One of the limiting habits we have formed as a species is to always try and move towards comfort and push away discomfort. We feel a pain and we take a pill to make it go away, but as long as we are always trying to escape the uncomfortable we are missing half of the treasure of life. It’s when we are uncomfortable that we have to reach out to others, it cultivates intimacy and trust. When we are in pain our compassion for others who are experiencing pain too is deeply felt, unlike the rest of the time where we’re buzzing around in self-involved busyness. It’s when we are forced into the uncomfortable that we have huge realisations about ourselves. If we are open to life’s lessons we become illuminated by the hell we put ourselves through. The Dark Night Of The Soul is one of the most growing experiences many of us ever have. If it weren’t for the heinous panic attacks I suffered in my late teens and the suicidal state I got myself into I would never have sought out information and techniques to pull myself out of the misery I felt I had been sentenced to and begin the Warrior’s journey which led me to be the humble genius you now see before you…
…and there is a big clue about our suffering. From the point of view of always running from discomfort and grasping after comfort, these challenging experiences are hellish and need to be resisted, but when I realise that my journey through this hell-realm and the tools I’ve learned on how to survive have taught me to be a skilful and empathic helper for those who are experiencing similar things to me, I notice that the hardest times of my life have been like a kind of super-hero training, sculpting me and giving me gifts which are useful for others in need. It’s almost as if, in our suffering, we are sent down into the darkest mines alone, but when we return to the surface we notice that we have in our hand a jewel that is of use to the next person down the line struggling in a similar fashion.
We’ve become so used to pushing away the chaos of our edgier feelings and feel so wary of approaching the edges of our comfort zones that whenever something or someone catapults there involuntarily we resist, we judge those people, fight them, manipulate them, condemn them, anything to keep life within the narrow confines of our perceived safety. We need the artists and musicians to go to those dark and scary places on our behalf so that we can sit in rows in the dark cinema and sob along with what’s happening on the screen. We don’t want to hang off a cliff by one arm sobbing desperately but we’re happy for Brad Pitt to do it up on the screen and we sit in the safety of Screen 2 in Finchley and have a watered-down, vicarious experience of that intensity the actor has immersed himself in. This is a vital offering we artists and creators bring, to go to such extreme places in ourselves and transform them into music and film and art for those less comfortable with their edges to have a gentler, more manageable version, and then when the credits roll go and have some dinner. The musicians and artists tend to experience life with higher peaks and lower troughs, that’s why so may of us suffer from depression and get carried away by our elation. The artists and musicians are brave and dare to go more willingly to those edges of emotion, and we provide an essential service to anyone else who needs to feel those parts of themselves more safely. Our adulation and worship of musicians and actors is a symptom of how accustomed we have become to disowning our intense feelings. We pay these artists huge sums of money to go there for us and create songs and films and other artistic expressions which allow us to get in touch with the visceral, messy parts of ourselves under controlled circumstances, risk free.
How have the challenges you’ve survived trained you? What were the unexchangeable gifts?