CURRENT MOON

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Who Is Choosing to Lose the Fight?


I've been musing all day about this v. good post by Theodora Goss. Goss is discussing, in particular, how one grows as a writer, but I think that what she says has broader applications to other areas of our lives, including our desire for spiritual and magical growth and our attempts to integrate Fire and capital-W-Will into our lives. Goss says:
I was thinking about the quality of courage today.

I suppose I was thinking about it because I’d seen some things recently that were not at all courageous. That were cowardly. I’m not thinking in terms of physical courage or cowardice. I’m thinking about how we all deal with our lives. The problem is that courage is a sort of muscle. If you don’t use it, the muscle becomes weaker, eventually atrophies. And then you can’t use it, you can’t lift what you need to, or even bend where you need to because it has become stiffer, less flexible.

Courage needs to be exercised.

. . .

Often, it seems to me, when you do something that requires more courage, it ends up being easier than the thing that requires less.

. . .

Each time you put yourself out there in some way, each time you do something that takes courage, you’re exercising that muscle so the next thing becomes easier.

. . .

On the other hand, if you routinely avoid what you fear, you start to believe that you really can’t do whatever it is. And you shrink from other things as well, thinking you can’t do them either.

. . .

And how, you may ask, do you build courage, if it really is a muscle, as I claim?

1. Find something you’re afraid of.

2. Do it.

3. Repeat steps 1 and 2, as many times as necessary.

That was the thought I had today, because what I saw instead was cowardice, which led to weakness, which led to more cowardice and weakness in a feedback loop. And none of us wants to be there, dying a thousand times before our death. Among other things, it’s no way to be a writer.

Goss' discussion reminds me of an October 2010 podcast by T. Thorn Coyle in which Coyle said:
And, where's the struggle? Is it a struggle of not believing in yourself? Is it a struggle of feeling like you don't have the resources you need? Is it a struggle of of lack of time, lack of energy? Is it a struggle of lack of support around you? Or lack of support from your daily practice? Is it the fear of success? The fear of failure? Where's that struggle?

My trainer, Carrie Rockland, with whom I do a trade that's very fruitful for both of us -- we end up teaching each other, which I greatly appreciate . That's one of the ways I keep fire in my life is to seek out teaching from those who have skills or experiences that I don't have -- but Carrie is coming up on a big competition in which she is having to fight someone that she fought many years ago in order to go up a level in the belt system in her martial art. And in talking about this, she wrote something that was so clear that I want to share it with you. Carrie wrote, "More often than not, the truth is I am the one choosing to lose the fight." I want us all to take that phrase in right now. "More often than not, the truth is I am the one choosing to lose the fight. "

We talk ourselves out of it before we even step on the mat, half the time. We talk ourselves out of it before we even gather the resources needed to see a project through. We talk ourselves out of it before we make that initial step or have that first conversation. We talk ourselves out of it before we even let ourselves brainstorm and dream.

Fire can help us with courage. That fire in the heart is that strong heart, that courageous heart. And that is something that our Gods can help us with, our friends can help us with. It's something that can help us face the necessary battles, if you will, or take those risks that we're less willing to take

Fire helps us push out of our comfort zone.

You know, some comfort is necessary. we need some ease in our lives and we need some rest, but we also need our comfort to be challenged.

I'm musing a lot about the roles of Fire, Will, and courage in my life. There's not a lot of Fire in my chart, but there's a whole lot of Earth. And, somehow, for the first half of my life, I wound up needing to work like hell to break away from a dysfunctional family, to raise Son on my own, to run educational programs with no money in a dysfunctional school system, to find a spiritual path for myself (which, you know, Sun in Pisces, was kind of important), to go to law school while I worked, to establish myself in a new field, to survive breast cancer, . . . well, you get the picture. And I think that I simply drew (about as heavily as one can draw upon any one account, I simply drew) from all of the stubborn, determined, not-going-to-give-up Earth in my chart and, somehow, thank the Ancestors, made it through.

And, then, suddenly -- finally -- I got a chance to slow down. I got a chance to experience some of that "comfort" and "ease in our lives" that Coyle talks about. And I've taken full advantage of it. But, lately, I'm feeling more and more of a need to begin to push myself again. Certainly, not as hard as I had to push myself for the first part of my life, but to begin, in Coyle's words, for my comfort to be challenged. This is where Goss' words come in: "On the other hand, if you routinely avoid what you fear, you start to believe that you really can’t do whatever it is. And you shrink from other things as well, thinking you can’t do them either." Goss is right and her metaphor about courage being a muscle is right.

Where are you challenging yourself? Where do you need to invoke Fire? Where do you need more ease and comfort? In what ways is being a Witch an exercise in constantly challenging yourself and invoking Fire? In what ways is it a move towards ease and comfort? What elements do you draw upon to make up for the lack of other elements in your make-up?

Picture found here.

Update: As Thalia notes in comments, the notion of forcing yourself over and over to face fear can have different meanings for those of us who grew up in dysfunctional families. Thalia discusses the very important notion of treating ourselves compassionately and not berating ourselves for being afraid. Thalia's right; we all have to find our own balance and our society often gives short shrift to the courage that it can take to NOT beat ourselves up, to give ourselves permission to create a zone of comfort and ease. Having compassion for ourselves is often one of the bravest things we do.

6 comments:

Thalia said...

All right, let me start this with you know I love you Hecate.

But.

I have to admit I don't hold much stock in astrology, though I am otherwise a card-carrying spell-making spirit-communing Tarot-reading Witch; I've got fire all over my chart, in too many places for me to remember, and am even a proper March Aries, but you'd never know it. I've had people guess I was a Pisces.

As for the rest of it, courage and struggles and challenging our fears, I am having a very visceral reaction to it. No. Just no.

T. Thorn Coyle consistently rubs me the wrong way, and I think I've finally figured out why: when you identify as a warrior your life will always be a battle. How exhausting and unnecessary! I want no part of that.

Also, framing everything in terms of battles and struggles means other people, other parts of the self can only fall into one of two categories: enemy or ally. NO.

I come from dysfunction, too, and maybe that's it: I have spent so much of my life being afraid, terrified, and anxious, that I am still actively trying to find my way into my comfort zone; so all this talk of courage, and 1, find something you fear 2, face it, lather rinse repeat just makes me so angry. It is so privileged, and so unkind, in so many ways, and makes so many assumptions I don't even. Having compassion for my self, which starts with not berating myself for being afraid, has been absolutely key for me. That is really the first step. Nobody seems to ever acknowledge that; they go straight to disavowing cowardice, without acknowledging that it can be a damned useful survival tactic.

I just...

Hecate said...

Thalia,

Thank you for your response and for pointing out a very necessary "other side" of the issue. You know I love you, too. In fact, I was thinking about you and remembering your posts about doing something creative every day yesterday when I was watching this.

I'm not surprised to learn that there's a lot of fire in your chart, especially given how creative you are. But what I don't know about astrology would (and does!) fill libraries and I'm still trying to learn enough not to be dangerous. ;)

You say: Having compassion for my self, which starts with not berating myself for being afraid, has been absolutely key for me. That is really the first step. Nobody seems to ever acknowledge that; and I think that you are absolutely spot-on. To me, that is courage: the being afraid, doing the work that it takes to accept that you're afraid and that's ok --in fact, it's often downright sensible to be afraid -- and then not beating yourself up for being afraid. And, you're right, too few of us acknowledge that as a crucial first step. And, at least for those of us who grew up with serious dysfunction, it feels to me as if it can be a more difficult and more important step than maybe it often is for others. We spent a lot of our early lives being afraid and being told that whatever we felt, it was the wrong feeling. And when you're "unworthy" of everything, stepping up and creating a comfort zone for yourself can be scary; who are you to imagine that you deserve that?

So thank you for saying what you said and reminding me of the need to not just skip over the importance of treating ourselves compassionately.

I do take some inspiration from the passages by Goss and Coyle and, at this stage of my life, I'm feeling ready to take on a new level of challenging myself, of moving a bit out of my comfort zone, although hopefully with compassion for myself. But certainly there have been times when I would have read passages like these and gone off to berate myself for not "being brave." Oddly, during those times, I can see now, I was being incredibly brave, facing challenges that would have done in a coward. But that's often easier to see in hindsight.

I'm going to amend the post to include your very good point.

Hecate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thalia said...

Thank you Hecate; your response made me tear up it was so kind.

I have been told that in just living my life in a quiet and low-key manner where I avoid as much as I possibly can my bravery is still off the charts, given what I come from. I think that's probably true.

It can be so discouraging, well, more that that, insulting, I guess, to hear over and over that one needs to, should, face this, and challenge that, and meet someone else's definition of brave if one is to grow, which is everyone's duty by the way.

It's like someone saying, okay, you need to get grounded. Put your feet firmly on the floor and close your eyes... But when I look down there is no floor.

I was reading Jung's Red Book, and there is a long passage in it, one of his 'fantasies' (visions, really, not that he'd use that word) where a figure goes on and on criticising him, calling him arrogant, an imposter, how dare he be so ambitious, &c. He later identifies this figure as his shadow.

And I just didn't recognize it as anything in my experience. It took me a while, but I realized that to have a shadow like that, you have to start from a place where your ambitions and desires are taken seriously; you have to have had an environment that assumed success and ambition was something within your reach, something you were entitled to. It's like that. There is a very basic piece of it taken for granted in these exhortations to growth.

Anyway I'm just repeating myself now. It's a rant and button-pusher. :) Thank you, again.

I hope someday that I will find my way into my comfort zone and learn to inhabit it so thoroughly that I then am able to move out of it, well, comfortably. But not because I want to challenge myself; instead because I am bored. That would be really wonderful.

Hecate said...

This!

I was reading Jung's Red Book, and there is a long passage in it, one of his 'fantasies' (visions, really, not that he'd use that word) where a figure goes on and on criticising him, calling him arrogant, an imposter, how dare he be so ambitious, &c. He later identifies this figure as his shadow.

And I just didn't recognize it as anything in my experience. It took me a while, but I realized that to have a shadow like that, you have to start from a place where your ambitions and desires are taken seriously; you have to have had an environment that assumed success and ambition was something within your reach, something you were entitled to. It's like that. There is a very basic piece of it taken for granted in these exhortations to growth.


Seriously. This!

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