Friday, February 12, 2016

Sympathy for the Devil Within

I was watching an interesting TED talk today online when I noticed something unrelated to the topic the presenter was meaning to discuss, but still illustrated something for me. In the process of relating a story, she talked about having lived through a tragedy that had a huge impact on her life. She got through this story succinctly, and with no fuss whatsoever because it wasn’t the point of her story. What was important was that this experience had shaken her confidence for years to come.

It was not an emotional moment for her, this revealing of such a formative moment.

She then mentioned meeting another person who was experiencing a similar downfall and subsequent hit to her confidence. Revealing this part, about another person, nearly brought her to tears even as she worked to continue her talk.

My first thought was, how noble of her to feel so deeply for this other person. I imagined her to be a kind and honorable woman.

My second observation was that she had felt none of that for herself. And then I realized that I treat myself just the same. It’s easier for me to choke up about the struggles of a movie character than to feel deep sorrow for any struggles I’ve had in my own life.

Of course, if I ever met someone who felt in the opposite way – crying for themselves and feeling nothing for others – I would loath them. Can you imagine such a tool? (Visions of Trump loom in my mind for some reason.)

And finally, my third reaction was, why can’t she feel for herself as strongly as for others? What would be so wrong about that? It sounds balanced and self-empowering. I wanted it for her.

Hours later, I realized that I wanted it for myself, too.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Anxiety Gremlins

Something you might not know.

We each host an anxiety gremlin complete with pointy teeth, and claws, and foul dispositions. Maybe yours is so small you don’t notice it much. Some people are practically ruled by theirs. Under normal conditions these gremlins walk beside us kvetching under their breath about how the sun it too bright and someone is going to get killed not being able to see in such a glare. “It’s a wonder we don’t all have skin cancer already. Well, soon enough…”

And so on.

Some people have turned to guns to save themselves from their anxiety gremlin, but they’ll never manage to plug it. It’s not that simple. Some have tried numbing themselves but the gremlin only laughs. Both of these play right into its hands.

On our best days we manage to kick that bastard back a bit so that it trudges behind us scurrying to catch up as we turn our faces to the sun and drink in pleasure.

They are hard to get rid of entirely, though.

Sometimes they get in front and block our path, keeping us from moving forward. We feel stuck; frozen in the fears it whispers up at us. We begin to believe its lies. That’s when things get dark.

Then it can get away with more. It climbs onto our backs and digs foot claws into our sides. Grasping fingers as hard as roofing nails pierce our skulls and turn us away from the sun. “Looking at the light is pointless,” it hisses in our ear as it swivels our necks. “Look at the mess you have made of your life instead. You’ll never get anywhere now. What’s the point? What must decent people think of you? So useless.”

A gun won’t find it. The best we can do is rip that monster from our hides, sometimes leaving long bloody slashes as we pull it free and throw it down.

And never let it climb onto us again.

Which can be much harder than it sounds. Maybe your gremlin has been taking it easy on you. Other gremlins have insatiable ambition and need to be fought and defeated every single day.

Still, the sun is out there. And we deserve that pleasure no matter how strong our gremlin has become. The fight is always worth it, and so are we.