Halloween is a perfect excuse to look at fear and how it might be scaring us from living fully into our potential. We are talking about psychological fear, not instinctual, “get me out of here before that tiger has me for lunch” fear.
There are two instances when psychological fear shows up in most of us:
1. When things suddenly change: The end of a relationship, getting fired from a job, and moving are 3 biggies.
2. When we are faced with doing something different: Like, dating again after a 10 year hiatus, taking singing lessons, retiring.
In times like this our ego will throw a hissy fit, “Hey, this wasn’t in the brochure!” Suffering follows. Fear is often the hood ornament on the suffering.
The irony is that “feeling the fear, and doing it anyway” consistently brings us what we really want and need in life. And the most successful, happy, authentically fulfilled people accomplish this by getting the support of individuals, community, and a faith system.
It’s remarkable how much of the fear dissipates the moment we look another person in the eye and give voice to it. The moment we hand it off to a higher power, “Here, how ’bout you take the fear. I’ll do the work. Deal?”
I don’t know that we can ever “overcome” fear. We can get better at though. Every time we move through another fear by going there anyway, we see it wasn’t the boogey man we created in our thoughts. Turns out, once again, it was just another kid in a costume knocking at my front door in search of candy.
We’ve all been victimized and suffered the pain of it. There comes a point at which we must move on. Victimhood does not excuse living the rest of our life in a position of weakness.
The Victim’s lament is “Poor me!” The Victim feels oppressed, helpless, hopeless,powerless, ashamed, and seems unable to make decisions, solve problems, take pleasure in life, or achieve insight.
Colin C. Tipping in his book, Radical Forgiveness: Making Room for the Miracle writes,
“Victim Consciousness is defined as the conviction that someone else has done something bad to you, and as a direct result, they are responsible for the lack of peace and happiness in your life.”
Is this you?
Is it time to move on?
Then why don’t you?
If this provokes you, leave a comment.
Social Self or Professional Self?
Steve Chandler on the distinction between our social self and professional self. The importance of keeping “approval seeking” from diminishing our effectiveness at work. 30 minutes
“In 1992, I was hired to be the camera operator on movie that would change my life, and would forever shift how I looked at the unique, collaborative, creation process we call filmmaking. I would compare every director and production experience to the standard that film set. After it, I found myself passing on what I’d learned to anyone who would listen.But before I go into that, a little back story…”
In the late 60’s, Stephen Karpman, M.D. came up with a way to graphically display destructive interaction that can occur between people in conflict. The Karpman Drama Triangle describes the kind of crazy-making dynamics that we often see taking place in the workplace and in family relationships.
It starts when two people enter into conflict. Two people going at it usually take on the role of Persecutor or Victim without even realizing it.
The Persecutor: The Persecutor is the “bad guy,” the one who makes the other one “wrong.” He insists, “It’s all your fault.” The Persecutor is controlling, blaming, critical, oppressive, angry, authoritative, rigid, and superior.
The Victim: The Victim is of course persecuted, the one who has been “wronged.” The Victim’s stance is “Poor me!” The Victim feels victimized, oppressed, helpless, hopeless, powerless, ashamed, and seems unable to make decisions, solve problems, take pleasure in life, or achieve insight.
People, nations, entire cultures assume these roles switching back and forth from Persecutor to Victim. It’s a dance that can go on for centuries.
It gets even more interesting when a third person, the Rescuer, enters the fray.
The Rescuer: The rescuer’s line is “Let me help you.” A classic enabler, the Rescuer feels guilty if he doesn’t come to the rescue. But his rescuing has negative effects: It keeps the Victim dependent and gives the Victim permission to fail. When The Rescuer focuses his energy on someone else, it enables him to ignore his own pain and suffering.
Karpman drama triangle
In order for this to work, each person must take on a role. Karpman defined them as: Persecutor, Rescuer, and Victim.
People will hang onto these roles because they experience a twisted kind of self-serving reward in doing so. The unfortunate consequence is that there is usually a larger problem or situation that is not dealt with, because Persecutor, Victim, and Rescuer are putting all their energy into engaging with each other, maintaining their roles, maintaining their position on the Triangle.
And it really gets interesting when Persecutor, Victim and Rescuer change places – in the course of the same argument!
Saying “No!” to the Triangle
All it takes is one of the participants, Persecutor, Victim, or Rescuer to stop the role play – for the system to collapse. Stopping means behaving differently, and one of the most effective ways is by setting and maintaining boundaries.
For example, as soon as the Victim says to the Persecutor, “I will be glad to discuss this when you can speak to me without insults and sarcasm. Until then, I’ll be in the next room,” he is no longer a Victim.
A Rescuer leaves the Triangle when, for example, he says to the Victim, “It’s not in your best interest for me to defend you in this situation again. I’m willing to help, but only if you if you stop dating abusive men.”
A Persecutor brings the curtain down on the play when (in a work situation for example) he says something like, “Attacking you and making you wrong is not getting the results I want or need. You’ve got one week to shape up or I’ll be forced to fire you.
See if you can observe this dynamic playing out in your life. It’s quite sobering when we turn out to be one of the players on the Triangle.
For most of us, deciding to make a change in life is a decision to leave our Comfort Zone: We sell our house and move to another state; we say “yes” to a committed relationship, we quit our job or accept a promotion with new responsibilities.
Sometimes without consultation, life simply boots us out of the Comfort Zone: We get fired; someone who “wasn’t supposed to” dies; an unplanned birth turns you into a parent.
Consider how many “disasters” in your life have ultimately proved to be gifts in disguise.
And…What is a Comfort Zone? Is it really a place of “comfort”?
It’s been my experience that what I thought was a Comfort Zone was in fact a Familiar Zone. And life in the the Familiar Zone had its share of despair, anxiety, fear and unhappiness.
When we leave our Comfort Zone, where do we go?
Dr. Ron Hulnick calls the new territory into which we find ourselves exiled “The Divine Unknowing”.
It’s “unknowing” for obvious reasons, and it’s “divine” because this is often when unexpected things happen, things that were not in our plans. Life in the Divine Unknowing instinctively invites fear in most of us. So, successfully coping with fear requires faith – an understanding that ultimately, “It’s all going to turn out okay.”
“The secret of navigating the fear of the unknown is that you must be willing to … (do) whatever it is that you are afraid of doing—all while being fully afraid of doing it.”
Integral to my faith practice is the notion that my life is playing out in concert with a higher power. That this higher power is what shapes my life when “I am busy making plans.” Adopting this view lessens my fear and frees me up to do the work of growing through change.
Amazing things can happen when you decide to “get comfortable” in the Divine Unknowing. Some describe it as “facing your fears.” Jack Canfield”s quote is a favorite of mine, “Everything you want is on the other side of fear.” In other words, if you have fear about doing something different in your life, then it’s probably what you should do.
As you make the Divine Unknowing your reality, you might ask yourself, “Is there really such a thing as ‘security’ or a Comfort Zone? Or is this entire human experience one of Divine Unknowing?”
“In our experience, fear of the unknown—be it expressed as comfort, security, control, or any other ego pattern—is the single dynamic that stops more people from moving ahead in their lives than any other factor. This is why it is so difficult for many people to break addictions and other habits that do not serve their aspirations. They are unwilling to be with their fear long enough to allow it to run its course. The familiarity of their habitual addictive behavior is stronger than their intention.
Now here’s the good news. The secret of navigating the fear of the unknown is that you must be willing to run the experiment of venturing into the unknown, doing whatever it is that you are afraid of doing—all while being fully afraid of doing it. It is through this experiential process that you demonstrate to yourself that there really was nothing to be afraid of in the first place.” – Hulnick Ph.D., Mary R.. Remembering the Light Within: A Course in Soul-Centered Living (pp. 108-109). Hay House, Inc..
I invite you to describe an experience of leaving your comfort zone. What happened? What did you feel? What unexpected life change came out of it? How did you deal with fear and uncertainty?
Around the time my son, Elliot turned three, I began to consider my fatherly duty to teach him how to be a man. Actually, his mother said, “Hey, it’s your fatherly duty to teach him how to be a man!” I had only a vague notion of what being a man meant, much less how to teach it. Guys watching sports together was a bonding ritual I’d seen, maybe we’d start there. At that age, Elliot had a beautiful kind of moment to moment, “What are we going to do now?” enthusiasm about everything. And when I told him that we were going to a Dodgers / Minnesota Twins baseball game, just us men, no mom, no sister – he beamed.
We arrived at Dodger Stadium on a warm June afternoon. Elliot was light enough to carry in my arms as we became part of the crowd moving through the turnstiles. I watched him soak up the sensations: the crush of the crowd; the crusty old men barking, “Get your programs here!”; the echoing voice of the game announcer over the PA system; the rich blend of food smells. And that spectacular moment when you see the field for the first time: the deep saturated green of the grass set against the reddish dirt of the infield, the pure white bases and foul lines, and the rainbow totality of the crowd.
Our seats were on the third-base line, about 10 rows up from the field. The left fielder was directly in front of us. Slightly to our left, above the outfield bleachers was a huge TV screen showing the game. Elliot couldn’t help but watch the screen, so every so often I would remind him that home plate was where the action was, down there, in the distance, to our right.
By the 5th inning, Elliot was losing interest. We’d indulged in every variety of junk food: popcorn, hot dogs, ice cream, peanuts, and as the temperature got hotter – a big Coke filled to the brim with crushed ice. It seemed like we had satisfied the requirements of male bonding, and I was about to suggest we leave.
That’s when it happened.
The Minnesota Twins batter smacked a high fly ball into left field. The higher the ball went, the more unmistakable was the curve in its path. It was going foul. It was going to land in our vicinity. Instinctually, all of the fans in our section stood up like a pack of predators focusing on prey. I stood; I could feel Elliott clutching my right leg.
The baseball reached its peak and was now on a trajectory back to earth, a tiny dark spec in the sky. Gravity pulled on the spec; it picked up speed and grew larger. And a reality dawned – that ball was coming right to me.
Time slowed. I could feel bodily contact around me, but it didn’t matter. I was in the perfect place to catch that ball, and no one was going to interfere with that. I let myself indulge in the possibility…no, the certainty… of catching that baseball. With my young son and 14,512 fans in the stadium watching, I would man-up, fend off the other dads, rise above the pack and claim the prize. That baseball would adorn a shelf in Elliot’s room for years to come, a symbol of masculinity and the extraordinary relationship he had with his father. “Yeah,” he would brag to his friends, “my dad caught that baseball at the first game we ever went to.” Wide-eyed, those boys would chorus, “how cool!” The closer the ball got, the more disconnected my thoughts: Maybe we could get the ball autographed! We’ll definitely get one of those glass boxes…Hmmm, I wonder if I should have brought my mitt.
My slow-motion reverie was rudely interrupted by two sensations of sudden, intense pain. The first was a shocking compression of my left thumb beginning at the tip and extending downward into my wrist. The second came milliseconds later: a dull explosion on the upper part of my forehead….where my hairline use to be. I saw stars. The high-frequency part of my hearing vanished, as a muted cacophony of voices around me shared my pain, “Oh…oow!” And though I can’t swear to it, I thought heard a boy, somewhere close by, joyously exclaim, “My dad got it! My dad got the baseball!”
My senses began to return, and my first rational thought was, Oh shit, is this game being televised? Is it possible that 1 million people just saw me try to catch a foul ball only to have it carom off the tip of my thumb and smack me in the head?
My next thought was: Elliot. Did Elliot see what just happened? Have I lost all masculine credibility forever? I sank into my seat. This brought me eye to eye with my son. His face was filled with the utter joy of something really exciting having just happened… about which he had no concept. Thank God.
At this point, my left thumb sent me a memo requesting a meeting. It was swelling rapidly. I plunged it into the icy Coke, too embarrassed to make eye contact with any of the guys around me, the witnesses to my humiliation. Instead, I focused on Elliot. His sweet, adoring smile anchored me. His unconditional love was all I needed, all that mattered.
Moments later, the Twins catcher hit a double into right field. As he rounded first, I pulled my thumb out of the Coke, grabbed Elliot and, eyes down, made a B-line for the exit.
Elliot will be 27 years old on May 7th. We’ve both matured since that afternoon in Dodger Stadium. Over the years, I continued to drop the occasional pop fly. There came a point after which I couldn’t hide it. Didn’t try. Instead, I began to share my “mistakes” with Elliot; to talk about what I learned, what I was doing differently as a result.
This past Christmas, Elliot wrote in a card to me: “Dad, you are my hero. You make me want to strive to be the best me I can be. I have so enjoyed watching you grow in new directions over the past couple years. Thanks for making me who I am. I love you to the ends of the earth. – Elliot”
I’m considering getting one of those glass boxes and putting his Christmas card in it. Thank you Elliot for helping me to understand: To be a man is to have the courage to look foolish, and turn every “failure” into an opportunity “to be the best me I can be.”