?”
It’s called an adrenaline rush.
The same temporary high we get in extreme sports, amusement rides, scary movies and haunted houses—a primitive “fight or flight” response in modern day society.
We tend to seek these thrills less and less as adults. Maybe the excitement has lost its appeal, or perhaps we experience too many challenges in real time—living our “fight or flight” on a regular basis, not needing to seek additional thrills (and this chronic stress response is the primary cause of almost every degenerative disease—a topic for another post).
Think about this: as kids we’re afraid, but we do it anyway. We walk in with trembling knees and face it. Even with eyes closed and a heart rate of 120 beats per minute, we trust we’ll make it out alive. It takes courage to step into fear and accept it—and not only accept it, but embrace it.
Can we be vulnerable enough to look into the eyes of our own inner demons and examine them?
We are too quick to avoid situations that are uncertain and unknown. We run the other way or deny the very existence of any feeling that is uncomfortable.
Darkness is scary. The unknown can be prickly.
Those fear-based feelings, the ones we coin “bad”—sadness, anger, rage, hate, envy, anxiety, worry—they all feel shitty. But they must be felt. News flash: everything can’t feel good and flowery all the time. We have a spectrum of emotions for a reason: to experience them. Embracing them will give us the opportunity to learn why they’re here. They visit us for a purpose.
Knock, knock! Hi, yes this is fear, I’m here again. I’m going to keep showing up until you acknowledge me.
Remember that saying: what resists persists? Yeah, that’s a good one because I’m pretty damn persistent.
Tell me, what is it that scares you? What is it about this situation that prevents you from moving forward? That keeps you paralyzed? That shrinks you? What is restricting you? I’m here to show you, to help you wake up to yourself so you can be the highest you you can be.
Stop ignoring me with a distraction, pretending I’m not here, trying to hush me with a donut, a drink or a joint. I’ll go away for now but I’ll keep coming back. And I will feel worse every time until you give me the attention I deserve.
When we shove those “bad” feelings aside it throws balance out the window. Not only is it detrimental to our health, but when we try to turn off the feeling-switch two things happen: we either numb all feeling (yup, all feeling, even the good stuff—joy, passion, love, happiness, peace, all of it.
We can’t selectively numb emotions. We actually become consumed by the very feelings we’re avoiding. We either flat-line or live in a perpetual state of unease.
Stop. Put away the distractions. Sit still. Give yourself permission to feel—everything. When you notice your mind reliving the scenario that is most stirring, walk directly into the discomfort (remember it’s in the discomfort where life happens—right outside our comfort zone).
Become mindful of what you’re experiencing.
Watch what happens.
When you make friends with your demons they become less and less scary and suddenly you find clarity.
Thank them for showing up, for giving you the experience of feeling, for helping you evolve to your higher self. Talk to them, write to them, do whatever it takes to understand them.
Put yourself in the mud and experience the dirt.
Walk through your haunted house and embrace every unknown, dark, scary corner.
Eventually, with persistence and patience, you’ll trip over the answer. And then, in a not-so-muffled voice, the truth will be revealed.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Valerie Vendrame
Editor: Emily Bartran
Photo: Curtis John/Flilckr