“You will always be fond of me. I represent to you all the sins you never had the courage to commit.”
— Oscar Wilde (The Picture of Dorian Gray)
I just finished a book called Many Lives, Many Masters by a renowned American psychiatrist, Dr. Brian Weiss. He began working with a patient who had numerous crippling phobias and fears. After the normal routes to help her were not succeeding, he decided to use hypnosis to see if he could uncover hidden traumas. Much to his surprise, she began recounting past lives. At first he attributed it to movies she may have watched or books she could have read. He didn’t believe in past lives and it did not fit the structure of his medical model. But as they continued, he realized she was speaking of past life experiences and traumas that she’d carried into this life.
To be honest, the idea of past lives kind of pisses me off, especially if we carry garbage, fears, and phobias forward from them. Frankly, I have enough problems in this life without trying to figure out what in the hell type of ordeals I’m dragging around from when I was a slutty bar wench in dreary old England or wondering if I’m reliving the same issue with the same soul over and over again until I get it right.
Unfortunately I’ve read too much compelling evidence and had some pretty wild déjà vu moments to say it’s untrue. If it is real, I’d like to speak to the powers that be and find out why they don’t send us here with a map or at least a few clear clues about what we’re dealing with. But I digress.
One of the things Dr. Weiss observed over a period of time was the shift in this patient’s ‘attractor factor.’ As she healed from her fears and phobias through the recounting of the past lives, she became lighter. Her demeanor shifted and suddenly people wanted to be around her. They frequently told her she was beautiful. Before therapy, she went unnoticed, but after letting go of her fears, she became a brilliant beacon of interest to others.
Every year I create New Year’s wishes for friends which I seal and then we each blindly select. I’d made 23 of them this year and wondered which one I’d get. There were many I wanted (windfall, soul mate, travel), but I got fearlessness.
For 2015 I wish for you …
Think about everything you fear deep inside you,
things you worry about,
things that keep you from doing what you really want to do.
A feeling of courage, motivation, inspiration and fearlessness.
I was momentarily disappointed, but then thought of the blissful ramifications of a fearless life. There are many things that dim our light, but I think of all of the things that most muddy our inner radiant magnificence it is fear. The thing that shrinks our world to its most mundane level is fear.
I have two friends whom I admire for their fearlessness. One friend has done an enormous amount of self-development to eradicate her fears and issues (and past life work, for the record). I can’t think of much she is afraid of.
To cite a couple of examples, we once hitched a ride in Mexico from the jungle to town in the back of a dilapidated pick-up truck down a hilly and winding road at warp speed. We were flying around, our hair whipping at our faces, laughing. I yelled at her, “Are you afraid?” and she said, “No, it’s not my time.” She didn’t even consider injury.
On another occasion, she invited me to go whitewater rafting. I am terrified of churning water and massive ocean swells, but I agreed to give it a go. We have a photo (unfortunately for me) taken by the tour company. It concisely depicts the difference between abject terror and fearlessness. When we hit a rapid wall (or whatever it’s called), the guide said we were going to ride it by hitting it repeatedly. I was both mortified and beyond panicked. I screamed blue murder and literally wedged my body with both arms and legs into the bottom of the boat. She, on the other hand, rode on the front lip of the boat with legs dangling in the water, a look of complete calm and almost indifference on her face. Exact same experience, two polar opposite perceptions of it.
She is constantly stretching herself, learning new things, living contrary to the status quo and is completely unconcerned about what anyone thinks of her.
The other friend has, with the course of her life’s challenges, developed a serene attitude no matter the circumstance. She’s lived an amazing life in Paris on her own delicious terms–without apology, had a flatmate who was a good friend commit suicide in their apartment and handled it calmly, and without complaint returned to Canada to take care of a dying mother who’d been utterly cruel most of her life. She’s grace under fire.
Not so ironically, men and women alike are drawn to these two women like moths to a flame and most consider them beautiful.
If I asked, “Are you a fearful person?” you might tell me no or nominally so. Maybe you are afraid of spiders or snakes, but rarely run across them. Or of tsunamis, but you live inland.
Yet if we were to sit down and really discuss your fears, what would we uncover? Fears can be devious–so much so that we don’t even realize the running (and growing) list we have.
On New Year’s Eve my brother had created some games for our amusement. One involved speed and coordination. The kids were competing and someone suggested I give it a try. My immediate response was no. I caught myself and realized the only reason I didn’t want to try was fear. I didn’t want to look like a klutz. So I said yes and had a lot of fun playing the game.
How many things do you say no to out of misplaced fear? How many opportunities have you bypassed? How many fears are impinging on your freedom?
- A friend told me last night that her sister turned down a trip to Mexico for her birthday gift because she’d taken a cruise and the ship stewards were rude to her. She’s decided never to travel again. (Seriously?)
- Another friend cancelled tickets to Paris that she’d been gifted last year because it involved flying over the water.
- Another friend won’t drink water in a café without a straw because she once got a cold sore.
- A friend cancelled last minute on being my morning airport ride because of a forecast of -1 and a skiff of snow for fear of the driving conditions.
- I have avoided romantic relationships for quite a period of time because of fear based on the last neurotic nut, even though I love love.
Not only does fear wall us off from unknown pleasures, it keeps people at a distance. It deflects interactions and experiences which could enhance our lives. Fear makes us old before our time and it is the source of tremendous suffering. It can immobilize us or drive us manic.
Fear is also a kingpin tactic in oppression and has been since the dawn of society. Really observe what you’re being fed in the news and you’ll find fear mongering at its finest. We can be made to behave a certain way out of fear and I am extremely cautious to filter what I allow to pass “go.”
I am glad I pulled the wish of fearlessness. It brought my attention to the fears I’ve always wanted to conquer. It made me more aware of the tiny (and grand) things I am afraid of that I needn’t be. I have some “justifiable” fears, but I’d be well served to starve them. It also reminded me of the many times I’ve been courageous and shown fearlessness in the face of super scary things and on my journeys to the unknown. I remember I have a reservoir of bravery inside of me.
I think if we want to fully experience life, to remain youthful and have a brightly twinkling ‘attractor factor,’ we need to cull our list of fears.
I love this Bob Newhart skit which humorously illustrates the silliness of our fears and phobias. It’s funny, yet poignantly true.
The rival energy of fear is trust. When you fear, dig deep inside for trust; trust in yourself, trust in other people, trust in the path you are taking, and trust in a beautiful, benevolent Universe that wants you to soar high to a bigger, bolder life.
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