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Fear of Flying
By Judith Gayle | Political Waves

No, I'm not writing today about liberated vaginas and the purity of a zipless fuck: it's already been done by Erica Jong, taking an early stab at breaking through the social coding, ultimately the wall of guilt, that keeps us in our assigned roles. In sex, as in everything else, we're only as authentic as we've allowed ourselves to be. Today we'll examine the wall itself because, seems to me, we could not be tossed and twisted like pliant pizza dough whenever something scary comes along if the ingredients weren't already within us. On the face of it, the gluten that makes us so easily stretched and molded seems to be a kind of sociopolitical herd consciousness, turned at the snap of a twig or the whim of a leader. Those of us disinclined to take such a leap get carried along by the majority, and that sums up my experience of the early years of our new century.

As always, it's news of the day and the politics that shape it that bring all this to mind, absurd illustrations of our current psychic state. It's taken so tragic a thing as the heartbreaking earthquake in Haiti to get the politicos off a toxic replay of national security issues, all this on the heels of the Christmas bombing event that put Janet Napolitano's job as Homeland Security Secretary in jeopardy. Hysteria is sooooo unattractive. I confess to having very little patience with this kind of mob-mentality and group-think, and took a certain perverse delight in this quote from an article by David Rothkopf: "The Republican Party has the collective cool on these matters of Prissy helping to birth Melanie's baby in Gone With the Wind." While I'm coming clean, I should also mention my resolution to immediately turn the channel on any program featuring Liz Cheney. She will be added to my Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck Rule: "Do not lie down with dogs lest ye get fleas." Or Neo-con kennel cough, whatever.

As regards the herd consciousness of the opposition party, and in some instances our own, facts don't seem to get us very far in the national argument, intelligence doesn't count for much, and emotion is the name of the game. As illustrated in the book What's The Matter With Kansas?, when we're fed on a consistent diet of make-believe, we don't connect with our own best interests even when they're staring us in the face. Even more, as regards this whole issue of random terror, we're easily spooked. Sometimes I think our American "can do-ism" and confidence in our ability to manage our own lives play against us when Chicken Little starts to squawk. 300 million of us rushing out with shotguns pointed at the sky at the first sign of danger is not only counterproductive, it's stupid. And stupidity seems the word I choose most often when I think of the dialog concerning the state of our union.

As surrealistic as the far ends of our political sensibilities seem, it's a fact of our political life, and often our personal experience as well. The Underpants Bomber is actually a great illustration. The gent succeeded in cremating his own balls, scaring the bejesus out of his fellow passengers and putting the TSA into a spasm of high alert and lockdown. Suddenly 9/11 looms large again, wrathful jihadists behind every tree, and government incompetent to help us, even though that was not our experience in Detroit. Dread of a future unknown, amazingly, seems more compelling than the dreadful known of January 2010 with its frightening unemployment and financial wobble. The Right wants the offender water-boarded for information, a practice now rightly called torture in the public dialog, with no linguistic frills. Some insist that reproductive rights are the touchstone for political separation; I think it's torture. That's where we find the primal fear that results in isolationism, exceptionalism and aggression; that's where we'll betray our neighbor if it will keep us safe. That Al Qaeda is reduced to relying on the happenstance efforts of individual radicals doesn't stop some of us from pointing up into the sky to show how it's falling. Some things won't disappear until we resolve them, which is why they keep coming around.

As Eric Hoffer puts it, "You can discover what your enemy fears most by observing the means he uses to frighten you." It seems to me that the deep abiding fear of all radical zealots is life, itself. The sign of our times is the soul-sickness of nihilism. Last week I spoke of A Course in Miracles' contention that there are only two core emotions, love and fear. I'm assuming that you are using the Obama approach to pondering that notion, asking questions of yourself and exploring the vast possibilities -- not the Bushie black/white lack of nuance. There is, of course, a whole litany of emotions that stretch between those two poles and run their course in our psyche. I would suggest that if we understand that love is the ultimate goal, transformational in all ways, then we can get a wider handle on how that wall of egoism and guilt we stampede ourselves against works.

For instance, I've heard some say that anger is depression turned outwards, healthier for us than sinking into despondency. Anger has an up side, it can motivate change, but it can also provoke mayhem and it certainly wreaks havoc on our immune system. Depression itself occurs when we cannot handle the stress of dealing with things that we find fearful, often buried in our subconscious by years of denial and inability to confront. If we backtrack the negative emotions that assail us on a regular basis, we will most often find some deep fear at the base of them, and this kind of emotion, as astrologers entertain, has Water context, running in dark currents that threaten to swamp us. From there, Chicken Little is a mere squawk away. The more we repress our deepest fears, the more they run our outlook, our thought process and our decisions.

I stumbled onto a bit of information the other day that added to my understanding of this conundrum. In a 2008 article from The Boston Globe about the presidential election and the two distinctly different modes of thinking that were opposing one another, Jonah Fuhrer quoted an interesting study:
One of the first insights into the importance of gut instinct in decision-making came from Antonio Damasio, a neuroscientist at the University of Southern California. In the early 1990s, Damasio began publishing a series of landmark papers describing the symptoms of patients who, after a brain injury, were unable to perceive or experience emotion. At the time, most scientists assumed that such a deficit would lead to more rational decisions, since the patients were free of their irrational instincts.

Damasio found the opposite: these dispassionate patients made consistently bad decisions. Some made terrible investments and ended up bankrupt; others started drinking heavily and getting into fights; most just spent hours deliberating over irrelevant details, such as where to eat lunch. According to Damasio, when people are cut off from their emotions even the most banal decisions become all but impossible.
Now there's an argument for emotional wholeness, perhaps even an illustration of why so many of us find ourselves on mood enhancers. Unless we can fully feel, we are focused on the wrong things, unable to make informed choices. Everything gets worse not because of what we know, but because of what we don't. The intellectual and cerebral must have the counsel of the emotional. It seems clear to me that the problem with emotions isn't that we have them, it's that we too often refuse to validate and FEEL them. I know that makes as much sense to you as going to see Avatar and putting your hands over your eyes, but it's how we self-protect on this plane. Our ability to express emotions harmlessly and transform them into productive energy requires us only to experience and release them from bondage, yet by habit and pattern and fear of change, we do our best to ignore them. And to our detriment. The very challenging times we discuss so frequently are a result of our inability to allow emotional reality to intrude on our intellectual perceptions.

Course tells us that the goal we seek, love, is what we are, and that the human overlay of guilt and ego has layered so much fear-based distortion within us that we seldom glimpse our own true reality. Ego is fear compensating for its terror, guilt is fear in defense of error. What if we were beautiful enough, brilliant enough and valued enough so that we didn't need either? What if we were perfect just the way we are, other people's opinions simply smoke in the wind? Who might we become if we let go of the fear that we aren't good enough or smart enough, that we need a strong defense and a system of checks and balances to keep us from being the helpless sinner we've been taught we are? What might we achieve if we felt the many emotions that flow through us, the self-reflections that allow us to change our mind, see things differently, confront our doubts and fears without self-judgment? What if our unfelt emotions, fully expressed, might mend us? But no. We've been taught to embrace fear and eschew joy. What kind of half-assed philosophy is that?

As the Lehrer article continues:
Subsequent research, much of it taking place in the last few years, has helped explain why emotions are such an essential part of the decision-making process. Ap Dijksterhuis, a psychologist at Radboud University in the Netherlands, has demonstrated that when people are given choices with many variables -- he often makes people choose between different cars and apartments -- they tend to make the best decision when relying on their unconscious, which generates our inarticulate instincts. In contrast, people who consciously deliberate over which car to buy tend to fixate on extraneous facts, leading them to bad choices.

According to Dijksterhuis, the moral of this research is that people making complex decisions should analyze their options, but then stop: "go on holiday while your unconscious digests the problem," he writes. "Whatever your intuition then tells you is almost certainly going to be the best choice."
We cannot access our intuition until we've released our trapped emotions. They're not as frightening as many fear, in my opinion. Emotions come to us randomly sometimes, what Eastern thought refers to as "the restless tiger pacing the jungle" of our minds. Best to feel what's there, allow it to pass, and consider what message, if any, it brings. Strong feelings, on the other hand, usually bubble up from our subconscious, asking us to deal with them. Think about safety. I flew last week and it never crossed my mind that I was sitting next to someone in explosive underwear. The emotions all around me were those of people, mostly airport employees, on alert, yet my own feelings did not match the hyper-vigilance swirling around me. My intuition gave me the information I needed to make an uncomfortable trip just a way to spend the day and achieve an end.

We either live in a safe world or we don't, the world is either loving or it isn't, and those are decisions you will have to make yourself. If the world appears to be dangerous today, I would suggest that we've spent several decades making it so, not only by our actions but within our very thought system. We have to change both if we are to survive, and we must each begin within ourselves, feeling our feelings, examining our thoughts and making the self-correction that our intuition leads us toward. Fear, which includes as mundane an emotion as worry, is exhausting. We simply can't go on like this. We can't meet the future with confidence if we're dragging unresolved fears behind us, most of them mindless shadows we've learned to accept as the 'reality' of our times. Me, I would suggest that the reality of our times is full to bursting with magnificent possibility; plant that seed and see what grows.

As much as we are afraid of fear, we are conversely in love with love. My advice? Don't wait a minute longer to take that thrill ride. Start with yourself, love everything you see in the mirror. You're absolutely STUNNING! Don't doubt it. Appreciate everything about yourself, even those interesting flaws. The more you love you, the more you can love others. Push the envelope and love your neighbor, as yourself. Extend from there. If you love fearlessly, you will learn love. That's it, that's all. If you love fearlessly, you'll discover yourself. You'll soar on new-found wings, suddenly aware that loving is exactly what you came to do. Perhaps you'll trip and fall and scrape your knee, perhaps you'll learn about the wisdom of any particular choice but you'll feel all the things here in density that you were meant to feel and you'll pick yourself up and continue to love. You'll do it because you can't imagine living without it. You'll do it because it IS life, itself. And if you think fear wears many faces, wait until you see where love takes you. This is the adventure you came for.

Only those who are fearful of becoming who they actually are would turn from such an experiment. Only those afraid of flying in the higher emotions would choose to dwell in the apparent safety of the lower. I'll close this with a quote from ACIM facilitator Marianne Williamson from her book, Return To Love (sometimes erroneously attributed to Nelson Mandela) that confirms the real fear that tugs at each of us. It's the Father of All Fears -- mark it well. And if you'll FEEL it right down to the core of your Self, you'll choose love, learn to fly and never look back.
"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

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