We are often afraid. The fear response is useful to us. If we weren’t afraid of the road, we would walk out and get run over. If we weren’t afraid of heights, we would be more likely to have accidents.
But fear, in certain contexts, makes us freeze when we needn’t. When we want to use our creativity, when we want to move outwards confidently, being afraid can make us clumsy and ineffective.
To counterbalance the fear response, we need to develop a play response, like a puppy, investigating the world, bumping into things, being enthusiastic, being prepared to make mistakes.
In childhood, overbearing members of our family, or institutions caring for us, may have pushed us into emotional silence. The parent with a temper taught us to tread carefully with others. The school with severe rules taught us to watch our behaviour with an analytical eye.
These childhood experiences can lead to excessive self-inhibition, where we underplay our hand, and give way too much to those around us. We become afraid of risking rejection, and hesitant to go out into the public gaze.
Our underlying authenticity (that child who still wants to play) is still there – it’s just hidden. In a world of competing voices, though, it’s only a small voice, straining to be heard. If someone with a louder voice overrides it, it retreats unheard.
- If we’re interested in releasing authentic energy, then there are a few things we can focus on.
- Firstly, we can test out our personal taste. We can try different clothes, to see what feels comfortable. We can seek out different people, to discover what attitudes and styles we like and don’t like. We can travel a bit.
- Secondly, we can develop our value system. We can be prepared to argue a genuinely-felt case, listen to the response, and then modify our thoughts without losing our essential sense of meaning.
- Thirdly, we can ensure our outer behaviour reflects our inner substance. Are we letting others see what’s going on inside us? Are our outward actions reflective of our inner self?
Of course, if we are exploring inner feelings that are harmful or antisocial, then it pays to do it in a way that respects others’ right to live authentically too. We might want to work things through with a counsellor, or a trusted friend, who is happy to explore any shadow side.
- I will be playful
- I will try to be myself, even under the gaze of others
- I will give space to my authentic voice, however small it feels
- I will respect my own tastes
- In doing all this, I will respect others