We become liars and cowards because we deeply fear the consequences of being honest and vulnerable.
Atalwin Pilon is currently on a trip around the world. This is his latest dispatch.
Same topic, different state of mind: let’s talk about fear, anger and the liar and the coward. When I wrote my previous post, I just blurted out what was on my liver, as we say in Dutch. When I wrote it I felt angry but honest and when I finished I felt good and I am still behind my words. Reader and colleague writer Ben Ralston called it Kali energy and said it will be needed more and more in this age. The approval of a colleague: that is always somewhat comforting. But I also fear to be misunderstood, to alienate my loved ones from me and—as a consequence—fear loneliness, judgment and rejection.
Do you remember Miles, the aikido teacher with whom I stayed in Tel Aviv? He told me about the 4 types of medicine. The sweet medicine with a bitter effect (“grandmotherly compassion”: covering up stupidity or ignorance with “love” out of fear of confrontation), the sweet medicine with a sweet effect (the warm wisdom and compassion of the Dalai Lama for example), the bitter medicine with a bitter effect (just causing destruction by more or less covertly humiliating others) and the bitter medicine with a sweet effect. Well, according to Miles he and his teacher U Pandita taught the latter and my teachers often too. Zen teachers are not known for being too soft. It is called ruthless compassion. My post was an attempt to unveil and break through patterns I see everywhere. The intention was not to accuse others of being liars and cowards and thus making them feel inferior, the intention was to challenge ourselves and transcend the liar and the coward by acknowledging and voicing our fears. The moment we admit we are afraid, in denial and yellow we become vulnerable and courageous.
I have found that the thinking mind is completely motivated by fear. Every time we express ourselves “rationally” we are skipping the underlying emotion thus creating a façade or a wall. But we regard this behavior as completely normal so it is hard to see and hard to escape from.
To become aware of all these fears is pretty astonishing. I mean, I really believed for a very long time that I was afraid of nothing and nobody. It turned out to be quite different. Fear of failure, judgment, the unknown, death, independence, intimacy, success (to name a few); it was and is all there. We cultivate what we have learned to find acceptable and we deny, suppress or hide what we are ashamed of. We devote every thought and every action to confirming of our self-image. It costs a lot of energy to maintain this illusion and we are all taking part in this theatre.
Because we live in denial of large parts of our potential we all feel less than complete. Because we feel less than complete we suffer and need to fill the gap. We feel that “something” is lacking and that eerie feeling is threatening. So we start to compete, acquire and accumulate to fill up the perceived deficit. This can consume and blind us completely; we call it the rat race. What we forget is to investigate ourselves and to express what is really true for us. We have to turn the light inwards. Then we will find that the deficit is an optical illusion and therefore all behavior organized around this illusion useless, contra-productive and destructive.
From a psychological point of view we all have been conditioned during childhood. We have learned to suppress parts of ourselves the hard way. My “stuff” is around rejection and abandonment: my parents got divorced at a very young age, I never saw my father again and nobody handed me the tools to heal that wound so I created my own story. I tried to be a “good” boy by cultivating everything that I understood to be strong and positive. Later I found that these incidents leave deep scars and that we are all traumatized. It is not just the big, obviously traumatizing moments. Every defining moment, every moment that shaped us into what we are today, was a moment of trauma. The most loving, compassionate thing we can do is to learn to let go of trauma and conditioning.
We become liars and cowards because we deeply fear the consequences of being honest and vulnerable. Once we were innocent and we paid the price. We learned our lessons and became guarded. So there is nothing unconventional about being a liar and a coward, it was expected from us to play along. But it is a sad thing and the cause of more suffering and destruction. We should make the buck stop because we can, because it will tremendously increase our individual and collective happiness, because it will heal the environment and because … Well because it is 2012 and we don’t want to disappoint the Mayans by not entering that next level of consciousness, do we?
As many of us, I still fear my anger. We are raised with the idea that anger is “wrong”; especially girls suffer from it. In the last years I have learned that when I direct my anger with precision and clarity it can be a healing instrument. But I am better in written form than in spoken words. In a verbal confrontation I can still choke or become defensive. Although I have healed a lot, if you accused me of keyboard warriorship you might have a point. The shame I feel creeping in after the fact indicates that I still have unresolved trauma in that area, I have internalized the punishment that teachers and adults would give me for being angry. The fact that I hold back in friendships out of fear of hurting, disappointing and confronting and its consequences indicates cowardice and a fear of speaking the truth. This is a relationship based on a contract not to hurt each others ego’s, not true friendship. But I am working on it. I have chosen to free myself from fear and to take as many people with me as possible. Preferably I will be serving sweet medicine but bitter medicine will be available too.
My inner storm has past but strangely enough it has started storming outside since 15 minutes. My hiking buddy has officially recovered today and we are planning to leave for a 3 day trek tomorrow. It would be very ironic if we find that the trails are flooded or something …
This post originally appeared at BasicGoodness.com.
Photo credit: Flickr/