In this section, David Richo is talking about the fact that we are naturally programed with everything we need to operate healthfully in this life, which is very powerful. But that we get into the habit of using crutches (substances, dependent relationships, food, escapes like a spiritual bypass, tv, excessive exercise or sex, work) to help us do what we can naturally do. He gives the example of a baby learning to sleep. In the first months of life, a baby needs to be put to sleep by his parents or needs a bottle. Over time, that baby learns to soothe himself, to let go and sleep. At first he protests, but then he learns he can do it alone. If his parents never gave him the opportunity to access that internal power to put himself to sleep, he would never know he had it.
David Richo talks about our internal power as our lively energy. Some examples of that lively energy are “to unwind, to gear up or wake up, to focus on something, to stay with a task, to take an interest in something and be engaged in it, to feel our feelings from beginning to end: to feel the onset of a feeling and its crest, and to express it and let go of it, to grieve losses and face fear” (p 61).
If we are habituated to use external assistance to help us do things we already have the capacity to do, we are letting go of that power. We become afraid that we will not be able to do it without help. By becoming dependent on that external help, we are also limiting the possibilities that can unfold in our experience. David Richo says: “The serpent of the ego offers us an apple, our favorite substance, when we actually have access to a whole orchard of much more exciting fruits” (p. 63).
Of course, all of this is predicated on the fact that you are a healthy adult. And, we all have our crutches, especially since we live in a culture of immediate gratification. But what is actually in it for you to give up the crutches or at least look at where you might be using them?
One of my crutches is distraction by doing a multiple things at a time or putting all of my attention on someone else. Now, sometimes these things are important to do because of the nature of my work and because there are things that need to be accomplished in life. But by doing this excessively, I let go of myself. The lively energy Iknow I have that I want to access is the internal wisdom to guide me toward my current life goals. Do I really want to choose distraction and being meaninglessly “productive” instead of getting what I really want in my life? Definitely not. Just today, because I was willing to let myself move slow enough (Ok, force myself) and use the natural programs my mind and body are capable of, I experienced a series of realizations in the arena of personal relationships, possible keys to unlock difficult situations for a couple of my clients and ideas for where I want to take my work as a therapist. That is the other fruit in the orchard that David Richo is talking about. I could have just distracted myself by trying to chip away at my “to do” list or read one of the books I am trying to get through during breakfast. To me, what I got instead was so much better, but I had no idea that those gifts were going to come out of my slowing down this morning.
What could be possible for you in letting go of one of your crutches?
*This post is written in response to a section in David Richo's book "When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-Less and Resource-Full".