Tag Archives: fear

Safe or Confining?

old shed

 

“Most people talk about fear of the unknown, but if there is anything to fear it is the known.”  Chopra

You know . . . there’s truth to that. Not long ago, I watched the movie Room. It’s about a mother and her son, Jack, who are confined to a shed they call “Room.” Jack’s mother was abducted by a man when she was seventeen. Two years later Jack is born. “Room” is the entirety of his world until they escape shortly after he turns five.

The world outside of Room is foreign to Jack. Even though he has an abundance of new people and experiences at his disposal, he would occasionally ask his mom if they could go back. That tiny world—including fewer freedoms—possessed a powerful gravitational pull.

Why?

The good ole status quo offers the security of the familiar. It surrounds us with predictability.

Jack mirrors our natural resistance to change, even if it would be to our advantage. Let’s face it, the familiar often wins out, whether it’s staying glued to an unfulfilling occupation, an unhappy relationship, a self-defeating coping mechanism, an ineffective way of relating, a limiting belief about something, or a fixed way of doing things.

The known seems safe. But that’s an illusion. In reality, we’re captives of a habitual and stagnating existence, and that spells confinement.

Why should we be lured by the unknown?  I like Chopra’s answer to that question:

“The known is the rigid pattern of past conditioning. The unknown is the field of infinite possibilities, that field of infinite choices which we can step into every moment of our life, when we go beyond the camouflage of our past memories, our conditioning.”  

Yes, we’re conditioned beings and it takes a lot of courage to venture into new territory—to leave our Room. But to be free we must.

 

(c) Salee Reese 2016

 

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Be Bigger Than Fear

Othersideoffear

 

To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose one’s self.

Soren Kierkegaard

Sad to say, many of us choose playing it safe over living fully.

Spencer Johnson, M.D., addresses this condition and offers a solution in a delightful little book, Who Moved My Cheese? The story’s setting takes place in a maze. Four characters, each desiring cheese—essential for staying alive, live in this maze.

Initially, all four hang out in Station C, a room where the cheese was plentiful. Therefore, no one had any motivation to leave Station C. An idle, settled-in existence suited them just fine . . . until, that is, everything changed: the cheese supply began to dwindle for no apparent reason.

Two of the characters, realizing that maintaining the status quo was riskier than venturing out, began searching for new cheese elsewhere in the maze. The other two, Hem and Haw, stayed put, torn between the need to seek new cheese and the desire to play it safe with the familiar. They let fear rule their destiny.

The story beautifully illuminates how we compromise the desires that spring from our core. Often preferring to remain snug in our cherished comfort zones, we have a tendency to resist change, even if our soul is suffering from malnourishment.

Figuratively, cheese can mean different things to different people. It can symbolize peace of mind, a rewarding job, a loving relationship, travel, health, a possession, running a marathon, taking up art—any of a myriad of things.

Johnson’s story highlights how our inflexibility can be our undoing, resulting in handicapping our spirit.

Stagnation occurs when we let fear rule us. Johnson poses this vital question in his book:

“What would you do if you weren’t afraid?”

Finally fed up with stagnation, Haw decided to release himself from fear’s grip. Hungry and weak, he took the courageous step of venturing into the unknown in search of new cheese. What he discovered was astounding: when you move beyond fear, you feel free.

Sprinting through the corridors, energized with courage, Haw was now thinking in terms of what he could gain, instead of what he was losing. Invariably, “he was discovering what nourished his soul.” It had to do with “letting go and trusting what lay ahead for him,” Johnson writes.

Interestingly, after finding the new cheese, Haw was happy and fulfilled—not so much because his belly was full, but because he was no longer letting fear control him. Taking a risk brought him to the wisdom that “the quicker you let go of old cheese, the sooner you’ll find the new cheese.” Haw wrote that statement—along with many other epiphanies—on the wall as he journeyed through the maze.

Recording his realizations on the walls served as a reminder to himself, but Haw had a secondary purpose in mind. He felt bad about his friend Hem, and was hoping the messages would act as a trail marker and also provide encouragement if Hem would choose to follow Haw’s example. He worried, though, that Hem would opt to stay hemmed in.

I like what Mark Twain had to say: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear.” We can’t ever expect to banish fear, but we can become bigger than fear. This was Haw’s ultimate triumph.

If you take a look at your life, you will notice just how many times you were able to get bigger than your fear. Up to this moment, your life has consisted of a series of advances that involved laughing at fear. You couldn’t have grown past playpen stage if you hadn’t exercised your courage. Just learning how to walk required you to overcome your fear.

Imagine the courage you mustered when you bravely raised your tottering self from a crawling position for the first time. That courage still resides within you!

Yes, we all have a Hem and a Haw inside. There’s always a part of us that wants to go forward while another part resists. But, in reality, we have little choice. The alternative is stagnation and a life without “cheese.” That’s not living.

(c) 2016 Salee Reese

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Latest Wow: Ripe for Manipulation

puppet

“I don’t like to confront, so I’m easy to manipulate.”

That “WOW” came from a mid-fortyish male client. He didn’t realize it, but he nailed a common human problem. Many of us don’t like to confront.

Why are we so squeamish about confronting someone … even when it’s appropriate?

There’s a wide variety of reasons. A major one is the fear of setting off a fireworks display or, to put it bluntly, the fear of making someone mad.

And the problem with that is:

If we’re afraid of upsetting others, we give them power.

Not everyone will elect to use that power, but others won’t hesitate to take full advantage. They’ll use anger or the threat of anger to control you. They don’t want to hear what you have to say.

Angry responses stifle us, and that’s exactly what the manipulator counts on.

We see this form of manipulation among couples, among friends, at the workplace, and between parent and child. Sometimes we witness parents being manipulated by their angry child or the other way around. It happens.

I say our purpose in life doesn’t include sticking pacifiers in the mouths of those who might get upset.

The solution? Let them be upset. For example, if a child throws a fit because he doesn’t get his way, you let him throw the fit, right? Versus giving in. This advice applies to adults, too. Remain unaffected.

If we don’t care about someone’s angry reaction, manipulation isn’t possible. If a confrontation is done respectfully, it needs to be said. Pure and simple.

To avoid being manipulated by someone’s angry flare-ups, we have to be willing to brave the storm instead of trying to prevent it. Doing so is far less costly to our dignity than mindlessly appeasing. And besides, once we do it, we realize the storm was far less scary and draining than sacrificing the truth of our being.

It’s our fear that sets us up. Just like a dog cowering in the presence of a cat … guess what message he’s sending? Guess what position the cat is likely to take?

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It Takes Courage to Feel

tear

Some people think that being tough has to do with muscle strength and detached emotions, but it’s the opposite. It takes courage to feel.

Brenna, a client in her 20’s, mistakes strength with being stoic—devoid of emotion like one of Clint Eastwood’s characters. Her mom matches those qualities, and Brenna feels weak in comparison.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen her cry,” Brenna said.

In contrast, Brenna wears her heart on her sleeve. Her emotions are right out there—she feels them all. In our sessions, she often gets teary-eyed and then immediately apologizes for it.

Not long ago she said, “I wish I were strong like other people.”

I had to tell her she’s got it all wrong. “Look,” I said, “compared to you, unfeeling people are lightweights. Quit apologizing for a strength. Quit apologizing for something that’s beautiful about you!”

We humans tend to avoid feelings of pain, grief, fear and annoyance, because the experience is like being in a small boat on stormy seas. It rocks our serenity. It frightens us and threatens our sense of control … meager as that is.

I explained to Brenna that it’s not unusual to discover that the people who are detached emotionally—who seem unfeeling—are actually submerged in a flood of unbearable emotions. Life has left wounds that are just too over-the-top to bear. For those people, detachment is a godsend—a means of coping.

Throughout her life, Brenna has suffered the effects of her mother’s detachment.  Wrongly, she misread it to mean her mother didn’t love her very much. That’s changing. Brenna’s coming to realize that her mother’s emotional detachment is actually an outgrowth of her detachment from herself . . . not to be taken personally.

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality

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Don’t Settle for a Ho-hum Life

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At a young age, we begin the habit of limping in order to harmonize with friends, our family, a job, a social order.  By the time we’re adults, it’s become so much a part of us that we do it unthinkingly—automatically. To stop doing it now would be jolting because we’re used to it. But it’s limping. And limping doesn’t make us happy . . . it does the opposite.

My friend, Pat, limped for the greater share of her life.  Instead of warmly accepting herself—enjoying her uniqueness—she spent most of her days hunkered down, feeling inferior, seemingly ashamed of who she was. Fearful of others’ negative opinions, she was careful about what she said and did. Submerging her true essence, she presented everyone with a watered-down version of herself.  But something happened that changed all that. I call it a gift—so did Pat. Click here and read her heartfelt story.

Well-being is the reward for doing the things that feed our spirit. When circumstances prevent us from doing that, we need to very quickly tackle those roadblocks to the ground. Everyday we struggle for our life. Not necessarily because we might die … at least not physically. Our essential self—that spark within each of us—fights to stay alive.

Let me know your thoughts!

Once again, I thank Tracie Louise Photography for another stunning image.

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She Swallowed A Lie

Bonsai

Depression and dissatisfaction with your life may be direct feedback from your inner guidance system telling you that you’re not fulfilling your true nature.

Branches on a young bonsai tree are wired down and shaped to conform to a fixed design. In time, the wires are no longer necessary. The bonsai will hold its forged shape. Like the bonsai, we were shaped at a young age. But unlike the bonsai, when the wires are removed—that is, when we grow up—we have the option to remain fixed, shaped permanently, or return to our original and natural form. We have choice.

Click here to read about Donna, a client who swallowed a lie about herself.

We are only truly free when we take the initiative to direct our own fate and move beyond an existence anchored to old patterns. 

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Anchored By Fear

Chronic boredom is the sting of non-being,
The pain of the unlived life,
The roads not explored,
The risks not taken,
The persons not loved,
The thoughts not thought,
The feelings not savored.

                                                        —Sam Keen

canoe cropped 2

Picture yourself canoeing down a stream. All’s running smoothly until you see something that warns you of possible trouble out ahead—tree limbs are sticking out of water.

Anchored to fear, you stop dead in the water. In this state of motionlessness your life stands still. You try to reassure yourself by saying,  “At least I’m safe.” But are you? I’m reminded of this quote by Henry David Thoreau: “The tragedy of a man’s life is what dies inside of him while he lives.”

Ned, a client of mine, is safe but miserable. He has dreams—marvelous and reachable dreams—but he’s constantly paralyzed by a brain full of what-ifs, like “What if I don’t succeed?”

He wanted to know how to overcome that barrier. I started by giving him a personal example:

Several years ago, I took scuba diving classes before taking a trip to the Caribbean. Scuba diving was on the itinerary and I wanted to be prepared. But when the time came to perform, I froze. There I was in all my diving gear, poised to jump off the boat, but nothing happened. I couldn’t jump! This wasn’t me. I love the water and I’m a good swimmer! I think I stood there for ten solid minutes while everyone was forced to wait on me. Not a comfortable moment.

What was wrong? My brain was full of the what-ifs. Was a hungry shark awaiting his lunch? Would the equipment work? Did I really learn what I was supposed to learn?

Finally, I made the decision to take the plunge (literally). I did not have the luxury of waiting for my fears to subside. I decided to jump—despite my fears.

That event and others like it taught me that we have to act—seize the moment—if we want life to be real for us. We can’t wait for our fears to go away because they won’t. We’ll be waiting forever.

My son, Tav, once said this:

Sometimes we have to ask ourselves, “Am I in control of the outcome, or is my most feared outcome controlling me?”

That is where I took Ned next. I wanted him to feel capable of managing obstacles instead of being a helpless victim at their mercy. And in fact, according to Orison Swett Marden,

“Most obstacles melt away when we make up our minds to walk boldly through them.”

My earlier blog post titled “Close Your Eyes and Jump!” also addresses this topic.

Names are changed to honor client confidentiality.

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