I really like the positive direction David Richo is going in his discussion of fear. Do you remember the post Evolution of the Ego where we talked about the different developmental stages of the ego? Well, in this section, he introduces the possibility that unhelpful fear can result from the tension between the functional ego and the Self. So far in this book, David Richo has talked about working on fear that comes up as we are working from the space of the neurotic ego, moving toward the functional ego…meaning fear comes from pain in our past.
Here, he is proposing that neurotic fear may be the result of the ego not wanting to be dethroned and utilized in service of the Self…meaning moving from the functional ego being in charge to having the Self be in charge. Remember how the work toward the functional ego is pretty active? It’s the piece people are usually working with when they come to see me in my therapy practice. The movement from the functional ego to the Self is more of a surrender rather than requiring a lot of work/action. David Richo is talking about ways we can invite that surrender. Let me just pause here for a second. Why it is even important to move toward the Self? Well, being in contact with the Self and operating from that space just makes life a WHOLE lot easier, more abundant and enjoyable. It is difference between the blood, sweat and tears of hard labor and making a passive income. The most difficult part of allowing the Self to run things is staying in touch with the Self and creating space for it to prevail. What do you think? I think it’s real, live magic. If you think I’m nuts, that’s really fine with me.
Alright, back to what David Richo is saying. When he describes our true identity, the Self, he says it “is precisely the gap where we confront our fears and fearlessness begins” (p. 42). He goes on to say: “ The ego itself is a combination of fear and desire. Egolessness [or the Self] is freedom from the grip of fear and desire” (p. 42). Notice how it is freedom from the grip, not from the experience of these things. Remember when we were talking about the pause in the post Being Triggered? Being able to stop before we respond gives us the chance to avoid acting out of pain. In moving from the neurotic ego (space of old pain) to the functional ego, that pause has a lot of power to move us toward a more functional state of being. Here, he is talking about the power of that pause in the sense that it is a place where we can allow the Self to be present. That means we do nothing and the Self can show up. There is no room for surrender to the Self if “throughout the day we create a tiny parade of one thought after another with no space” (p. 42).
This is a different way of approaching uncomfortable experiences. What if we could look at these moments as a chance to break through barriers to having the love we want, the job, the success, the creativity? Even if you have the perfect job or career, you make as much as you want, you are in the relationship you always dreamed of…we are human and naturally are drawn toward wholeness and growth. These discomforts come up. Why not take advantage of them to have more than you ever thought possible? We don’t have to be totally engulfed in fear or desire if we can hold onto the bigger concept that each moment of discomfort or fear/desire is a chance to know ourselves better, to heal, to take another step closer to what we really want.
How do we do this? First, is sensing the discomfort and either noticing internally or out loud to someone else. If you can notice it, you got an opening to be an observer rather than being immersed in it. If you are witnessing, you have a chance to pause. In that pause, you don’t have to know what it is all about. Don’t act on it, just be curious. The answer will unveil itself with time. The answer might come with a request for action on your part or it might not. David Richo says “we build inner resources when we accept defenselessly and take action resourcefully” (p. 45). The idea is to be defenseless against the discomfort, allow it to do its work and show us things about ourselves. The idea is to learn about ourselves that we are powerful by doing nothing during a challenge. The idea is that, in allowing the Self to be present (it is inside of each one of us), we realize that we are infinite in terms of our ability to grow, create and love.
*This post is written in response to a section in David Richo's book "When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-Less and Resource-Full".