Seeing Self through the Lens of Fear
And what might happen if we tried something new
I have one of those friends I’ve never met. His name is Harry. I love Harry because he can see me, because he shares his wisdom w/ a dash of humor that is sometimes peppery. He makes me laugh *just* when I need it.
His response to this post On Being All Grow’d up and Afraid of the dark was ‘self-compassion’. He’s absolutely right.
But we have this thing, this stupid human trick, that we’ve relied upon for a long, long time. We have learned how to be afraid, we teach others to be afraid–even when we’re sharing things that sound sorta wise–and it’s our go-to tool.
Two summers ago, I had an interesting exchange with an amazing young lady I adore. I may have actually mentioned this before but it’s connected so I’m bringing up and my love for trolls (oh, bloody hell, not those!) up again. She sent me a note on the Place of Face and shared that she was afraid. An energy or entity kept appearing to her and it made her afraid. The exchange went like this:
From Miss Awesomeness: I think this and my question to you about anger/violence also is tied to an experience that i had this summer with a “dark” or malicious entity that was obviously wanting something from me. I attracted it–for sure–by dabbling in some voodoo stuff. but it brings up this near-paralyzing fear in me every so often. it’s feels so uncontrollable, and i get thrown off. i don’t know if it’s all in my head or if there’s something i need to do to protect myself. i feel unable to tap into my intuitive wisdom because of the fear. and it leaves me feeling isolated/grieving/self-hateful/at a loss of where to move. Do you have any advice for me? I’m sorry if I’m just sort of spurting out all of my thoughts/emotions! From Yours Truly: … don’t be afraid of this other energy. Drop ‘malignant’, ‘dark’, and ‘protection’ etc from the vocabulary. If it shows up, engage with it. Ask who it is, ask why it is appearing/what it is seeking, ask if it is connected to another human energy (alive or deceased), ask these questions and, then, listen/feel the responses. And, before you engage it, get clear with yourself about why you have the response you do to it–is it ‘ugly’? Does it trigger a smell, other physical response or memory, is it a reflection of an aspect of yourself or abuser… Miss Awesomeness: Last night i conversed a bit with an energy. Got the response that it was there to give me something which will help me know/be myself, when I am ready. I asked myself why i was intimidated by it and felt that it was because it reminded me of my incredible power.
I’ve had dozens of similar conversations in the 18 months since the above conversation. Dozens. With law enforcement personnel, analysts, and therapists; yoga instructors, artists and coaches; spiritual seekers and such. Each afraid of this thing. And we’ve trained ourselves into a certain way of thinking (not my words. Find more about them and the ballerina who says them here) and it becomes our reality, it’s all we know; the lens through which we agree with ourselves to measure the world around us. Some therapists associate physical, mental and emotional responses to stimuli with trauma–theirs or another’s–and are afraid they’ll relive the experience now as they did then. This dancer? Ballet or the fear of life without it. Footballer? Sports or life without it. Bureaucrat? Um…never mind. The point is that we “get used to” that lens, that fear, that thing we assume is outside of us or has been done unto us.
In We Don’t Need no Steenking Trolls I shared the story about a dude and his troll. The video is longish so I’ll summarize here: I went to visit a client in DC. He lived in an amazing apartment across the street from the National Cathedral and I was duly impressed by what was his front yard (total aside: if you’ve not been to the Cathedral, the next time you’re in DC, you want to go). When I asked said dude why I was there, he said something along the lines of wanting me to get rid of his troll. Imagine, if you will, someone telling you in all honesty and earnestness that they have their own personal troll. I’m pretty sure I gave the dude the eyebrow and a uh-huh before continuing. The Dude shared that this energetic thing, this entity, was not just one to be satisfied with making regular appearances. It would do things like pull his pants leg for attention. He could describe this troll in such detail he could artistically recreate it. He showed me a drawing the resembled the combination of a triceratops, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and some thing else that I can’t remember or describe. One of the first things out of my mouth was, “Have you talked to it?”
His response was a resounding no. Mine? Why? Him: Because it’s fucking ugly. Me: “Well, that sort of limits any kind of communication when we expect something to appear in a pleasing manner so that we’ll pay attention to it.” I opened up the living room curtains and gave him either his binoculars or a telescope (can’t remember which he had handy) and said, “Take a look at each of the spires around that Cathedral. What do you see?”
“What do Gargoyles dooooo?”
“Gargoyles are protectors.”
“Are gargoyles pretty?”
Insert the upward reaching right eyebrow here.
“So you are ignoring this very persistent energy that is trying to communicate with you because it’s not pleasing to your eye. Something obviously has something to tell you and you refuse to say, Yo, what’s up. If it were a child, even sort of an ugly one, you would respond. If it were an ugly dog, you’d say, “Aaawwwww…aren’t you soo cuuuute (if you click through to the video you’ll hear the Southern accent that makes this sound just so, well, appropriate) Why are you bothering me?” But because this energy isn’t shiny, sparkly, fairy-like or shitting glitter, you’re ignoring it.”
“I’m not here to get rid of you troll. I’m here to show you how to engage with something that may or may not be of your own creation, may or may not be an aspect of yourself, that you can’t see past because it’s kinda ugly to you.”
Lately the ‘trolls’ people have been presenting me with energetic representations of themselves or aspects of themselves that they cannot see as such. The see or sense a solidness that frightens them. Their only relation to themselves is through that lens of fear–fear of trauma, fear of loss, fear of the unknown.
One of the things I find most interesting about this development is with each person I have these interactions, the notion of ‘the shadow self’ as spiritual and psychological form is a basis they use for their own work–with clients, in their own therapy, or on their spiritual path. I’m wondering how effective this tool is or can be if, it too, is only expected to appear pleasing to the mind, or soothing to the heart & mind, or a mere idea beyond which there can be no manifestation. What demons are really not at all? What if they really are us or a part of us merely seeking the attention and release we believe should come otherwise packaged? What if your shadow has shown up to be alighted and released into your vision? Into your own light?
When I say to people, “Say I see you. I love you” to their thing, their troll or their shadow, perhaps, I’m not saying ‘don’t be afraid’. I’m saying nothing more than in your own voice, as aloud as you can allow yourself in that not-quite-paralyzed state to say “I see you. I love you.” even if you are afraid; in spite of the fear; to spite the fear if need be. Until you can see there is nothing to fear.
Until you can see that which in front of you in the dark is always there, even in the light. That what is in front of you, is you. See her, love him. Listen to what you have to say to yourself in your own voice or those voices that have been trying to reach you for eons. In seeing and loving, that is the self compassion of which Harry speaks. And it brings, as he so elegantly shared this afternoon, “the possibility of freedom”.
Freedom comes in amazing ways. Simple ways like “I see you. I love you.”
Try it now. Try it tonight.