Transforming Fear to Joy

Reflect & Redirect — From Doing to Undoing

Each January, in order to take stock of how I am choosing to live my life, I take time to reflect on the past and present, and potentially redirect myself for the future.  At this time last year, I sensed big change coming, and 2016 did not disappoint. Several of my close relations manifested big changes in such forms as losing 100 pounds of body weight and held emotion and shedding a life-time of accumulated anxiety and fear.  In my own case, the release of emotional-physical holding along the left side of my body — shoulder blade, rib cage, hip and ankle — is opening up a new year for me.

As is often the case when a “big change” occurs, a triggering event appears prior to the sensations and other symptoms experienced in the body that accompany the change.  Many of us respond by holding the trigger event responsible for our subsequent experience, thereby viewing the event as the source of our discomfort.  In fact, the strained intercostal muscles (left rib cage) I experienced during my snow shoveling was already weakened by years of over reliance on the right side of my body.  The imbalance in my body had been there for decades, and the snow shoveling merely helped to point out its existence so I could now decide what new direction to take.

New direction can be physically and emotionally challenging.  It takes effort to change who we are and how we respond to events primarily because we are learning and practicing new habits.  Repetition takes time, but once the new habits are internalized, greater ease is established.

No doubt you notice the high correlation between discomfort (stress) and change.  For the most part, people are more highly motivated toward change when crisis is evident.  However, the critical event is only a symptom, not the source cause, of the need for change.  The story below nicely illustrates the point I am attempting to make.

The lobster is a soft mushy animal that lives inside of a rigid shell.  That rigid shell
does not expand.  Well, how can the lobster grow?  As the
lobster grows that shell
becomes very confining and the lobster feels 
itself under pressure and uncomfortable.
It goes under a rock formation
to protect itself from predatory fish, casts off the shell
and produces a 
new one.  Well, eventually that shell becomes very uncomfortable as
the lobster grows.  Back under the rocks.  And the lobster repeats this numerous
times.  The stimulus for the lobster to be able to grow is that 
it feels uncomfortable.

Now if lobsters had doctors, they would never grow because as soon as the lobster
feels uncomfortable, s/he goes to the doctor gets a Valium, 
gets a Percocet and feels
fine.  Never casts off its shell!  So, I think we 
have to realize that times of stress are
also times that are signals for
growth.  And if we use adversity properly, we can
grow through
adversity.      Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski

 The lobster’s need to make space for growth is a direct metaphor for our own experience of adversity.  When stress becomes apparent to us, instead of criticizing others or ourselves for what has been done to us, a redirect or new way of viewing the situation is to recognize the trigger event as an opportunity to dig deep into the source of our limitations and undo them.  A specific exam