Harnessing passion: valuing and managing uncomfortable feelings

My apologies for the lack of blog posts this last week. You know that thing that happens sometimes, where you write about or tell someone about something in theory, and then that something comes up to you in real life and whacks you in the face with a cosmic clue by four? Yeah. That happened to me this last week.

I’d been thinking about how to take forward the issue of harnessing passion. As I indicated in that post, the difficulty comes in what disconnects us from our passion. Well, this last week I’ve had a really close and very personal reminder of what that really feels and looks like; for me what it feels like is lethargy, and what it looks like is apathy.

Life gone grey

When life goes grey, it is no fun. As a person with lifelong depression, I have a lot of experience of that state of no fun. It’s fundamentally caused by my brain chemicals going awry – not enough seratonin, in my case – and I have medication to help with that. But what causes the lack of seratonin? Is it just genetics and early life circumstances, or is the picture more complex?

I’ve come to believe, through working with my depression over the years, that while the origin of my dodgy chemistry may be that combination of genetics and circumstances, its ongoing continuance in my adult life has much to do with the self-protective habits I developed during adolescence and early adulthood.

One of those habits is retreat, both psychological and physical. Effectively, I run away.

Running away… from what?

You remember that Goddess Circle I talked about? I signed up for it, and recently began the Business Goddess e-course. One of the first exercises in the course is a worksheet to brain-shower ways to make a living, no holds barred, no inner censor. I dutifully listed away, and when I was done, I realised that I had only been thinking in terms of my non-scholarly work.

In this case, my running away took the form of a blind spot – a very large one: that my scholarly work could be just as much a part of doing what I love as all my self-employed creativity. This blind spot, this retreat — like so many others — had its roots in fear: both fear of failure, and fear of success.

Fear of failure…

I fear failure in my academic work. Studying for a PhD, proving myself in the academy, is something I’ve longed for so long, that the prospect of not actually being very good at it, of not getting the data I need, of  not being able to think clearly — a common experience with fibromyalgia — and thereby failing is too much to bear. It would open me to public rejection and shame, and private embarrassment.

…and fear of success

I fear success in my academic work. Succeeding in my PhD, proving myself in the academy, could mean a feeling of obligation to work in research full-time, within the confines of an institution, without time or space for my creative and spiritual endeavours. It might also mean becoming one of those academics secure in their ivory towers, who talk a good game, but don’t do anything. I might become the kind of person I disdain. This, too, would be too much to bear. It would open me to self-rejection and personal shame, however much public praise and recognition I might gain.

“Where there’s fear, there’s power.”

That saying is one of the pieces of wisdom within Witchcraft, which I first came across in Starhawk‘s writings. The fact that I’m afraid of these things in relation to my PhD means one thing: my PhD is important – maybe not in the grand scheme of things, but to me.

Fear, like other ‘negative’ and uncomfortable feelings such as anger, guilt, shame, embarrassment and envy, isn’t a part of life to be avoided or stamped out. It is powerful, pointing me to where the strongest pent up energies are within me. The specifics of the fear — what I’m afraid of — point me to areas for re-examination, exploration, re-imagining and healing.

In another aphorism, this time from the book by Susan Jeffers, I’m determined to “feel the fear and do it anyway”, following my discomfort to greater self-knowledge, healing and energy. I hope you are too.

When have you found a ‘negative’ feeling to be a source of wisdom and power? What helps you to “feel the fear and do it anyway”?

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8 thoughts on “Harnessing passion: valuing and managing uncomfortable feelings

  1. Oh my. I have felt the fear and done it anyway so many times. I have experienced depression too and the fear of failure and all the questioning. What has been most helpful is to allow myself to feel the fear, not push it away, and then acknowledge it. Yes, fear, I see you (actually I started calling it the Gremlins).

    Ellie suggested drawing them. During her video on the Biggest Summit she calls the that the Evil Auctioneer. You might find watching it helpful.

    • Hi Loran, thanks for your comment. Yes, feeling, acknowledging, and then seeing what’s underneath and feeling and acknowledging some more.

      Ooh, that video sounds really interesting. I love Ellie’s stuff. I’ve not been keeping up the WBS, but I’ve kept all the links and will catch up. (I will, I will!)

  2. My fear of being seen has been the one emotion I have had to tackle head on – both personally and in running my business. My essence has to be in the room in order for me to connect with my clients. My best way to overcome it was “Fake it till you make it” and then really receiving the joy that has come with being fully seen in my relationships. I still struggle with this, but it’s getting better.

    • Yes, FITYMI sounds so silly, but it really does work. I know it’s worked for me when teaching and facilitating groups in getting over my abject terror :-)

      Fear of being seen is so hard. It’s a really deep down fear for me – so deep I’m not sure I’ve really even touched the surface of it yet. So glad you’re getting somewhere with it, and for the effect on your relationships.

  3. When have you found a ‘negative’ feeling to be a source of wisdom and power? What helps you to “feel the fear and do it anyway”?

    THAT is a life changing question. I really enjoyed your candor in this piece. As someone who struggles with depression, I could relate, big time. Fear and bravery are a big deal in my life, and your eloquent question is one I’m going to wander off with like a juicy bone so I can chew it for a while.

    • Effy, wow, thank you! There is such stigma still about depression and mental ill-health, even after all the evidence that yes, it really is an illness, not malingering or hysteria, that I feel very strongly about being open and clear and matter of fact about it on my blog, and in other public fora. I’m so pleased that working through what’s ‘up’ for me is good for other people, too. (And yey, doggy reference!)

  4. Right at this very moment I am going through something that feels negative, but I know is a source of wisdom and power. I have a day job that has been really difficult emotionally for me for many reasons, and the sadness arom that was becoming crippling. I have, instead, decided to embrace this job and say BRING IT ON to the lessons, because I realize that this is a beautiful chance to exercise my happiness from within muscles in a crappy place. And it’s really working, too!

    Feeling the fear and doing it anyway – I do this every single time I publish a blog post. Truly, I feel like I’m running around naked every time I hit publish. I’m terrified that people will think what I have to say is silly and pity me for thinking I have something worthwhile to say. But I continue to blog anyway!

    • Go, Marla! That ‘happy from within in a crappy place’ practice is Hard Work. (I know…) And I’m so glad that you keep blogging! I love your blog and would be very sad if you ever let the fear stop you from posting. (I love your blog so much it’s in my ‘Inspirational Links’ blog post I just made :-) .)

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