One of my students posted the following:
“Several years ago Steven Barnes told me that one important tool a writer has when creating characters is realizing that on some level everyone feels frightened and alone.
Tonight is definitely a night where I am feeling that. A combination of not feeling good, a minor setback at work, and my (spouse) being on the road have left me feeling this.
But at the same time I have the comfort of what Steve taught me. I know this is part of the human condition, and that even though I feel this way, I will get past it.
I have a loving wife. I have my family I was born into who are there for me. I have the family I have forged with those close to me. I have friends who care and I have pets who despite what some cynics say show me love.
So even though I am feeling frightened and alone I know I will emerge from this and life will go on.”
Nice. Let’s unpack this a bit.
- Every human being feels alone and afraid. A corollary: all negative emotions are some version of fear. While not absolutely true, viewed through this lens, human behavior becomes far more comprehensible. And our own negative behaviors become easier to deal with. You observe a negative behavior (anger, anxiety, frustration, jealousy, etc) and simply ask: “what are they/am I afraid of?” Burrowing deep, you will likely find an answer far deeper and more useful than skating across the surface and paying attention to what people SAY about their or other emotions.
2) Fear is your body preparing you for action. Fight or flight. And what your unconscious searches for is an answer to the question: “which will give me the best chance for survival? Which will bring the most pleasure and the least pain?” People who know what they want, see how to get it, and believe they can and should do it, and that the efforts will bring pleasure act automatically. Those frozen in place either have no idea what they want, see no way to achieve it, believe the efforts will cause more pain than pleasure. That’s how we’re wired, and to this day, I’ve never encountered an exception to the rule.
3) When we grasp how natural these emotions are, it is possible to forgive ourselves for being human, and recognize fear as a “dark night of the soul” moment along the “road of trials”, just part of the cycle. Only if you find yourself “stuck” there chronically, or in an acute state causing actual misery or paralysis is this of real concern.
4) The sense of loneliness is also quite natural. We are social creatures. It is not some unusual weakness to have this sensation.
5) A threat at work can be a sickening sensation. Work is hunting and gathering. It is survival in the modern world, and it is a rare person whose sense of self is not bound up there to some degree.
What are the ways “out” suggested by this post?
- Faith. Realizing you are just “there again.” You’ve been afraid and alone before. This too shall pass.
- Connectedness. To family, friends and even pets! Other living things heal our hearts. Touch, get hugs, exchange greetings, remember good times, imagine gatherings to come.
- Gratitude. Gratitude is an antidote for fear. Focusing on what you have, as opposed to what you do NOT have, is the secret. Millionaires can be miserable in the lap of luxury, simply by focusing on what is wrong in their lives. And martyrs have joyously survived incarceration and torture or accepted death by focusing on their commitments and spiritual faith. EXTERNAL CIRCUMSTANCES DO NOT CREATE INTERNAL STATES. We teach this to our children. For some bizarre reason, we forget it as adults.
What other ways are there to deal with fear, anxiety, loneliness? What have you used in your own life? And if you are trapped in these emotions?
- You haven’t connected with your own emotions. You have given your power away. Use a technique such as The Ancient Child to heal this.
- You don’t know what you want, or have not created a “winnable definition” of what must be done. If you say “I want Sally” that may be impossible. Sally may be dead, or happily in love with someone else. You COULD say: “I want a relationship that is better than the one I had with Sally.” But even better is to say: “I want to be as happy as I was with Sally.” THAT is under your control. The others are not.
- Remember that you do not want relationships, money, success, or whatever. You want the EMOTIONS you believe you will acquire by attaining them. And the emotions are under YOUR control. If you want these things, FIRST generate the emotions. Then, when it “doesn’t matter” what others think about you, you will find that you are at your most attractive, and begin to generate “luck.” It is bizarre, and some will consider it unfair. Get over yourself. The universe isn’t going out of its way to hurt you any more than God sets up sparrows to be eaten by hawks. It’s just life. And if you are going to be happy, you have to step out of the “poor me” child self and Man/Woman Up.
- An adult must learn to “punch his own buttons”–how to generate emotions on command.
One of the first things I teach coaching clients is to generate positive emotions on demand. It has never taken more than three hours to do this, despite any depth of negative state. In one case, a person who had no positive memories, was surrounded by pain and grief, finally retrieved a single memory of watching Saturday morning cartoons as a kid. That was the beginning.
In another case, an older person who was so depressed that they wouldn’t perform their physical therapy exercises to regain mobility finally remembered riding a horse through the mists of their childhood mountains. That was a wonderful foundation.
Emotion is created by mental focus, language, and physical action. Learn how you must move, talk, and think to create a given emotion or state, and you have stepped into more “awakened adulthood” and leave your illusion of helplessness.
NO ONE IS COMING TO RESCUE YOU. YOU WILL HAVE TO DO IT YOURSELF.
Others can help you roll the ball once YOU have gotten it going.
- focus on good that you have experienced in the past, or are experiencing now. If you think there is “nothing”, YOU ARE LYING TO YOURSELF. Go deeper.
- Focus on what you want to achieve. Study others who have achieved it, and see how they dealt with their own “dark nights.”
- Take action. When you are in motion, you experience the emotions accompanying the actions.
- “Stack” your responses. Learn what words, actions, focuses create positive emotions. Practice triggering them five times a day during your “Five Minute Miracle” sessions.
- Make connection. Reach out to your friends and extended family.
- Let go of guilt. Guilt is a tool of the ego. The “Ancient Child” program is a daily ritual which, if you actually use it, WILL change you. This is incredibly threatening to the ego. So…what will it do? It will sabotage your regular practice (my, you’ll get busy! Too busy to take fifteen minutes in the morning, I promise you…even if you watch three hours of television at night. We’re funny that way) and then use your missed session as “proof” you have failed, and are unworthy, or it doesn’t work, or… this is exactly that same as having a map, ignoring its advice, and then blaming the map when you get lost. But we all do it, at one time or another.
- Have faith. You and others have “been here before.” It is just a part of the cycle of life. The way through is seeing the path, accepting your fear, finding companions and mentors, taking responsibility, having faith, taking constant and massive action
We’re all in this alone, together.