Earlier this week I wrote about fear and a common story that often gives it juice: The Orphan story.
If this is your first time here and you’re in a rush (gearing up for Thanksgiving and all), you don’t need to go back and read my last piece. Nope, you can think about the story another way: The Scarcity story.
You’re probably familiar with the scarcity story. It’s located in the part of the psyche that tells us, “I’m scared, it might not work out, it could be the wrong choice, I could fail, I don’t know what it will be like, I won’t like it.”
Now, having these thoughts is not a recipe for disaster. Actually they’re quite normal. But if they keep you stuck and paralyzed and unable to move forward, well, then the story has got you by the neck. And you’re self-orphaning. Which means it’s high time to consider this question:
HOW CAN I STOP COOPERATING WITH THE STORY?
Today I’m bringing you a grab bag of strategies to do just that. And since I’m no stranger myself to the fear story, I can tell you I’ve practiced all of these at one time or another. And I’ve seen them work for others too.
Also, I deliberately chose the number thirteen, since it has a reputation for striking fear into our hearts. I don’t buy that, though, and this is my small way to stop cooperating with the story today and change its meaning.
- Create a healing circle with others whom you trust, a place where everyone can feel safe sharing their stories and giving support.
- Design and carry out a ritual that transforms the story. It could be as simple as lighting a candle each day, pondering the story for a few minutes, then blowing out the candle while imagining the fear dispersing through the air. It could be as complicated as finding an object that represents the scarcity story for you, then burying it. By doing so you signify that you have moved into another stage of life where this story has less pull for you.
- Bring compassion to the story itself. Recognize that although it hinders you, it does have a positive intent: to keep you safe.
- Draw, paint, or collage the story. Find some way to create an image of it.
- When you have the image, start a dialogue with it. Welcome it and speak to it as if it is another person. Tell it what you see there. Quietly listen to anything it has to say back to you. Ask it what understanding it needs from you. You may be surprised to hear that it has a desire to be in partnership rather than in conflict with you.
- Explore further dialogues with it through Active Imagination. A great way to learn it: Inner Work, by Robert Johnson.
- Ask for guidance from the rest of your inner cast of characters. Do you have a powerful magician who wants to name the fear as something else? Perhaps you have an adventurous seeker who wants to use the fear to start a journey into the unknown? What about a savvy ruler who knows how to manage, and can bring in some discipline and control? Or a wise sage who can step back and be very objective about the fear? And of course, there’s always the fun loving jester who knows that the story can’t help but transform when you bring in play, joy, humor, and life lived in the moment.
- Read a book that will bring your inner cast of characters to life. A good place to start: Awakening the Heroes Within, by Carol Pearson.
- Practice centering activities, such as meditation, yoga, guided imagery, etc.
- Let nature in. Every day bring it into your home, a handful of fallen leaves, a rock, a stick, a flower. Notice what looking at it does to the fear story.
- Walk out into the world. Be among others. Participate.
- Get a helium balloon. Write on it: scarcity story, fear, whatever you like. Tell it you want it to see more of the world. Gently let it go and watch it float away.
- TAKE A RISK. This is my favorite on the list. Sometimes we confuse fear with risk. But they’re not the same thing. Fear is an emotion; risk is an action. So take a risk and take a step toward your fear.
Some of the wisest words I’ve read on this topic come from author James Hollis:
Daily confrontation with these gremlins of fear and lethargy obliges us to choose between anxiety and depression…This archetypal drama is renewed ever day, in every generation, in every institution, and in every decisive moment of personal life. Faced with such a choice, choose anxiety and ambiguity, for they are developmental always, while depression is regressive. Anxiety is an elixir, and depression a sedative. The former keeps us on the edge of our life, the latter in the sleep of childhood.
Ah, anxiety is an elixir that keeps us on the edge of life! That keeps us moving forward.
And the depression he talks about? He doesn’t mean clinical or biological depression. Rather, he’s talking about existential depression, the depression that comes with scarcity thinking and self-orphaning.
So go ahead, choose anxiety and fear. At first the elixir may be hard to swallow, but the resulting transformation will be nothing short of magical.
What do you think?