Chapter 2: Is there a creature living in your basement?

In case you missed the last entry, my writing comes from a place that requires openness and honesty (and a little bit of craziness).  It comes from a place that is a bit scary, in that, I’m sharing struggles, self defined failures and some successes to entice other people to begin sharing their challenges too, with the ultimate realization that all of us have similar struggles (whether it be with relationships, work, parenting, or whatever else life might throw at you).  This place of introspection has been good for me and challenging, but that’s the fun of it.  I like situations that have a pinch of chaos and I think a little chaos is good for us.  I’m conducting my own analysis on life and re-reading a journal I’ve been writing in for the last 9 months, so I can take some of my experiences and share them with the hope that I’d spark conversations, offer help, or at least a good laugh to anyone going through similar.

Thematically, my life has more fear than I’d like to admit.  This fear was more difficult to deal with when I thought I was alone in these thoughts, but I’m observing more and more that most people are living in a similar state of fear.  Yes, this is a topic I wrote about in months passed and it’s a topic that I’ll continue to write about because I’m passionate about it.  It’s an interesting experience (being scared or fearful) and we live with it most of our lives.  Alright, here’s an example; flash back to your childhood for a minute…Mom or Dad screams for you to run to the basement and get something from the freezer or maybe you have to get clothes from the dryer, but nonetheless, off you tromp to the “dark, quiet and eerie” basement.

As you step into the basement, you rationalize with yourself that nothing lives in your basement.  At least nothing that should be able to eat, gnaw or nibble on you- but all of those movies, stories and books you’ve experienced begin to push a bit of adrenaline into your veins and you realize that you are “scared” of that dark nasty basement.  Oh well, you can push through it, right?  You run into the basement, grab whatever you need and then turn to run up the stairs and back to the light and freedom of the first floor of your house.  And what do you do?  I can tell you what you don’t do… for the love of God, you don’t look over your shoulder because that creature that lives in the basement will be standing right behind you on the steps, right?  You bolt, like lighting, up to safety and what happens?  Your fear dissipates.  All of that drama for a freaking pair of jeans out of the dryer.  Interesting though, that kind of fear makes us active, doesn’t it?  When we get scared we either fight or flight (so say the great psychologists), and in the end…we “do” something and that action helps us move passed the fear.

That is healthy fear and I’ve been taught that there are two types of fear.  We should expect to live with some level of fear in life and the trick is to learn how to anticipate that fear, know how our bodies will react to the fear and then work out methods to “push through” or tackle those fears that present problems for us in life.  That, in my opinion, is healthy fear (like the troll who lived in my parent’s basement who chased us up the steps).  He was good people because the fear he helped to generate got us moving.

As we get older, I’ve watched my own life and have read entries from my journal that allude to a more powerful and dangerous fear.  This is a fear that paralyzes activity.  It’s the fear you might get from thinking you’ll fail at something and the fear that comes from wondering what others might “say” about your failed attempt.  With enough of that fear in your life, what happens? You stop attempting.  With respect to work- maybe you stop taking on larger projects for the “fear” of putting yourself in a situation to fail or maybe you refuse to show your true personality for fear that it might not be welcomed.

I spent the first 13 years of my career steadily progressing, earning more money, earning fancy titles and the entire time I was “struggling” daily.  Freaked out about what might happen or where I might fail and you know what I’ve learned…it held me back.  The times in life when I have acted from a genuine place and refused to show concern of outcome were some of the best and most productive projects, meetings, coaching sessions or emotional states I’ve ever been involved with.  I recognized in early April that my new role, which was supposed to be a “walk in the park” and a career move that would enable me some time to step away from the high paced stress I’d faced in my previous positions, wasn’t going to be much different than anything else I’ve faced professionally.  Our processes, national structure and challenging market were all going to require “action” and my early concern about taking a perceived “step back” might backfire (if I wasn’t successful) and I’d look like a fool.  All of this thought and fear created a paralyzing feeling, which generated anxiety.  I knew that letting emails pile in, meetings back up and not moving forward would hurt me, so I started to organize myself, created action lists and I focused on moving forward, one step at a time. 

Remember, action can remedy fear all day long and I captured a thought that verifies this onApril 11, 2011:

 “I’m getting less and less nervous about work as I realize that sometimes you just have to jump in and do something…it doesn’t pay off to plan and plan and plan, at some point, you have to “do”.  When in doubt, do something because this activity or action gives off energy of purpose and it helps with the anxiety of new tools, new people, new technology…so off I go.”

I have read hundreds of my own entries and each time there is a down turn or negativity with respect to my emotional state, it can be tied back to stagnate behaviour.  I believe this is something all of us have experienced, but few will be willing to openly admit.  Most people will pretend to be “active”, but I’m talking about being active with a purpose.  When you have a direction to go, a place to get to…it becomes very easy to map out where you’re headed, find the mechanism to get you there and GO.  But life…it doesn’t regularly show you where you are going and that’s where people get confused.  They question where they should be going, what they should be doing and all of this wonder can lead to less and less activity. 

I carry a bookmark and it has a quote from Socrates, “Wisdom begins in wonder”, which is something of a personal mantra.  The one thing I would add to his philosophical point…don’t forget to make a plan of where that wonder is going to take you and then build that mental map of how you are going to get there and finally, as a good friend of mine used to say… “Do something”, because standing around is only going to let the creature in the basement bite you on the ass.

One thought on “Chapter 2: Is there a creature living in your basement?

  1. OMG! YOU had an evil scary creature in your dark basement too???? I thought I was the only one. There was one in my Grandma and Grandpa’s basement also. I was sent down to the ‘wine cellar’ which was behind a locked door, and unheated-so cold in the winter. Why in the world did the wine need to be kept locked? It certainly couldn’t move but that darn scary monster with narly teeth was behind that door and I was terrified. Literally, ran in, grabbed whatever, and ran back up the stairs….two at a time. Safe in the daylight.
    Not sure I agree with you about the fight or flight being a healthy fear that causes you to ‘act’. There are illnesses like Panic Disorder, and Post Traumatic Stress disorder that are at one end of the spectrum on that fear scale. Either way, glad to know I wasn’t the only one afraid of the monsters in the basement!

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