Vulnerability. Fear. Anger.
These words are just a few of the “labels” we give the emotions, that no one really likes to talk about. Emotions like these we bury deep down inside of us, like a suit of armor, building resistance against the dark forces. Yet, it is here where most change has the potential to occur. In my last article I articulated that “vulnerability is at the heart of authenticity.” That vulnerability is just another word for fear; well so is anger. It all stems from the unknown, and as humans not being able to control an outcome and just go with the flow, can be debilitating and overwhelming.
In the movie “X-men First Class,” we see a young Charles Xavier (soon to be professor X) and a young Erik — the vengeful, angry and tormented young man who will eventually become his arch-rival, Magneto come together for a common ground.
In the movie Erik cannot unleash the full extent of his power except when he is swept away by emotion — specifically, anger and sorrow. Charles Xavier instructs him on how to control his mind and his emotions in order to control his power and to unleash it’s brilliance upon the world. Charles says “True focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity.
This line from the movie was a pivotal moment for me. Much like Erik, I have experienced a traumatic childhood where most of my beginning belief systems were built upon the emotions of pain, anger and sorrow and as a young adult strived to define my purpose, make the world right and safer place for all.
True focus lies somewhere between rage and serenity – it makes you think. Much like the duality of the world – good vs evil, within us we also have anger and joy, or rage and serenity. It is only in the understanding of both of these – this paradox – that we can tune into the depth of our potential.
It has been an excruciating journey to try to learn how to change these patterns that were once built upon the framework of anger, sorrow or fear. One of the lessons I have learned is that one must learn how to stay in the conversation longer, how to sit through the fear and discomfort of personal emotional openness, the shedding of one’s armor and standing in one’s nakedness (especially when it comes to expressing my own anger, which is the emotion that I least comprehend and most fear.)
This particular idea of accessing ones power potential in that between space is much like the view point of Buddhism, where the key to working skillfully with our emotions – both the pleasant ones and the painful ones – is to find a balance between, on the one hand, feeling the emotion and opening to its energy, and on the other hand, having enough space around the experience of the emotion that we do not get swept away by it or become too attached to it.
In the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition, and particularly in the view of “formless” meditation practices and whatever arises in the mind — even powerful, afflictive emotions such as anger, jealousy, or rage — is regarded as the path of awakening. All emotions are thought to serve a purpose, as long as we are not attached to them long term. Every experience is the play of mind’s natural luminosity and emptiness. This approach can be further explained through the central doctrine of the Four Noble Truths, a conceptual framework for all of Buddhist thought where they explain the nature of suffering, anxiety, un-satisfaction, their origins and the cessation of these emotions through introspection and careful thought.
- The obvious physical and mental suffering associated with birth, growing old, illness and dying.
- The anxiety or stress of trying to hold onto things that are constantly changing.
- A basic unsatisfactoriness pervading all forms of existence, due to the fact that all forms of life are changing, impermanent and without any inner core or substance.
That space of true focus, I believe is in the letting go of the second bullet point above; “The anxiety or stress of trying to hold onto things that are constantly changing.” It is here where we struggle to let go, to let in, to move on etc.
Here’s what I think, if we allow ourselves to “feel”… like really feel fear, what happens? When we face our fears, they aren’t so fearful anymore. Why? Because we begin to understand why it exists and we begin to contemplate whether it’s productive in our lives. Fear, anger and rage can be productive when used to add value or perspective to ones life. It can be used as a catalyst towards change. It can dispel what hinders us, and can create space for creativity, love and compassion.
Exercise #1: Talk to Fear
Moving into the New Year I have decided that part of my own growth needs exercise, not just for my body, but for my mind. Every day I will sit with fear and in doing so I will have the self- compassion and grace to know that in transformation I need to accept that Fear will always come with it. I will talk with Fear, speak to it, and acknowledge it not with anger or sorrow, but with love and respect. I will say to it; hey I know you are afraid, that’s your job, and be being afraid you show me how not to be.
You show me that when I choose serenity, grace and transformation I am making the right choice and am no longer afraid. You may join me on my journey, but you must know that you cannot stop me from succeeding with grace and self – compassion.
Exercise #2: What value inspires you to show up even when you’re fearful and/or uncertain?
I love this one, and have to give the credit to Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love and her latest novel The Signature of All Things which Brene Brown said “is a sprawling tale of 19th century botanical exploration.”
“When I am experiencing emotional/interpersonal vulnerability, the best I can do sometimes ask myself what the alternative is to my entering the scary arena — to live a hard-hearted, locked-down, resentful and unforgiving life? Is that really who I want to be? Have I ever met a hard-hearted, locked-down, resentful and unforgiving person whom I truly admired?”
Bhahaha … ya no. And when you put it that way… how can you have true focus amongst that? Understanding your values helps you determine your driving force, it keeps you on your path and aligned with what is integral to your soul, your being. My number one value is “empowerment,” when I feel empowered; I am inspired to take on the world, to try new things, to have adventures, to climb peaks and mountains and change the world.
True Focus: the Untapped Resource:
The key to understanding your purpose is that you can never really understand it. I know, that doesn’t make a lot of sense. Here’s the thing – all we have is our experiences and out emotional attachments to them. We know our past, and we unveil our future in this very moment. This means that our purpose is in the here and now and unlocking your true focus and potential is in the understanding of this very moment. If you have fear, or are angry – feel it, own that emotion and use it to better yourself in the here and now. If you are joyous, content and happy – feel it, own that emotion and use it to better yourself in the here and now. The most important thing you can do is give equal attention to both and to build your resilience to fear by appreciating its impact on your life. I guarantee, you too can move things with your mind (metaphorically speaking of course)!