You are willing to explore when you feel safe and confident. Safety comes from recognizing your limits and being able to measure and manipulate risk. Confidence comes from knowing what you’re doing and trusting in your ability to adapt. Experience plays a key role in how equipped you believe you are to tackle the unknown. Perceiving danger and frustration leads you to fear and evasiveness. Viewing exploration as an awakening of the senses compels you to appreciate to unique vantage point of the present moment.
Training apart from a given page or program takes guts. You’ve got to assume you’re on to something, that you’re right. Even if you don’t have the answers right now, there’s a sureness in you that you’re on the right track. It’s hardly ever linear, and there will be long pauses and stretches of circling back, but you’re not in a race you want to win. You wish to understand and encounter and remain.
Navigation can be distilled down to figuring out the way. Reading signs and discerning input. Taking notice of changes. Practice these skills of attention enough, and you’ll start to assume you can handle the unfamiliar. What you once avoided will be sought out and searched for.
I am not afraid of pain any more than I am afraid of a fly. It’s an annoyance that will be killed as soon as I do the work of shepherding it into the bathroom. Once confined, I can track the insect’s patterns and hone in on its sounds. Two or three whacks of the rag later, the beast is dead. “Ha!”, toilet paper coffin, and triumphant exit.
One stops being fearful when they are flush with exposure. I was in pain for almost a decade while playing rugby. Being confronted with discomfort day in and day out makes it a comfortable expectation. You can probe in and out of it in various degrees. You can’t imagine eradicating it. Lessening it a notch or two before the next match was all one could hope for.
When my playing days ended and I got into rehab, I focused on healing over managing stress. Specialists couldn’t seem to help me so I began my own studies into ways to mitigate pain. I learned how to calm myself and relax and to stop causing hurt in the first place. As my body changed, so did my beliefs. I looked different and felt different. Pain intrigued me more than it plagued me.
My experience is one of self-taught success. Because of this, I am confident in my means of examination and investigation. Physical hurt doesn’t phase me. I almost playfully let it linger longer than it has to so I can keep analyzing causation and sprouting theories and conclusions. It highlights the problems I need to solve. Pain led me to a heightened sense of awareness.
Despite these insights and competencies, I still remain entrenched in numbness, paralysis, and neglect. As much as I am willing and able to dive into physical exploration and come out with answers and explanations, I find myself routinely stumped when it comes to emotional introspection. Emotions are an unknown I’m not sure I know how to fix. They’re something I’ve learned to first acknowledge, and then endure. Like physical pain, the natural tendency is to avoid it. I sympathize with the inclination to minimize it and make it feel small.
The difference between pain and vulnerability is a sense of control within the discomfort.
I am reluctant to explore emotional vulnerability. The potential to provoke deep undercurrents keeps me from investigating. I assume that something uncontrollable lies just on the other side. I’d much rather ignore or distract myself from it. The irony of what I am so good at physically and so terrible at emotionally is almost hypocritical. I can be inventive and insightful in one arena and completely ignorant and dismissive of another.
One stops being fearful when they are flush with exposure. Since enduring a bout of depression, I am now able to sit in it. I am no longer afraid of being sad. I let myself feel it. But I still can’t track my way back to the actual cause of it. I can hear the fly in the room but I don’t know how to corral it. So I learn to live with it over finding a means to get rid of it. Perhaps if I can endure doing nothing long enough it will get bored and go away.
The discomfort and haze of depression brought about a metamorphosis. I had to do something else to get it to leave. Emotionally stuck and stupefied, I turned to my body — the one thing I trusted and was proving I could change. I studied and inquired and gathered tools and philosophical paradigms. I equipped myself for the plunge.
I was learning to make vulnerability a strength.
In exploring the very thing I was most afraid of, fear was replaced with a documenting how-to. ‘How else can I do this’ eclipsed ‘maybe I can’t do this’ so often that the latter became a remnant of memory. One stops being fearful when they are flush with exposure.
The joyful gains in my physical work spilled into my mental and emotional identities. I redefined the purpose of my body and in doing so, redefined the purpose of myself. In releasing my body from what I thought it should be, I gave it the freedom to reorganize into what I could be. Pain became my guide instead of my enemy. It forced me to look elsewhere and question everything I thought I knew. Pain is transformative.
Vulnerability does not equate to pain, but if exposure is treated as a threat, you will mistake it for a hazard. My emotional ego is fragile because I’ve long considered it as such. I assumed that the best way to protect it was to wall it off and bury it deep, guard it with a swarm of angry flies. Predictions are based on what you know. To better understand what I don’t know, I have to dig it up and brush it off and examine what it truly is without judgement or predictions.
Feeling allows us to gleam all the information — both the good and the bad. Each are motivating and rewarding to the learning process. Getting through isn’t enough. We must problem solve to no longer let fear stifle us or become complacent with an idle-sameness. Answers sooth us and questions prepare us. Vulnerability, sought out, will show us the way.