Sunday, April 18, 2010

My childhood monsters as teachers

I have learned a lot about how to interact with mind from the extraordinary fear and chronic, super vivid nightmares I had as small child. Because I was constantly afraid of the dark, constantly having dreams of being chased or stalked by something scary, I eventually learned how to deal with these things.

It took me a long time to realize that the same dynamics applied to real life.

For instance, I learned, eventually, as a kid, that you have to stop running from your monsters for the nightmare to end. Running is the worst thing you can do. As long as you're running, the nightmare can keep going.

But once you stop running from what you are afraid of, and let it catch up with you, or, if it's just sitting in the darkness, waiting for you, jumping into that darkness, the nightmare ends.

Because whatever you were afraid of happens. The monster bites you, you feel really afraid, whatever. You then just wake up, or go into a different dream.

Applying this to life eventually, I learned to face my fears, to go into what it was I was afraid of. Nothing is as scary or bad as you think it will be, when you're actually in it. It's that tension of being about to get eaten, or whatever, that is the worst. Because that's the fear. Fear of annihilation, perhaps, or something more mundane. In any case, when you actually experience it, even when it's something in the real world and you don't literally 'wake up' from it, I would realize, "hey, the worst I'd feared has happened, and, I'm still here."

Just recently I realized another bit of wisdom from the monsters that used to live in the darkness everywhere.

The monsters couldn't stand light. That's why I kept my closet light on at night, even though light made it hard for me to go to sleep. Light killed monsters, vaporized them, or made them run away (I always tried to trap them in places, and then turn on the light to make sure I killed them, rather than them just running away to pop up later).

The thought did occur to me: maybe there weren't actually monsters in the darkness, since I've never seen them.

But I was afraid to believe that. I was afraid that if I believed that, then I would stop being cautious about the monsters. I wouldn't jump up onto my bed from a safe distance so they couldn't grab me and drag me under. (something that happened numerous times, in my nightmares, as I started trying to get the dreams to end quicker.) I wouldn't keep the closet light on, etc. And then the monsters would really get me.

It was this secondary fear, that reinforced my belief in monsters, with the power of fear. If the monsters could talk, the conversation might look something like this:

Monsters: we're living in your closet and we're going to eat you.
Me: I don't believe you. I've never seen you, how do I know you're actually in the closet.
Monsters: Oh, we'd love you to not believe in us; you've been so careful, you keep eluding our grasp. If you stop believing, then your guard will be down and we can finally eat you.

So when I asked the question: are there really monsters under the bed, the response I got was, well, I can't really know, but maybe there are, so It's safer to believe in them. So don't try and convince yourself there are not monsters, because that could be really dangerous.

Do you see the catch-22? I'm trying to make it very clear, because this applies big time to all of us grown-ups.

Here's what I realized: with some of my deepest rooted beliefs, that seem resistant to inquiry, the reason they won't dissolve in the light of inquiry into truth, is because there is this secondary belief/fear, that acts to reinforce and protect the main one.

Example: I think I'm a failure. I'm always doing something wrong, I'm never doing enough. OK, those are simple thoughts to inquire into. Is it true?


when I ask myself that question, I am that little eight year old Isaac, who is afraid that if I let go of that thought, that I'm a failure, then I finally will become a failure. I believe that my strong belief in me being a failure, my self flagellation for not being good enough, is the last little bastion I have keeping me from becoming my worst nightmare.

And so, that thought needs to be looked at and asked the question. Brought into the unbearable light of truth, to see if it is real or not.

This is today's lesson, brought to you by the monsters in my closet: if there is some belief you have that won't let go of you, perhaps there is another belief somewhere that says you need to have that belief. To sum up:

"if I stop believing in the monsters in my closet, they'll get me."

is it true?

A secondary realization was that the monsters actual existence is the thought of fear I was believing, as I sat or ran just out of reach of the darkness. Even if there was something in the darkness, that's not the real monster. not the problem. Ghosts, bears, ax murders; these are not the problem. The fear is the problem, and the fear is a thought believed in. every time.

perhaps that's why the eastern dudes say that the nature of ignorance/suffering/darkness is something that doesn't have it's own existence. While appearing to be the whole world, it is nothing at all. Misdirection. Like my non-existent monsters in my closet. They won't stop being a problem till I realize where they are: in my head. And, what I learned this week, was I won't realize where they are until I've dealt with my fear of looking.

I guess I was afraid I'd convince myself they didn't exist, but be wrong, because I used faulty logic, because I really wanted them to not exist. I was trying to make myself believe something different. And that didn't feel safe, because pretend belief doesn't do shit.

"oh, I'm just going to believe that we're all one, and nothing can hurt me."
that doesn't work.

But actually seeing it for yourself. That does.

1 comment: