“You were put on this earth to achieve your greatest self, to live out your purpose, and to do it courageously.”
Of all of the emotions in my feelings cache, the one I have the most disdain for is regret. For me, it is a sign of weakness, fear, opportunities lost, and, well, regret... The thought of not knowing and always wondering how something will work out has been a driving force in my life. In fact, my long-time motto has been “no regrets.” At times, jumping into unchartered waters has resulted in failure (although I can’t think of a time when it has); mostly, I have been rewarded with satisfaction beyond measure.
So why is it that I have struggled for what I have wanted for 30 years? Why is it that I have been willing to live with the one regret that I might possibly regret the most—not fulfilling my destiny—
yes, destiny—as a writer? Enter the second emotion for which I have disdain: Fear. So powerful. So destructive. So paralyzing.
What is fear, anyway?
Dictionary.com defines it as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.”
Psychologytoday.com says, “Fear is a vital response to physical and emotional danger—if we didn't feel it, we couldn't protect ourselves from legitimate threats. But often we fear situations that are far from life-or-death, and thus hang back for no good reason. Trauma or bad experiences can trigger a fear response within us that is hard to quell. Yet exposing ourselves to our personal demons is the best way to move past them.”
science.howstuffworks.com answers the question, “What is Fear?” with, “Fear is a chain reaction in the brain that starts with a stressful stimulus and ends with the release of chemicals that cause a racing heart, fast breathing and energized muscles, among other things, also known as the fight-or-flight response.”
I’ll go with Door Number 2. Why? Because “personal demons” speak to me. I mean that literally. My personal demons speak to me—I would say yell at me—every. single. day.
Okay. Let’s break it down further. What does “expose” mean as in “exposing ourselves to our personal demons?”
Dictionary.com defines it as “to lay open to danger, attack, harm.” Um, no thank you.
Urbandictionary.com takes it a step further: “To find out someone’s secret, or see them doing a shameful act.” That one should have a warning label: Before reading, remove all razor blades and lemon juice from within reach.
Then I stumbled across “Why Growth Most Often Occurs When We Fall Apart.” A couple of choice paragraphs:
“Adversity is an essential ingredient that throws the individual into an existential crisis, forcing him or her to go through an awareness ofoperating in low consciousness and a subsequent process of self-examination leading to further growth.”
“Instead of seeking safety in comfort, we need to seek out opportunities to expose ourselves to the possibility of falling apart and remaking everything we once thought we knew. In short, we need to expose ourselves to positive disintegration."
Wait. Isn’t it counterintuitive to seek pain instead of pleasure?
Doesn’t that go against every ounce of self-preservation we have? At first blush, it does. However, upon further reflection, I realize we humans aren’t wired for self-preservation; we are wired for survival. When we overcome adversity, we don’t say, “I self-preserved.” We say, “I survived.”
I guess we actually need that cortisol to kick in, we need that fight-or-flight mechanism, and that stubborn, unapologetic fear in order to keep our survival instincts intact, lest they become atrophied and disappear completely from our human character, unavailable to us should we ever literally need to survive.
I need to stop self-disintegrating. I need to open the door to my personal demons rather than use my energy to shut them out.
So to my pain, I say, “welcome” because I will survive. And with no regrets.