Wednesday, January 7, 2015
I was recently observing how much differently I feel now as compared to this time last year. The coldest air of the winter arrived last night. The temperature is not forecast to reach 0 F today. And yet it doesn’t phase me to the extent it did when these types of days dawned last winter. When you finally begin to successfully address the issues that pain you the quality of your life can improve and the possibilities that begin to seem genuinely real may significantly expand.
Having reached such a pinnacle of healing as I have found in the last few months it’s only natural that I should begin to start seriously contemplating the question of what I can expect to achieve in my life in the future. What is possible? What can I achieve?
In contemplating these questions I find myself aware of my remaining fears. Yes, I still have fear. It doesn’t seem possible that there are people who do not have the ability to feel fear. But it’s another matter entirely when fear rules your life. It’s my impression there is a lot of fear in this country I was born in. Fear is peddled in the media. It is peddled in certain churches. Some people learn to fear early in their lives when they are still children. I was one such child. And now, decades later, I recognize that the best project I could consider undertaking in therapy is the unlearning of fear.
I felt a lot of fear when I was a kid. I feared my birthmother once she began to suffer her schizophrenic breakdown. I feared my first stepmother once it became clear to me that she had some serious issues of character. And I began to fear being around my father after he survived repeated attempts on his own life…but did not fundamentally change as a result of this horror. I may never understand who my father truly was. And somehow I find myself finally beginning to come to terms with this sad truth. I am finally, finally beginning to let go and visualize a future in which I no longer repeat old patterns of seeking to meet my basic needs from people who have consistently demonstrated their inability to meet them. Yes, I am moving on. It’s a wondrous feeling to witness such a profound transformation occurring inside me. I suppose all the psychotherapy is working!
I am writing about fear today because something that appears to be a fear is appearing as I contemplate the very real possibility of pursuing a doctoral degree in Hawaii. I have had this thought go through my mind that making such a choice would somehow seal my fate as a person destined to be forever single. I have taken notice of this extraordinarily pessimistic thought. The capacity to consciously notice our thoughts is an important skill. At least as important is the ability to choose whether or not we will be dominated by the thoughts that go through our minds. Do I have to believe such a pessimistic thought? No, I do not.
My greatest fear in pursuing a doctorate is not that doing so will be a project beyond my abilities. I am a capable and intelligent person. I do not fear some epic storm sweeping down upon the Hawaiian Islands and carrying me away to a watery death among the vastness of the Pacific Ocean (though that could certainly happen). No, my greatest fear is that choosing such a path will somehow necessarily prevent me from discovering and cultivating the types of rewarding relationships that I deeply yearn to experience. But again I have to ask myself: why do I think that? Is there any evidence to justify my pessimistic mindset? No, not really.
Some of you who read my blog may scoff at the intellectual jumping jacks I may be perceived to be performing. Afterall, am I not just using my mind to talk myself out of a problem that I have allowed my mind to convince me is actually real. Am I not just living trapped in my head? Possibly. I have been known to do that. Unlearning this tendency has been a work in progress as well.
In a previous blog post I wrote about the reality that to live and breathe and move about in the world is to be subject to the reality of risk. Risk is everywhere. There is no safe decision. I invite my dear readers to consider the statement I just wrote: ‘There is no safe decision’.