Today, we’re going to talk about fear, trauma, autopilot, and how to wake up and live the life you were meant to live.
What would you say if I told you that over a period of 78 years, the average person spends 3 years of that in intentional and conscious choice? The other 74 years were spent in autopilot.
What would that mean to you?
What would you change?
What would you do in order to reclaim another year? Or 10? Or more?
What would that be worth?
In its earliest definitions, the word fear did not refer to a feeling, but rather, in the early 700s it meant “danger or peril.”
It was not until the 1300s that the word fear became attributed to a feeling. Fear, in its truest definition, refers to a specific danger that our conscious minds can address. A specific danger that we can do something about. Like a fear of falling is controlled by avoiding heights, a fear of small spaces is negotiated by staying away from small spaces, or a fear of snakes can change your behavior so that you are unlikely to encounter a snake.
It appears that the human race is born with two primal fears, they are: The fear of heights, which develops around 9 months of age, and the fear of sudden and loud noises.
All other fears are learned by the young, developing mind, and are processed into complexes which become stored in the unconscious.
Fear is necessary. It keeps us out of dangerous situations and preserves human life. Human life is always at risk and the world can be lethal, being aware of potential threats keeps us alive.
If you hear a rustling in the bushes, the ability to determine if it is a friend approaching or a lion looking for supper will make the difference between life and death.
Unlike fear, which is specific, anxiety is generalized, abstract and vague.
Jungian analyst, James Hollis, describes anxiety like a “vague cloud of fog” that crosses the highway obscuring the path. The fog slows your vehicle, but if you get out of the car and reach your hand into the fog, there is nothing there.
Anxiety and fear align us against our true self and puts us into survival autopilot.
To re align with our true selves, to reclaim our souls and gain sovereignty from fear, we have to willfully release the distractions, turn off autopilot, and face our fragility.
A big ask, right?
But if I told you you could reclaim another year of your life, or 10, or more… would it be worth it?
If you’re interested. Let’s take a journey together. Let us begin by exploring our complexes.
Complexes, as described by psychoanalyst Carl Jung, are core patterns of memories, perceptions, and emotions around ideas and images.
In the moment that we are enduring an important event; our feelings, thoughts, coping mechanisms, and understandings get stored and logged away with the memory of that event. The way we experience, process, and store this event is largely dependent on our resources at the time of the event.
There was a study conducted where a family was studied for the effects of trauma. The family was comprised of a man, woman, and their three children: a baby, a toddler, and a 10-year-old. Frequent fights erupted between the parents and the children were exposed to screaming, breaking of objects and witnessed physical violence. When examining the family for signs of trauma, the revelations were surprising.
If you were to guess, which child suffered from the most trauma symptoms, who would you suspect? The baby, the toddler or the 10-year-old?
When I first heard this study, I thought, “well the 10-year-old obviously, they understand better what’s going around them.”
But I was completely wrong. The research revealed that it was in fact the infant that exhibited the more extreme trauma response. This study was repeated many times, and we have come to learn that often the younger the victim, the fewer their resources, and the less resilient they are to trauma.
We live our lives carrying our history and our experiences with us, stored as complexes.
These complexes live mostly in our unconscious awareness until they become triggered, and these triggers may emerge as fear and anxiety.
When a complex is triggered, it pulls us out of the moment, and brings us to the time, place, and stage of development we were in at the time that complex was created and stored.
We are pulled out of our adult state and enter an emotional and mental state where we are flooded by understandings, reactions, and coping mechanisms that accompany that state.
Here is an example: Let’s say we’re in a car accident as a toddler, where your car was hit by a red truck. Your child-like understanding may believe, therefore, that red trucks are dangerous, and store that in your brain. Then as an adult, you may have a fear of red trucks, and whenever you see a red truck, you feel heart palpitations and anxiety, even though that feels completely illogical and confusing in your adult brain.
This is why we can feel infantilized in our trauma responses. We feel a loss of our adult selves and feel like we have been sucked right back in time and are emotionally re-experiencing the events that happened to us when we were little, our minds racing with abstractions of what happened to us based on our child-selves understandings and coping mechanisms.
So much of our lives are reflexive patterns of survival. In fact, we spend more effort every single day engaging in fear management than any other project.
In fact, according to an article published in the journal American Psychologist, entitled “The Unbearable Automaticity of Being,” approximately 5 percent of what we do on any given day of our lives is a result of intentional and conscious choice. That means that 95 percent of what we do is done by habits (Bargh, John A. & Chartrand, Tanya L., 1999).
Wolfgang Kellert in his book “Beyond What Matters: Do you Know What You Believe?” states: “If you live 95 percent of your time on unconscious autopilot, 95 percent of your thoughts are reactive. Even your free will is a memorized behavior that you learned from third parties or heard as a child…You “think” from memory.”
If the average human lives to 78 years of age, they live for 683,280 hours, we must subtract time for sleep, so let’s say the average person sleeps 7 or 8 hours per night, the average person will sleep 229,961 in their lifetime. 453,319 of their hours are spent awake. If 95 percent of that time you are on autopilot that only leaves 22,665 hours or 944 days and 9 hours of life spent truly LIVING.
944 days. Wow. Out of 78 years, the average person spends 3 years of that in intentional and conscious choice. The other 74 years are autopilot.
Our lives are spent with fear automatically jumping in to promote our survival.
The system automatically jumps in to promote your survival via two strategies: compliance and avoidance.
We make thousands of unconscious decisions every single day for compliance and the more we comply, the more we avoid ourselves, the less in contact with reality we are.
How are you complying in society at the loss of your inborn calling and mission?
We strive to protect our survival, and we drift away from the reality of the fragility of the human condition and our ultimate mortality.
How are you suppressing your emotions and pushing them to the side?
Tracy owned a multimillion-dollar company, and as a result of a corrupted business agreement, Tracy became stripped of all of her rights and power within the company. The new ownership utilized gaslighting and threats against Tracy and her family and caused a great amount of emotional and financial hardship. As a self-identified warrior, Tracy pushed her emotions to the side and allowed anger to fuel her next entrepreneurial endeavor. But a year later, a worldwide pandemic struck leaving Tracy unemployed, socially distanced, and alone with her thoughts.
She tried distraction, she read “personal development” books, she took online courses, and got drunk, a lot. But eventually she came full circle again and encountered the one person she was completely unfamiliar with: Her hidden self.
17th century French philosopher, scientist, mathematician, inventor, and theologian, Blaise Pascal was quoted once saying: “The greatest threat to our lives is the difficulty of being comfortable with ourselves in our private chamber.”
Assaulted with the reality of her own mortality with the uncertainty of a pandemic, unable to distract and suppress, Tracey found herself locked in her own private chamber. And she had a choice to make: Does she buckle and self-destruct or does she walk through the door into the unknown?
When tragedy happens, fear ultimately causes us to come back to the self. Fear and tragedy introduce us to our inner experience of ourselves, it pulls us out of autopilot.
And we can respond to the loss of autopilot in one of two ways:
Carl Jung wrote: “Until the unconscious becomes conscious, the subconscious will continue to direct your life and you will call it fate.”
What is your answer?
Kellert says that free will is a memorized behavior, but there is an alternative. If you allow your unconscious to become conscious, you will be turning the key in the lock of the door that invites you live the life you were meant to live.
There is something absolutely amazing about the human psyche, and it is that it desires two things:
In every single person, there is a spark. A fire, albeit big or small, that fuels life. That pushes us forward. That desires to be expressed. I call this vital resiliency, Maslow calls it Self Actualization, James Hillman calls it the Acorn.
Similarly, your body and mind are designed to heal. If you fall and scrape your knee, without you even having to think about it, your body will heal that scrape.
You are inherently equipped to be free, you just have to be willing to claim your freedom.
To reclaim yourself and gain sovereignty from fear, you must do three things:
My love, freedom is not for the faint of heart.
Embarking into a journey where you explore the complexes formed by the tragedies of your youth has often been described as “the dark night of the soul.”
Who would do something like that voluntarily?! Who would want to face the fragility of their own condition, be alone with our self and acknowledge the unbearable?
How could that possibly be worth the pain?
When we experience the loss of the other, whether creature comforts, constancy, sense of personal autonomy, health, or any other state of being that allows us to live our lives without interference, we will be forced to find what supports us within our self.
When we experience the loss of the other, if we sit in it, we will see something inside of us.
By bearing the unbearable, we will arrive in an oasis we did not know what was there.
We will never know what we are made of if we do not face the ultimate reality of our own individuality.
But let me ask you…
What if you were to regain your dignity?
What if you reclaim your own life?
What if you examine your unaddressed complexes?
We are all on a journey towards mortality. Ask yourself this:
Do I want to walk that journey like an unconscious robot, or do I want to wake up?
If as you listen to this, you are saying ‘yes, yes, yes!’ Then you are in the right place. Your soul is calling out to you. You are equipped to take this journey. And you are taking the first step. You are worthy of writing a new story, turning the page and starting the next ACT the way you want it to be.
When we return together next time, we will discuss the following topics:
Until then, then let me share with you some questions I want you to contemplate.
How have I been living my life?
Where has my journey been dominated by fear?
Where have I colluded with fear to just get along with things?
Can I stand up and face this and risk being who I am?
Who am I that is wanting expression in this life and how do I step into my expression.
In closing: Live the journey you were meant to live. Don’t run from it. Don’t give up. You’re strong enough. You’ve got this. And you’re not alone.
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