Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pause to Consider - A Blessing

Part of being vulnerable is dealing with over-reaction. As a writer, I already have a crucial tool in my hands for doing just that: the witness mind. Being a witness first and foremost allows every vulnerable person (i.e. all of us) to take one step back from reacting, and several steps back from over-reacting. However, you will notice as you take this time that the people you interact with expect that certainly, and always, you will react one way or another right away. I'm here to tell you that this is not necessarily beneficial for anyone, except perhaps for an Emergency Room Doctor, for a soldier fighting a battle or for a fire fighter.

I have found that holding my reaction even for a few moments in most situations is essential for taking true responsibility for my actions. It is more of a practice for me than a habit, still.

One thing I've always loved, about movies in particular, plays and sometimes books, is when a character reacts right away to something that has been said or done with a snappy remark. This is a fantasy. One of the roots of story telling allows us to skip over the boring parts like -- pausing to consider -- and right to the pithy reflection on the facts. That's because the story teller has done the pausing to consider part for months or possibly years before writing that meaty-meat comeback. Unfortunately, most of us don't realize this. We're steeped in television jokes, and sixty-minute lifetime resolutions as we go about our business. We feel the pressure to come back; to stand up and deliver on the first try.

That gets us into trouble nearly every time because it creates that "fight or flight" feeling of being excruciatingly vulnerable. Making decisions in a panic, defending ourselves without contemplation, and imposing order on the world around us from a knee-jerk perspective tends to pull down our house of cards faster than a Colorado wind-storm. Writing in this way is exactly what leads us down tangents that leave us wondering, "how did I get here?" With a story or script we can go back and erase those tangents leading nowhere, but in life it gets messy. There are really no strike outs or erasers in life that actually get rid of these mislead adventures completely. They have marked our souls with indelible markers. It behooves us, then, to have some inner peace about misadventures and dead ends or we would refuse to be vulnerable.

When we accept that being vulnerable is essential to using our abilities to do our best in the world, then we open ourselves up necessarily to the judgments and attacks of the insidious thoughts that have been placed there by often well-meaning people in our lives. Our behavior makes us look strange, nonsensical or even lax to the people who are used to defense mechanisms influencing or even ruling our action in the world. They may over-react with their own defense mechanisms: with panic, by justifying their actions, against the evidence of our own inaction. Pause to consider the option. Refusing to be vulnerable is firstly, an illusion or delusion, and secondly, vulnerability allows us to be authentic, and finally, being authentic means we do our best.

So, say, your ex-husband continues to send you emails years after your divorce demanding that you behave this way or that with your children. Your initial over-reaction may be to write back a snappy, cursing retort. Where would this lead you? Into a fight. The fight that has gone on for so long. The fight you tried to leave by divorcing him. Take a few steps back. Your reaction now is to shrug, to write a flip, "whatever" and close the door. Where would this lead you? Into a fight about your flip attitude and not taking his concerns about your children, your remaining joint responsibilities, seriously. Take another step back and pause to consider the issue. What he is saying about it? How do you actually feel? My guess is that you feel, as I have, vulnerable.

Sitting with vulnerability is initially excruciating. It is, surprisingly, something you can get used to. Only when you sit with this vulnerability will you allow yourself to take the time to find the authentic response. It may not be the response an other person wants or expects, but it will be the only true response you can give. You will find yourself choiceless, and for the first time maybe completely unconfused about the whys and the wherefores. This is the goal for heroic resolution in any story. Finally, the choices for the hero to be successful are narrowed to one. This is what it means to exercise true free will. So, indeed, vulnerability exercises ability, and makes the choice authentic -- a true blessing.

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