turning towards life


The self-related ideas and images we replay in our minds tend to derive from the challenging experiences of life: times we were vulnerable, abandoned, rejected. Rather than opening to the inevitable fear, we sought the false shelter of our thoughts; they provided us with what seemed to be a safe refuge from our felt lack of control during perilous and scary circumstances. 

If we grow dependent on daydreams, then we begin to identify with the roles we play in them: this fantasy is who I really am; not the person responsible for all those actions out there in the world. The stories can become sticky and difficult to detach from at this stage.

For awhile imagination, revenge fantasies and rewritten memories can provide the illusion of power and immunity to discomfort. Meanwhile taking time to check in with the body is largely abandoned, and difficult interpersonal relationships are shunned.

Then, of course the results of avoidance strategies start to poke sharp holes through our head trips. Interpersonal relationships can become tangled and messy, unacknowledged mistakes return to haunt us. We arrive at a point where we're less and less able to repair damaged relationships, or to sit through challenging experiences. Whether its unopened bills, unanswered phone calls or unexpressed frustration, issues cannot forever be swept under the carpet.

What this means is that we have to turn towards what's difficult, messy, uncontrollable: our humanity as real beings, avoidably subject to both secure and insecure circumstances, seasons of youth and power, and seasons of aging, loss, grief, powerlessness. Eventually we drop these self-fantasies, for they're born of limitations, not strengths. We regain strength from being calm and compassionate amidst difficulties, not seeking escape from the experiences.