Emotions

137. MANAGING FEAR

I used to be terrified of heights; sweaty palms, vertigo, the works, and that’s just when I stood up. Seriously though, I really was afraid of heights. In fact, as a young boy, I had a whole list of anxieties. Spiders (note the still above from “The Incredible Shrinking Man”) and bees, getting into fights, riding the school bus, where to sit during lunch, what would be said about me during parent/teacher conferences, deep water, seeing my report card, and most of all, my mother. Fear was always there. It dominated me for the most part but thank God it occasionally retreated to the background. I had frequent (albeit brief) periods of joy, peace, and amusement, especially when I was alone, but every type of fear, from despair to terror, was the main emotional state I expressed and felt for most of my youth. As I grew older I found I’d gained leverage over how events progressed in my own life, and I slowly began to feel as if I were moving past my unwanted emotional alignments. In reality they morphed into a more covert way of manifesting themselves, which is where my addictive traits eventually began to overwhelm me.

I must have had some sort of sense of avoidance on a subconscious level because I refused engage in many activities as a teenager that appeared to be both extremely fun and entertaining, but leaned towards a possible self-destructive path. Gateway drugs were obvious temptations, but things like cigarettes and casual sex were also part of the equation. By the time I was sixteen I’d already known people who had passed a point of no return. They had eventually stepped over a line where their behavior was causing damage that could not be reversed. I wasn’t necessarily terrified of what I saw, but there was enough fear to keep me in a state of caution when it came to how I was going to proceed in my own life.

There were two traps I eventually allowed myself to be lured into. I had no real cautions about either alcohol or, surprisingly, sugar. I’d never been around (or more likely hadn’t noticed) either one of these indulgences all that much. I’d been in the company of those who were drunk and others who overate, BUT most people I knew who drank weren’t drunks, and most who ate candy weren’t fat. This casual observation effectively cancelled any apprehensions I might have had if I’d witnessed the more destructive nature that abusing both of these could lead to. The largest flaw in my personality has always been all-in on anything hedonistic. I KNEW this ahead of time, which is why I avoided so many other paths. If I were to sample the example, apprehension would be lost. Practicing moderation has been one of my biggest struggles. There was a darkness inside me waiting for fertilization, I could feel it. Stepping over the line would be catastrophic to not only myself, but probably a great many others as well. I genuinely was split, good over here, bad over here; kindness on one side, malice on the other. When I recognized this I panicked and started doing anything I could to alter my state of mind. I chose what I thought was an easy path, to do so from the outside in instead of from the inside out and quite effectively shot myself in the foot.

I was horrible at managing my feelings and even worse at interpreting them. My logic was to avoid what either felt bad or might have bad consequences and embrace what either felt good or could be rewarding. The problem with such thinking was I avoided the correct course of action if there were the possibility of pain or price involved and embraced flawed conduct if pleasure or gratification was perceived. Fear, in my mind, was something to be avoided at all costs.

I’ve never told myself a bigger lie.

Believe it or not fear is my ally. It is NOT the enemy. Why? Because when I allow myself to feel it, to acknowledge its existence, I become aware of what must be overcome. I cannot improve as a person without recognizing what’s holding me back. There are, of course, situations which must be heeded with total apprehension, but it takes practice to separate authentic threats from those that are illusionary. The easiest way for me to recognize whether or not irrational behavior is in play is to determine the nature of support behind my reaction. Fear that owes its existence to blame is false, fear that arises as a result of a need to be responsible is authentic.

If, for example I’m blaming my lack of experience on pursuing a task, this is an unfounded fear, one based on an egotistical ideology, and it keeps me from expanding my résumé. On the other hand, if someone is holding a gun on me demanding my wallet, being frightened is perfectly acceptable. Most fear, in my experience, has extraordinarily little danger attached to outcome, in fact, it’s usually quite the opposite. Recognizing and walking through anything I’ve equated with apprehension has always been the best course of action, one that unveils potential and reaps success.

I suppose my best advice is to stop being afraid of feeling scared. Fear is a tool, a lever we can use to maneuver ourselves to a life of high achievement. There’s no doubt we are motivated when there’s something we want to gain or create, but if there’s something in the way we want to overcome as well, it becomes fun.

Trust me.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

 

 

128. LET’S BE WEIRD

I knew something was different about me very early on. The first time I realized this around the age of six. There I was, sitting in bed, joyously scribbling away in my Tom and Jerry coloring book and singing loudly to myself when it crossed my mind I was quite happy with no one else around. I truly remember this moment. I liked being in the company of others just fine, but I didn’t miss them when they weren’t there. I’m almost fifty-six now with no brothers or sisters, but back then there was no way of knowing if siblings were going to be in my life or not, so expectations of a bigger family remained open. Either way it didn’t matter, I craved neither solitude nor companionship, whatever the moment offered was quite comfortable. I also knew this attitude was different than most.

My teachers thought I was a bundle of nerves with a big mouth. I was; still am as an adult, but at least now I have increased self-awareness with my tendencies as well as an ability to redirect my energies, though sometimes it’s a little past my initial expressiveness. I was also rude, but never consciously so. My exasperated mother could not get me to say “excuse me” correctly when I walked in front of, or accidentally got in the way of others. Instead, I had it backwards for years and gleefully said “excuse you” instead, which really did come across as me being bratty. I never meant to be impolite, but I’m sure it seemed that way to those who were in my presence. Most of this stemmed from being selfish and overbearing, a side-effect of being an only child. There’s no doubt this type of behavior in today’s environment would insist on some sort of diagnosis that would require lots of drugs and possibly even therapy. Thank God I was born when I was.  If I were to unknowingly meet my younger self these days I’m sure I would roll my eyes and shake my head.

My personal habits in my youth were almost always directed towards fantasy or science fiction. Reality was fun, no doubt, but the possibility of imagination becoming reality held much more intrigue. I was a Star Trek, Wild Wild West, and Lost in Space kid. My library was soon filled with similar themes as I grew older and began to voraciously read. L. Frank Baum’s OZ books, A.A. Milne, The Chronicles of Narnia, and everything written by Edgar Rice Burroughs filled many hours of mental journeys. My artwork reflected my tendencies (and still does) when a brush, pen, or pencil was above a blank page. My room, my toys, were also in line as well. Everything one could think and create with, construction sets, art supplies, and, of course, books were my go-to playthings. Yes, I had cars, GI Joe, and sports stuff, but they were fall-back activities. I did play softball almost every day on the playground, so physical pastimes were abundant, but my mind was always elsewhere.

As I grew older I shifted away from my nature. What once was a powerful connection to my spirit faded a little every day as I became more and more hedonistic. This is where I deliberately began to withdraw from my fantasies. I went from being inspired by inward motives, to choosing to be influenced by outward ones. The walls effectively went up, and my wings of imagination came crashing down. Here is where I effectively became “normal.” All too soon I had a vast library of excuses for abandoning my hopes and dreams, in essence I joined the “tribe” and began goose-steeping to the tedious drone the majority of the population mindlessly embraces.

What IS normal one might ask? Well, in my observation the behaviors most people share define what’s totally acceptable, not only because they (usually) remain unchallenged, but also because they serve an agenda that justifies excuses for avoiding taking action. This is a cancerous lifestyle because most of our oblivious thought processes are great examples of misery loving company; we cyclically feed on each others bad habits. Please don’t think I’m past this, I’m not. All too often I catch myself joining in the mob mentality, my ego steps in, and I start playing the game with practiced ease.

Normal is therefore –

  • Accusing circumstance for how you act and feel.
  • Being late most of the time; or at the very least being highly rushed.
  • Trying to be different or stand apart from the outside in.
  • Worrying about reputation.
  • Complaining.
  • Thinking it’s inevitable certain “things” must happen the older we get, weight gain is, ahem… a big example.
  • Money equals happiness.
  • Wondering why everyone is so much luckier than you.
  • Hating Mondays, traffic, getting out of bed, supervisors, and your ex. Basically HATING too much.
  • A sense of lack.
  • Constantly comparing ourselves to others.
  • Wanting all the rewards in life without actually working for them.
  • Being overly offended, which, by the way, is nothing more than a covert way of  judging others.
  • Holding grudges.
  • Consistently defending oneself.
  • Pointing out flaws in everything: which is a cowardly act of misdirection designed to keep others from treating you the way you treat them.

Are ALL these observations normal? No need to ask me for reassurance, just look around for yourself and notice the type of body language most present themselves with, listen to the tone and delivery of how people typically speak as well as the attitudes that drive the agendas of average people. Do their motives fit many if not all the examples given above? Sadly, yes. Most people have fallen under the influence of thinking life can be fixed from the outside in, therefore what’s wrong is “out there”. We’re convinced we can change how we act and feel by manipulating the world around us rather than simply changing how we react. “Normal” is a comfort zone because the behavior is acceptable. The more we step out of the comfort zone, OR the more we embrace imagination, possibility, and personal power, the more we’re labeled as weird, because in doing so we don’t fit the tribe mentality.

Let’s look at a reversed list and perhaps this will enlighten as to just how rare, or of course abnormal it sounds.

Weird is therefore –

  • Owning how you act and feel.
  • Never being late, always relaxed.
  • Doing what it takes to be different from the inside out.
  • Not caring about what others think.
  • Bring grateful.
  • Knowing that you can defy the idea of how people age, and prove it through examples.
  • Happiness equals money. (LOVE this one)
  • Feeling blessed no matter how bad things get.
  • Loving Mondays, getting up the moment the alarm goes off to enjoy the day, empathizing with your boss, and wishing the best for your ex. Basically LOVING  everything.
  • A sense of abundance.
  • Comparing who and what you are, with where you were.
  • Willing to put forth any effort to achieve what you want.
  • Not letting hardly anything bother you, which will cultivate empathy.
  • Easily forgiving.
  • Embracing accountability.
  • Looking for the beauty in everything, which prompts others to do the same in kind.

To me it seems that imagination and compassion complement each other, just as ignorance and animosity are obviously close relatives. If nothing else the first list describes someone who is thoroughly boring and predictable, while the second list supports the type of person who is interesting and spontaneous. It’s ALSO important to point out the first list embraces a posture of inaction and blame, while the second one typifies a lifestyle of action and responsibility.

When I abandoned old beliefs and habits and embraced new ones, I reignited long lost passions I’d convinced myself were forever lost. This was actually a side-effect to my recovery, and I did not expect it. I never thought I’d find fortitude just because I wanted to become different, or of course… WEIRD.

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With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood

123. HOW DO YOU FEEL?

These days I wear my heart on my sleeve but it took a few decades to get there. Hiding my emotions from others or altering them to get a desired response is a useful and necessary skill, one I’m quite practiced at, however, I now realize attempting to ignore my passions or repress my reactions from myself is one of the most unhealthy choices I can pursue. For years my reflection stirred nothing but apathy. As a young man I never looked past my own eyes in the mirror, the thought never occurred. Curiosity for what I was past flesh and blood held almost no interest, and so I went about my days in a constant loop of mostly hedonistic pastimes.

I did read, draw, and write on rare occasions, but as time wore on my withdrawal from everything I used to love from a cerebral perspective eventually shrank into distant memory. My existence became extremely superficial. Television and movies ate up a large chunk of mindless time-wasting. Alcohol, of course, sped up the slowing down of my humanity. Projects and pursuits I used to get excited over lay in corners, boxes, and shelves, covered in dust, and fading from memory. All this served to dull my senses and separate me from anything resembling abstract thought. I had nothing to look forward to nor did I have any interest in creating anything anticipatory.

My vocabulary simplified to match my emotional range. Everything was fine or okay. I really had no ups and downs unless you count going from being relieved I didn’t die one day, to wanting to the next. Describing my life was detached from actually feeling it. I walked around for years totally numb, unable to connect inner interpretation to outer situations. My spirit was buried, unable to function. All I was was existence without substance, a shadow of reality.

Getting back to a place of authentic expression took a lot of work. When I first cut the rubber band binding my inner monologue, it burst forth with unexpected energy. This led to bipolar behavior for quite some time. My highs were extremely high, and my lows matched them. Like a ball bouncing from a great height, my passions finally found a somewhat normal rhythm and settled into manageable patterns. There are still deep end experiences these days, but they’re rare and pass quickly. I think the initial danger, when I finally embraced a dynamic lifestyle, was the temptation to align too much with becoming either intensely negative or overly optimistic. Either one of these roads could easily have been one step too far and I would have passed a point of no return. A bitter, hostile attitude towards life had a genuine appeal since it feeds the ego and mine was already well developed, but magnifying this aspect of my personality would have been suicidal. On the other hand, looking at life through “rose colored glasses” also presented alluring temptations. I could go about my business with no concerns about the future whatsoever; however, “blind faith” can be a dangerous journey, one that keeps my eyes looking skyward instead of forward. Luckily, I found a comfortable alternative to either of these two routes. Surprisingly, it’s NOT a middle road, but rather a different one.

I’ve often referred to myself as a “pro-optimist” which isn’t even a real word, but it really does describe how I move through my days. I’m usually highly optimistic as long as I’m actively investing in my ambitions. This path normally allows me to check and balance my emotional state. When I’m involved, blame is absent and responsibility is active. Yes, there’s no doubt most life’s “game” is comprised of random events, but when I have a hand in my own future it (usually) allows me to manipulate key elements, most importantly, my own attitude. As an example, I can be happy everything turned out well, OR I can be pleased I now know what not to do should similar situations arise. Granted, the aforementioned outcome is preferable, but either way my perceptions coupled with direct actions make for a recipe that cannot disappoint. If I look at things in this manner, there is no such thing as failure, and my emotional state has no choice but to align with satisfaction either way. Please note I cannot take this same approach if I am totally separated from an event, which is way I insist on participating in my own life.

Becoming desensitized to life went hand in hand with my subconscious choice to live in a strictly reactive fashion. Once I chose an active life, I had no alternative but to become emotionally adept. I wonder if the same is true for others who were just as lost as me? The title of this entry is not asking how the reader feels, it’s asking “how does one learn to feel?” I know how I did, and it’s one of the skills that keeps me enthusiastic about living.

Please follow my blog. Comment and share as you wish.

With Love and compassion, Daniel Andrew Lockwood