Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Stage Fright

My cowardice is in vain
There is nowhere
To hide

Lately, I’ve been noticing the interplay of three characters on my mental stage.

Actor number one is my intellect, recently mused about in Mental Fractals.

Having avoided taking psychology at university (it wasn’t “real” science), I’m not hampered by knowing what to call the other two.  Looking them up in Wikipedia would spoil the fun.

The intellect lives in the brain and generally talks too much.  The other two can be hard to tell apart, as they both live in the viscera, emanating uneasy gut feelings.

One of them warns me that I'm about to do something that is likely to hurt me or someone else, as when my hand is about to pocket the change the cashier accidentally gave me too much of.

The other one tells me I don’t want to do something, like approaching a vaguely familiar stranger and asking if we used to be acquainted.

The same unease accompanies leaving a comfort zone, thinking outside the box, taking a risk, being vulnerable, going out on a limb, breaking a habit, facing an addiction, relinquishing a crutch, defying a superstition, embracing the unknown.

I got to study these two up close when I wrote When I Fell.  I felt a strong urge to write it, but I sure didn't want to.

The first gut feeling seems to be an impulse to act compassionately, follow the precepts, be skillful, “do the right thing”.  The other one is, well, fear.  To make things interesting, the intellect chimes in and explains why the first one should be ignored and the second one followed.

I don’t have much to say about the first - it seems to give pretty straightforward signals.  The real problem is when the second one masquerades as the first or drowns it out.  If I'm about to cross a high and very unsafe platform, both 'instincts' will urge me not to do it, but only the second one will urge me to stay back no matter how safe the platform is.  Going ahead despite our fear is called courage.  We have other words for going ahead against our better judgment.

A little healthy fear can be an antidote for complacency.  They say if you ever stop getting a few butterflies in your stomach before giving a speech or performing, watch out – mistakes are sure to follow.

Intuition or inhibition?  Probably by paying attention to the sensations as they occur, I’ll get to know them better and be a little braver.

To paraphrase a native story, there are two dogs inside me that fight: one leads me forward, the other holds me back.  Which one wins?  The one I feed.


[Note from 2011]:

Here's a plug for some upcoming blogging on May 1 [Note - this has been changed to May 8].  Nate DeMontigny over at Precious Metal has organized Article Swap 2K11 and paired up volunteers to write guest blog posts.  TMC from Return to Rural will be posting here, and I'll be writing a post for Danny Fisher's blog at Rev. Danny Fisher. Cause for a few butterflies...


  1. Beautiful, David. And yes, so many 'parts' all standing upon the rock foundation of awareness . . .

  2. Which one wins? The one I feed.


  3. Thanks, Marguerite - so many things to discover!

    Tara I love that line, too - only trick is to figure out how to stop feeding the wrong one ....


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