10/01/2012 05:27 pm ET Updated Dec 01, 2012

Totally Ready for Love and Growth -- Sort of

We have a resistance to aliveness that takes us beyond our comfort zone. When we have a surge of aliveness, it can sometimes feel inundating. When have too much energy, too much excitement happening, we might respond by getting sleepy, having brain fog, getting distracted, or getting overly fixated on thinking (i.e., stuck in our heads). I know that I have a knee-jerk reaction to big inflows of aliveness. For example, when it's more than I'm comfortable with in a particular moment, I might drift off from the conversation I'm in with someone.

As most of us can attest to, it's a challenge to grow and to love more, while simultaneously being aware of the resistances that we have to love and to growth. At first blush we say, "I'm totally available for love and growth; I'm completely up for all of that!" And then we encounter resistances that are quite subtle, where we can see that we have learned to swim against the river's current through eons of conditioning. We are products of our families and our schools, our entertainment sources, religions, cultures. We're influenced by other people's stories, beliefs, experiences, triumphs, and tragedies. These "outer" influences are filtered through our own perceptions to no small effect. They mold our desires. They mold our expectations. They mold our capacity to imagine. They mold our images of ourselves. And they mold what we think is possible. In this way, our conditioning is literally a mold, like the cookie cutters we know from childhood.

When we begin to expand the mold and break out of the cookie-cutter existence that we've adapted to, there are certain kinds of resistances that come up. A commonly shared resistance is the fear of losing connections -- to ourselves, our peers, our families, our environments. For example, when I was a young man, I remember when I began to tell the people in my small town that I dreamed of a career in the film business. There were those who took it personally, "Who do you think you are?! Why isn't the kind of life that we have enough to satisfy you?"

There were others who dismissed it outright, assuring me that it was all folly. "Only one in a million are successful. What are you going to do as a back-up?"

What I was really hearing from them was their beliefs about themselves; nonetheless, at that time of my life, those were some of the beliefs that I either adopted as my own or rebelled against.

Can you think of a time when you were considering breaking out of a particular way of being in the world -- moving into a deeply-held dream -- and encountered resistance internally or externally? What kind of resistance did you wrestle with? Was it a dreaded fear, such as...

  • Fear of failure
  • Fear of humiliation
  • Fear of struggle and pain
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of loss

All manner of fears can -- and will -- come up when we're stepping beyond the bounds of who we have been. Eventually we either break out or we succumb, submit, and stay small. And when the fears start to stack up, the compulsion to stay small is exacerbated. Have you heard the story about the crabs in a box? It's an example of what often happens within our own minds. Crabbers know that when you catch crabs, as long as you have two or more in a box or bucket, you won't need a lid to keep them in! They will provide their own surveillance. Even in a shallow box of five or so inches, a height that they could easily scale, they do not escape. If there is more than one crab in box, they will use their claws to pull each other back down... back into the box of the status quo.

We either get pulled down by our resistances, into the safe comfort of what is known, or we make peace with the fact that we have resistances. We don't actually overcome them at this point, but we can make peace with them. We access the courage we need to move forward in spite of them -- which turns out to be profoundly freeing.

For more by Barnet Bain, click here.

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