Your addiction has a dream for your life.
So does your anxiety.
And your depression.
And also your memories… and yes, your shame has a vision for you too.
• • •
If you are reading this blog, you or someone you care about may live with one or more of these experiences: addiction or anxiety, depression or relentless memories, or the heavy grinding weight of shame. These experiences share a common vision for you. They do not want to hurt you or destroy you, in fact, far from it.
The parts of us that today seem self-destructive, painful, or dark often contain a deep desire to keep us safe, to protect us from feeling or facing something. These parts can often have very deep roots.
I see it every day when I look in the mirror… and every day when I talk to my clients. There is a part in each one of us that cautions us, tells us to stay safe, to do what is familiar, to see the world as serious and heavy.
This post is personal for me… and perhaps it is for you too? This week, I wrote in my journal:
It is unwise to allow Anxiety to set the direction for your life, because soon it will dictate what your life should be. It will tell you what you can or cannot do, who you should or should not talk to, what you need or must have or must do.
Anxiety will build a fence around your life. Life has a tendency to become bigger, as we grow and learn and become curious, openly laugh, and acknowledge that we do not have all of the answers. But Anxiety will cast a spell, it will lay down code in your mind, convincing you that your fence should become smaller and smaller. Then one day you notice that the dreams you once had are nothing but memories.
Anxiety has a vision for your life. It will tell you what not to do NOW and how you should put off many things until LATER. The vision of Anxiety is an UN-challenging, UN-fulfilling life. It is a vision of yourself and your life that is more and more and more of the same, predictable and safe.
I wrote this from the perspective that listening to my Anxiety, keeping my life familiar and safe has often not helped me. Because within my Anxiety is another quieter voice. You have to be ready, but what you most fear is often exactly what you need. What makes you feel afraid, sad, vulnerable, triggered or like that scared little child… that is a gift. It points the way forward.
Often the most powerful thing you can do is take one step. One. Shaking. Step.
Last weekend, my wife and I went hiking in Banff with my mother. I won’t give away her age, so I will just say she is old enough that she grew up before Google was a thing and when she first heard the word “internet” she thought it was something you put over your head to keep your hair from flying away.
On the hike, my mom said something amazing. She said that if she could have a superpower, she would be fearless. As we hiked 3 miles up and then down a mountain, at times she felt anxious. If she fell and hurt herself, it could seriously impact her health. But being outside, in the mountains also made her more alive.
So she stepped carefully. She moved slowly at times, but she did not listen to Anxiety or to Fear. That day, she did not wear a cape… but she should have. She is my hero and I hope that at her age, I will be just like her.
Addiction has a vision for your life. Stay the same, safe, familiar, high, numb… So does anxiety, depression, and shame. They speak and sometimes they scream… “Stay safe. Do what you know. Be serious. Get to work and just try harder. Don’t take that step because life will be terrible… horrible… it will kill you.”
As terrifying as it seems, one step will not kill you.
I don’t think the world is sold
I’m just doing what we’re told
I, feel something so right
Doing the wrong thing
I, feel something so wrong
But doing the right thing
I could lie, could lie, could lie
Everything that kills me makes me feel alive
One Republic, “Counting Stars”
• • •
There is a part of each of us that will tell us to do what feels right, safe, familiar. Taking a risk will feel wrong and frightening. So we have to ask ourselves, “What makes me feel alive?” And then take the step.
I invite you to read a recent piece that I love, “I Want to Fall Apart… But Maybe Not Until Next Week Tuesday.”
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