Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tao Te Ching - Chapter 74 – Acceptance

Chapter 74 from the Tao Te Ching. New English Version, with Foreword and Notes, by Stephen Mitchell. Click here for a free online copy of the Tao Te Ching.

If you realize that all things change,
there is nothing to hold on to.
If you aren’t afraid of dying,
there is nothing you can’t achieve.

Trying to control the future
is like trying to take the master carpenter’s place.
When you handle the carpenter’s tools,
chances are that you’ll cut your hand.

Take a couple of minutes and read over this passage. What comes to mind? What emotions are evoked? What images do you see? What concepts resonate? For this exercise, it’s best to write down your reaction, or make an audio or video recording of your reaction.

For me, many images are evoked. I think of the ocean, the awesome power of nature, the expansiveness of the universe and time, the relative smallness of my own life, and the notion of a supreme being. I question truth and reality and I wonder what, if anything, is certain in life. Acceptance of fear is acceptance of uncertainty and change.

We do not want to live a life of fear. Fear numbs us and paralyses us – it makes us dissociate from our lives and live a frightened and depressed existence. One of my favorite quotes – maybe my very favorite quote ever is this:

Una Vida de Miedo es Media Vida – A Life of Fear is Half a Life.

Write this down somewhere and tape it up where you will see it every day.

I have found that my trauma and corresponding fear of powerlessness has resulted in me acting on fear or acting against it. Some ways are healthy for me, but other ways are not. Below is a partial list of ways that I act on fear and ways that I react against fear.

Ways that I act on fear

  • Intense distrust and suspicion of other people
  • Paranoia
  • Seeking solitude
  • Fear of Sex
  • Negative Perception of others
  • Being extremely selfish and self-protectionist by always putting my needs first as a matter of principal
  • Fear of dying
  • Fear of going outside
  • Fear of close relationships
  • Over-reacting when criticized (overly sensitive)
  • Lacking confidence

Ways that I act against fear
  • Controlling my time and more specifically what I do with it and how I spend. This is because I feel like time is the only thing that we really have on this earth and we don’t have much of it, so why waste it? Why waste it on other people because other people will ultimately only hurt you or disappoint you?
  • Fascination with Power
  • Fascination with the power of appearances and the role of marketing in society
  • Keen interest in the power of expression and the importance of fluency with language to truly express oneself and protect oneself
  • The power of voice and tone
  • Realizing that weak does not mean good
  • Power can be good, but power can be uncomfortable
  • Fascination with group power dynamics and who makes the decisions and how they position themselves to be able to get the outcome that they want

As I mentioned before, some of these ways are good for me in the long run because they help me become more powerful and able to protect myself in healthy ways.

I have come to realize that in my worst states of depression, anxiety, and paranoia, the root of all my pain is in the feelings of powerlessness and fear that overcome me. I have come to realize that when I am in a severely depressed state that it is fear that is running my life. Fear of re-experiencing the sense of complete powerlessness that I suffered as a child…fear of being unable to protect myself by either fleeing or fighting my way out of it. Ironically, now in my adulthood, it is fear of fear itself that is paralyzing me, since the memories of my childhood invade my consciousness without my control and create in me a deep sense of panic, anxiety, fear, and pain.

The sensation of reliving one of these memories is like dipping below the surface of reality. Suddenly, the room disappears and my adult body and mind turn to icy statues as I sink into the panicked and lonely mind of my childhood self. The “Now” is suspended and my senses of smell, touch, taste, sight and sound explode with their own perspectives-making the memory all that more real and vivid. It’s unlike any typical memory and feels more like a strange and terrible time travel phenomenon that anything else.

I have realized through my treatment that I no longer need be afraid of a terrible memory – of being afraid of re-experiencing fear. There is no actual threat – just the memory of feeling fear…or the thought that I could feel fear like that again. I hope that if you who are reading this suffer from these sorts of memories that you too can find a way to accept fear and realize that by accepting it you are destroying its hold on you.

The point is that it is our fear that is our greatest limitation – make “No Fear” be your and my new motto! 

Note: See the link below to purchase a copy of the Tao Te Ching as translated by Stephen Mitchell.



Post a Comment