I was in an antique book store a few weeks ago and among other interesting titles I found Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss. I had never read a book by her before but I wanted to so I bought it. I noticed that one page was bent at the top corner, but I didn’t pay much attention to it. A few days later I started reading it and I was amazed at how good this book was. I have read many books on topics like these, yet this one felt so unique. It was about how the reality we experience is closely related to our state of consciousness. In particular this book looked into how people can get sick when they don’t deal with the catalysts in their lives properly. It made a parallel between the 7 chakras (Buddhism), the 7 sacraments (Christianity) and the 10 sephirot (Kabbalah/Judaism) in order to show that they referred to the same things and provided insight into how imbalances can develop into our systems in relation to these energy centers. She explained through many stories of her patients how these imbalances are ways of showing us that we are refusing to acknowledge something in ourselves and how illnesses develop in our bodies in order to get our attention. If the catalyst is not dealt with at a mental level, then it moves into the body.
The stories were the highlight of the book and were very powerful illustrations of the insights that Caroline provided. A chapter was dedicated to each Chakra/Sacrament/Sephirot correspondence. The page that had a bent corner was on the Third Chakra chapter: Personal Power (now that I think about it, it seems very fitting). It was on page 180 (180 degrees = changing directions/changing mind?) and this is what it said:
“ For the most part information that is accessible to intuition makes its presence known by making us feel uncomfortable, depressed, and anxious – or at the other extreme, drifty and detached, as if we were suddenly cut off from all of our own feelings. In dreams of an intuitive nature, we receive symbols of change or chaos. Such dreams often occur more intensely during emotional crises. Energy or intuitive sensations signal that we have reached a crossroads in our lives and  that we have an opportunity to influence the next stage of our lives, at least to some degree, through the choice we make now.
The intuition and the independence of the third chakra together give us the capacity to take risks, to follow through on gut hunches. Evan, twenty-eight [my age], contacted me because he was suffering from a severely ulcerated colon. As I evaluated him, I kept receiving the impression of a horse being led to the starting gate but never running the race. He seemed to have no energy left to stand on his own. In fact, he seemed to have fled from the opportunities life had given him because he was afraid of failure. He would not take even one chance to seek confirmation of an intuition.
In his own words, Evan’s life had been a series of false starts. He had considered all sorts of business ventures, but had decided against each of them. He was forever studying the stock market, looking for a formula that revealed the rise-and-fall pattern of stock prices. Obsessed with this ideal, he had carefully accumulated statistics. Actually, he had become pretty good at identifying stocks that were about to increase in value. When I asked him why he didn’t just go ahead and invest in some of those stocks, he said, “The formula is not yet perfect. It has to be perfect.” Yet, he was filled with bitterness toward himself because he knew he would have earned a great deal of money had he followed through on some of his hunches. In fact, he would have become fairly wealthy. When I commented that, having done so well on paper, he was equally likely to succeed in an actual investment, Evan responded that the stock market is volatile, and he could never be certain that his hunches would prove accurate.
With the ulcerated colon, Evan’s body was being ripped apart by his inability to act on his gut hunches. He could not bring himself to invest even a little money in a stock. His fear of taking a risk was literally destroying his body, yet he was completely obsessed by a business that is nothing but risk. Telling Evan to use a relaxation  technique would have been about as helpful as telling a teenager to be home on time. Evan needed to release his computerlike mind and shift to his gut instincts. He insisted his gut instincts don’t provide “proof” of outcomes, but only suggest possibilities.”
— Caroline Myss, Anatomy of the Spirit
I was blown away by how much this resembled the biggest challenge I was facing. I too felt too afraid to try anything as long as I didn’t have the certainty it was going to end in success. This was a beautiful synchronicity telling me I had to initiate something, whatever it may have been. And I wasn’t doing anything. I had received similar guidance at the beginning of the year when I was watching The Office. It was that episode when Jan comes to Scranton to talk to the girls and she tells Pam about some free art courses that are available, and Pam doesn’t know whether she should take the opportunity or not. My right ear started ringing just as Jim was telling Pam “you’ve gotta take a chance on something sometime, Pam.” I usually get ear ringing in my right ear when I need to pay attention to something I’m experiencing, whether a thought, or something I see or hear somewhere. It usually means “this is important!” or “pay attention!” or “this!” At that time I had quit my job for a few months and I still had no idea what I was gonna do next. So the message was spot on. I found it incredibly beautiful to receive such graceful guidance.
More recently I was on Omegle and I was feeling king of discouraged and I just needed to talk to someone. For those who haven’t used it, Omegle is a website where you can chat with random strangers. It has both a video version and a text version, though I wouldn’t recommend the video one. I was connected to a guy from Australia who had woken up too early and couldn’t fall back asleep. He was a psychology student, so I became his subject for a good chunk of our conversation which was kind of fun. I started telling him about my exaggerated sense of self-doubt and this is what he told me:
Stranger: I think to succeed something you should be okay with failing
Stranger: Because you can’t get anything without struggling
Stranger: And through that struggle you draw your path better than before
Stranger: Which might lead you to success
Stranger: Thus, failure is a risk that should be taken to succeed something
Stranger: Like for example
Stranger: Let’s say you were hurt from your ex
Stranger: And you’re very done with your love life
Stranger: But that shouldn’t stop you from loving someone again
Stranger: Like I get it, you might end up getting hurt again but what if you become very happy
Stranger: So that’s the risk to take to become happy
And it was like, oh wow, how do I manage to forget the basics so often? Why don’t these things stick with me? Why are my whys not strong enough? Why am I avoiding choice? And I figured I have a big commitment problem, I always want to keep my options open. I seem to be afraid of taking risks, even though I thought myself to be courageous. And I have been courageous in many instances, and yet there are some things that I just don’t seem to want to risk. I think these are some things that have made me lose confidence in myself:
- I take on challenges which are too big, and I get discouraged when they don’t work out and I attribute the failure to my lack of skill.
- I don’t break down challenges into achievable milestones and so the climb seems too long and the rewards too little.
- I change my mind too often and it has become too strong a habit. It’s like a black hole sucking me in whenever I need to make a decision, like I can feel the pull of doubt dragging me into confusion.
- I have bathed into victim mentality for a while and I have allowed myself to believe that I was powerless. I refused to take responsibility for the way I feel and I let others decide things for me.
- I am afraid of missing chances and of making mistakes. I feel pressured by the idea that each choice has vast ramifications, and I want to make sure that it leads to good things.
- Once I make a decision I go through the decision process again to make sure I didn’t overlook anything, which starts making the other option more appealing.
- I question myself too much. I try to analyze too many aspects of a problem and I lose perspective by focusing on the details.
- I have a sense of guilt which creates mental confusion.
The guy from Omegle reminded me that any choice implies some form of struggle and has attached to it the possibility of failure, of making mistakes and that’s perfectly ok. It’s not about right or wrong, it’s about being clear on what you want and need and seeing which choice can provide that for you. Also it’s about choosing (the fuck) something so that you can advance by finding out once and for all if it works or doesn’t work so that you can learn something and adjust. Otherwise you’re wasting your energy on self-doubt, weakening your soul, distrusting your ability to decide and enhancing this self-image of powerlessness. Lingering there can only put you in a feedback loop. So you need to trust yourself and have faith that the path becomes clearer after you make the choice. Even if you have to change your decision afterwards. It’s exploration, learning by experiment, trial and error. Once you get the confidence, your intuition becomes stronger as well. Intuition needs to be developed too. It is strongly linked to the faith you have in yourself. But you have to choose, you have to explore, you have to start the experiment, otherwise there is no data to gather. And it doesn’t help if you’re just sitting there waiting to be illuminated as if from the ether without anything on your part.
I recently had a thought that went like “faith in yourself is the same thing as faith in God/Truth/All That Is”. I don’t know if I got it from somewhere, or if I came up with it, but I found it to be an extremely powerful idea. It may seem paradoxical, because one could say that if they had faith in God to look after them, then they wouldn’t care about doing anything in their life, and so they would just rely on the Divine Will to work things out for them. But that is not how I view it at all. That interpretation does not take into account the will as a creative act. Trusting that things will work out is both an affirmation of your own power and that of the Divine. The way I see it is that if you have faith in God/Truth/All That Is to take care of you, then you will have the courage and the confidence to do anything in life, and you wouldn’t experience self-doubt and fear, because you would know you are being supported. It’s like the saying goes “God helps those who help themselves.” The Universe seems to respond to your intentions and your thoughts.
A great book I read right around the time I was thinking about these things is The Way Out by Joseph Benner. This 45-page book is one of the most profound things I have ever read. I took some very important teachings from this book, mainly how we should defend the fortress of our mind with great care from thoughts that have no place in being there. I found the same idea of “faith in yourself is the same thing as faith in God” in this book as well. Doubts and worries weaken us and they show a lack of faith in the path that is laid out for us, a lack of faith in the Divine Will. Therefore, it is advised to relinquish such thoughts of despondency, discouragement, disappointment, doubt, fear and whatever darkness may cloud our minds and to have faith that everything is taken care of, just like a small child doesn’t doubt that his parents are taking care of his needs. That makes room for joy and curiosity and completely shifts our focus from what we think we should do to what we like and want to do.
“We will take as an illustration a friend who recently lost her position. Several weeks before, this friend mentioned to the writer that their business was very poor and that they had laid off several who had charge of departments similar to hers, and she supposed she would be the next to go. The writer remonstrated with her and tried to show that that attitude of mind would bring to her what she did not want. Two weeks later another friend reported that she had said the same thing to her, and we do not know to how many others she had voiced it. But a few days afterward, as she had pictured it, the notice of her dismissal came.
Now let us analyze the mental process which created and brought to pass the losing of her position. The conditions of the business, the letting go of other department heads and clerks naturally caused our friend to build a picture in her mind of her also probably having to go sooner or later, and through the fear of it she actually saw herself leaving. Day after day the conditions in the office, her talks with fellow employees and with others in other businesses in similar bad straits, and with those who had lost their jobs, increased and intensified her fear and helped her to build in the details of her picture, until she had it all finished and perfect. Then she naturally felt she would soon have to go.
So of course it had to come to pass.
Now do you understand? The proof that she and she alone created the necessity of her going was,
- she was the last of all the heads of departments let go, for she was the most efficient;
- she began criticizing her employers and their actions;
- she learned afterward that they did not want to lose her and they might give her back her position, having hired two young men to replace the other women let go.
But she had created on the mental plane the finished thought form of being dismissed and had vitalized it with her fears and other feelings, and as a result that thought form had to outmanifest; and so it forced itself into the minds of her employers and impelled them to do what they otherwise would not have done.”
— Joseph Benner, The Way Out
So were she to have faith that everything would work out, she would have projected that image into reality instead of feeling like a victim of circumstance. We often forget that we are creators and that our will is our greatest asset. Giving it up is equivalent to succumbing to determinism or refusing catalysts. The biggest growth we experience is when we choose.
Lastly, here are some things that I find helpful whenever I experience self-doubt:
- If I find myself overthinking things, I just stop. I postpone the decision, I give it a few more hours or days and I distract myself with something else, preferably something I enjoy doing.
- I try to see whether I got myself into this predicament due to some assumptions or shoulds. Maybe I think I should do this or maybe I’m doing this for the wrong reasons.
- I try to get into my body. Move, go out, do something. Dance, do yoga, jump around, play some sports, go running, anything that can get me back in touch with my body, as overthinking things can make you dissociated from the intelligence of your body, which is where you get your intuitive impressions.
- Breathe. Relax. It may not be that big a deal.
- Be more organized in my approach to my decision. Deal with the facts of the situation, try not to project into the future. Focus on your whys, not your shoulds and forget about the consequences.
- Realize that there are no mistakes and whatever you choose will still lead you to the right path.
- If you experience resistance to doing something, maybe you don’t really want to do it or perhaps you are not ready yet. It could be a possibility that you pushed yourself into it too soon.
- If you made a choice and old addictions start resurfacing or they get more intense, it probably means that you’re not satisfied with that decision. For me that addiction is buying books, but it can have varied and subtle manifestations, it’s whatever recurring pattern of repetitive or compulsive behavior you might find yourself engaging in.
- If your mental clarity decreases and you don’t find a sense of determination and/or joy, then you probably aren’t satisfied with the decision you made.
- If you want to do something, but you just can’t pull through, you may be holding contradictory beliefs that are causing friction with your intentions.
For quite some time now I’ve been feeling very indecisive about things. Whether it’s about important decisions like moving to a new city or minor ones like what movie to watch, it’s been taking me way too long to decide what the best options are. Usually I narrow it down to two options but the problem is that both of them seem appealing yet neither quite fitting. I mean which option is the right one? Am I selfish to be doing this or am I just doing what is right for me? Do I really need to do this or am I fooling myself? Are my motivations pure or am I deceiving myself into picking what is advantageous? These are the sort of questions that I have been torturing myself with for a while now.
The latest difficult decision I had to make was today and it was about whether I should buy two books I found in an antique store. Because…there are so many things to consider like…am I just being a compulsive book buyer? Do I really need this book? I don’t even read that much science fiction. Do I buy just one, do I buy both of them or do I not buy any at all? Ah, but I’ve been here for so long, it’d look suspicious not to buy anything. And this other book…it seems like I already know much of what it’s about…do I really need it? This is the sort of questions that arise in my mind whenever I doubt myself. Eventually I was so worn out that I just bought both books and got the hell out of there, because I was starting to have panic attack symptoms. The moment I stepped outside I started feeling better. The major challenge of casually shopping found its resolution…one way or another.
It all started in the relatively recent past when I made a couple of really bad decisions which seriously crippled my confidence in my ability to choose correctly. Since then I’ve
been trying to ensure that all things are considered before making a decision so that I don’t end up repeating past mistakes. However, this approach turned out to be a form of punishment, holding myself accountable for actions I hadn’t even performed yet. The threat of making a mistake again was enough to keep my nerves stretched until I’ve analyzed all aspects of a problem which could take hours, days, weeks or why not, months. Because you want to make sure that the choice you make is the right one. Not that it might be the right one, but that it definitely is the right one. And that’s how you fall into the other extreme where you postpone choices as much as possible until you either lose both options, or one option chooses itself by default. The fear of not making a mistake turns into the refusal of choice/agency and that is the equivalent of powerlessness.
[Duality by Louis Dyer]
Even if you eventually choose something, the doubt behind it is enough to overshadow the positive aspects of the choice, like trying to kick a ball in a straight line, but bending its trajectory instead. It soon becomes apparent that the attitude with which you make a choice influences how you will feel about the choice once it is made. For instance, now that I bought those books, I am not that excited to read them, because I bought them as an act of resignation, not as an act of joy. Some of the doubts I had about buying those books were reasonable. But I’ve become so fed up with changing my mind so often that I sometimes just get tired of arguing with myself and randomly pick something. I suppose that on top of the choices I have to make, I now have to deal with the fear that indecisiveness might turn up again. Like a self fulfilling prophecy or a feedback loop.
I’ve been reflecting on this problem of indecisiveness and I realized a few things. The first is that I have this expectation of knowing in advance whether a choice is the right choice. I need to somehow intuit or feel that my decision is the correct one, I need to feel good about it before I experience it. It’s like wanting answers to a problem before you start solving it. I think this sort of thinking switches the focus from the reasons why you are making the choice to the imagined outcome of the choice you make, which triggers what is referred to as analysis paralysis, overthinking things to such an extent that you lose sight of the bigger picture. Basically you are acting on what you think you should do instead of primarily considering your motivations for doing so.
A few months ago I was on the verge of making a very important decision. I was very conflicted about it because it was about something I didn’t want to do but I thought I needed to do it or that I had to do it. I was driving myself a bit mad with thinking about what I should do and I could not get clarity. As it happens, I sometimes like to listen to psybient music when I meditate or when I reflect on things. So I sat down on the floor in my room, thinking about all the aspects of the problem I could think of, wearing myself down with overthinking things. I was really absorbed by my thought processes, I probably wasn’t even aware of myself at that point. Each decision had its advantages, but both implied some form of struggle. So I kept analyzing things, trying to figure out what was the best course of action. And then, as if out of nowhere, I heard a voice. It said…”do you understand what I’m trying to tell you? There are no answers, only choices.” It was so sudden and unexpected that it startled me. For a second I thought that it came from the ether or from my subconscious/unconscious, or…who’s to say if they’re not one and the same thing. But no, it wasn’t a mystical experience, even though that would have been cool. The voice came from the speakers. It was a sample taken from the movie Solaris used masterfully by the guys from Carbon Based Lifeforms in a song called Set Theory. I think it was the question that woke me from my reverie: “do you understand what I’m trying to tell you?” as if shaking me into focus. I was so moved by it that I even shed a few tears. Somehow that quote was all I needed to hear. It was as though it switched something inside of me. I wasn’t going to get the answer of whether my choice was correct if I kept focusing on the outcomes.
The following days came with a few insights, though I was still confused about what to do next. The decision was about whether to go back to an old situation and synchronistically I kept meeting people from my past that were involved in that situation. My self doubt was so strong, that one night I experienced a true “dark night of the soul”, feeling as though I was under siege, and the fortress of my mind and soul were under heavy assault. That night was a much needed initiation because it opened my eyes to the fact that I’ve been lying to myself for a month and a half, thinking that going back to that old situation was a good idea. The only thing I should have considered was whether I really wanted to do that and I 100% didn’t. I even convinced myself that going back was the better option and that the friction was due to the difficulty of the choice. But that was not the case, the friction was because I was opposing myself, trying to persuade myself into thinking I was doing the right thing. Really I was just afraid of the consequences of not doing that thing, of losing people’s support for doing so. I was refusing to take responsibility for my experiences and I was going to act the way I thought I should have or the way I was supposed to, the approved way. I was quite amazed about how easy it is to deceive yourself when you don’t frame things the right way. So once I stopped resisting and made the choice, it became apparent that it was the right decision. The realization of whether the choice was good or bad would have arisen regardless of what I would have chosen. The feedback comes afterwards. The only thing you need to do is to have self awareness and honesty to call things by their right name. For me a clear indicator of having made the right choice was a sense of relief and determination and a willingness to bear all the consequences of that action. If I were to choose differently I could see myself blaming other people for it and bracing myself for the unpleasant consequences that I would not have embraced as necessary steps in my evolution, but that I would have regarded as testaments of my cowardice.
Ultimately it’s a matter of honoring yourself. You have to ask yourself whether you are choosing something you really want to do, regardless of how others feel about it. It’s a matter of principle and of courage because you have to be willing to bear the unpleasant consequences of your actions and also you have to take responsibility for the way you feel. You cannot blame others for the decisions you make, they are not responsible for your well being. That’s not to say that you should never consider how you impact others, this is an important aspect that needs to be taken into account. But you have to think about your motivations for doing something, not the consequences. Otherwise you end up negotiating with yourself about what you should do and you end up compromising.
[TO BE CONTINUED…]