(3/12 of the Heroic Journey)
2 Kinds of Fear
Protection and Incubation
2 Kinds of Fear
Protection and Incubation
“When the heroine says no to the next heroic task, there is extreme discomfort.”Maureen Murdock
In Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey the third stage is called Refusal of the Call. Campbell’s Refusal of the Call begins as follows, “Often in actual life, and not infrequently in the myths and popular tales, we encounter the dull case of the call unanswered; for it is always possible to turn the ear to other interests.”
In stories representing the Heroine’s Journey this phase is often associated with fear. The heroine has to leave the familiar prison and face unknown dangers.
I call this third step on our Heroic Journey Resistance to Leaving because it is less final. It only becomes a definitive refusal, if the heroine or hero is unable to handle it, which might happen as a result of an unfortunate misunderstanding.
Last year – after nearly two decades of working on the Solo System – I received the Call to build an online author’s platform. My immediate response to this Call to Adventure was intense resistance.
Understanding this resistance as a natural part of the journey has not only enabled me to deal with any initial fears. It also helped me develop my inner strength and clarity in relation to my public presence.
“It is easier to resist at the beginning than at the end.”Leonardo da Vinci
In everyday life Resistance to Leaving is a natural and common stage on the Heroic Journey. Think of children growing up and having to leave home. Under normal circumstances there will always be a mixture of excitement and fear, external confidence and internal anxiety.
This stage on the journey is often brushed over because the masculine perspective is so dominant in our culture. The external focus is on action and achievement. Why bother with some internal trepidation that will soon become irrelevant?
Working through the stages of the Heroic Journey with others has given me opportunities to observe the phase of natural resistance in various forms and understand its contribution to the healthy development of human Consciousness. I have come to understand it as a natural part of the process of breaking through into a new phase.
In nature we can observe that there are always barriers separating one phase of growth from another. Young birds grow inside their eggs. They have to break through the barrier of the shell to come into the world.
Many seeds have a hard outer layer. The young plant has to push through this protective skin to begin its life’s journey.
On the Heroic Journey we can view the Resistance to Leaving as an equivalent protective layer. In humans the natural barrier happens to be internal non-material shell.
Once we understand this phenomenon, our habit of dismissing the resistance as a ‘nuisance or weakness’ is no longer appropriate. As contemporary heroines and heroes we all have to break through inner barriers to begin the process of growth and find our own authentic path.
2 Kinds of Fear
“What is needed is understanding fear. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it.”Jiddu Krishnamurti
The Resistance to Leaving can feel very uncomfortable. It can be so strong that it stops us from growing altogether. If we developed a better understanding of our fears we could soften this hard protective shell.
Fear of adventure is a widespread human experience. We all have it in relation to different things. It is better known under the name fear of the unknown.
I didn’t fully understand this fear until listening to a conversation between Tara Mohr, author of Playing Big, and Tami Simon, founder of Sounds True on the weekly podcast Insights at the Edge a few months ago.
During this conversation Tara Mohr explains the concept of two kinds of fear. The Hebrew language has two words for fear. One refers to the familiar feeling that triggers the fight or flight response. The other one she describes as “the feeling that overcomes us when we’re inhabiting a larger space, literally or metaphorically than we are used to inhabiting; it’s the fear we feel when we possess more energy than we normally have; and it’s the feeling we feel when we’re in the presence of the divine or the sacred.”
These two feelings can produce very similar physical sensations. One relates to an inner movement produced by the sense of danger. The other one is also an inner movement, but it is triggered by an impending opening or expansion. The first is more a feeling of acute threat, the other is the feeling of being touched by something greater.
Protection and Incubation
“Before you can think out of the box, you have to start with a box.”Twyla Tharp
The Resistance to Leaving is not just an obstacle to be pushed through, it also has protective functions. If the baby-bird-to-be wasn’t surrounded by its eggshell it would never develop into a bird. The egg is its temporary home until it hatches and becomes a nestling.
Our natural internal resistance – perceived as the feeling of moving towards something greater – has similar protective functions. As long as we are ‘too young’ to contemplate the heroic adventure we don’t even feel any uncomfortable tightness. Our Ordinary World provides us with plenty of space, within which we can incubate our heroic potential.
It is only when you become bigger, and your heroic qualities begin to develop, that the pressure builds up. The closer you move towards hatching the tighter it must feel within the old shell. If you feel this kind of discomfort, take it as a good sign!
As humans we have the option to remain inside our shell. We can get used to our fears and trepidations. We can confuse them with reality and never grow any further into our heroic future.
Hatching out of the protective shell of our resistance can be promoted naturally and gently by moving towards our feelings of resistance, rather than rejecting them. This is not a case for ‘feeling the fear and doing it anyway’.
On the Heroic Journey we are preparing for something much greater than just coping with our current Ordinary World. Every step is an important part of a complex evolutionary process. It needs to be understood and integrated in this context.
The more the young heroine or hero learns in the initial stages, the more inner strength s/he gathers, and the better s/he will be able to cope with future challenges along the way.
“The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me.”Ayn Rand
In the embryonic stages our resistance to leaving the protective shell is fused together with a resistance against our own feelings. The fusion of these two layers literally causes confusion.
We have to learn to separate these two layers. We need to differentiate between the valuable emotional information that comes from our own Instinct and our interpretation of this information.
When I experienced my resistance against building a public profile online, I initially felt terrified. Simultaneously such intense feelings seemed utterly ridiculous to me. I could have rejected my spontaneous and authentic experience as ‘absurd’ and forced myself to ‘get on with it’.
Instead I chose to take my natural resistance seriously. I didn’t identify with it. I listened to it with respect, genuine interest, and an open mind and heart.
Human Consciousness is a complex organism, and there are always many layers to our subjective experience. Through my work I have learned to take decisive action only when I feel total internal clarity. For me any emotional resistance is a sign to stop, because I know that it is an opportunity to learn something valuable in that moment.
If I get impatient and try to move too fast, whatever is trying to get my attention now will only catch up with me later. If I try to push through an obstacle – without being in full command of my inner strength and clarity – I am likely to follow other people’s advice, rather than walking my own path.
It is not easy to do this, because the masculine external forces of the Hero’s Journey are always urging us to take action. For the development of our internal heroic qualities it is absolutely vital to take the Heroine’s perspective into account.
Collectively we have very little experience balancing the masculine and feminine principles within ourselves in everyday life. Therefore it takes practice and time. However, it is not unreasonable to expect that we can become more skilful with a little discipline and regular exercise.
Maureen Murdock writes, “when a woman stops doing, she must learn how to simply be. Being is not a luxury, it is a discipline. The heroine must listen carefully to her true inner voice. That means silencing the other voices anxious to tell her what to do. She must be willing to hold the tension until the new form emerges…”
Of course, this affects all heroic travellers, male and female. Being with your resistance allows you to expand into a stronger and more mature version of yourself. It means being in your own presence and holding the space for your own growth.
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