“An idea is like a virus, resilient, highly contagious. The smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.” (Dom Cobb, “Inception”… brill movie)
The simplest of ideas are the most infectious, the ones that carry themselves unseen on practically every line of thought, strengthening itself every time. Every time you run with an idea, you give it exercise and strengthen it. The very simplest idea is a single word. For me, I know what this idea is in my head, because I’ve seen it in my dreams: Unworthy. To let it take hold can let it shape one’s entire life pattern, one’s ambitions, one’s behaviour. It attacks one’s confidence of what is deserved, what can be earned, what can be achieved. Am I capable of meeting a challenge? Can ‘they’ depend on me? Am I good enough for the most important things? Am I good enough for the one person I want to be good enough for?
If you think you’re not, one slight poke to your confidence, one threat to how valuable to someone else you think you are, the slightest tremor, one ounce of missing affirmation, can upset your confidence at a most basic level. Our minds are like an ocean. That upset causes ripples in your consciousness (on its surface) and subconsciousness (what lies beneath), like an earthquake under the water; it can even kick off a devastating emotional tsunami. It won’t let go – this submerged ‘thing’, like some hungry octopus, grabs your feet and drags you to the ocean’s surface, to pull you under, and the feeling is like you’re about to drown. You may desperately grab for something else strong enough to keep you above water, any root, any rock – another idea – so you bait for approval, seek the attention of someone who’s opinion is valued, say something or behave out of pure emotion, just to prop up your collapsing sense of contentment. Worse case scenario, and to everyone’s surprise, you run from something or someone, robbing them of all you have to offer them, unable to cope with the pressure of feeling good enough, interesting enough, worth enough, lovable enough.
Don’t run – That’s a path full of regret. Being so fearful of being worthy of your own dreams is usually a good sign you give a damn. And that you are, in fact, still human.
I guess the turning point in trying to deal with this is how to react when its tentacles pull at your ankles, to replace the basic idea so deeply rooted, or at least try to starve it so it shrinks over time. How? Without Dom Cobb invading your dreams, I’m not entirely sure But I’m gonna make a stab at this… (a metaphorical pun right there… you’ll see!)
I guess it’s not the struggle that we need to despair about. It’s the handling of it – or maybe the perception of what we need to survive it. When that idea about yourself grabs your ankle and drags you to the water, to pull you under, you can scrabble for something else to keep you from drowning – the metaphorical rock or tree root – the idea that you think is strong enough to help you escape. Could even be someone else’s hand. But rather than get yourself pulled around, maybe the best action is to actually attack the thing that’s dragging you under water in the first place. After all, this is YOUR ocean in which this monster lives. If you grab something solid on ground while something is trying to pull you under water, you risk being torn in two! Stab that thing round your ankle, wrestle with it yourself and tear it off your foot; maybe you can escape in your own strength.
That inner strength is not necessarily matured enough to handle such demands alone, and I’ve considered for years that maturity has nothing to do with age, only experience. Regardless, there’s no shame in calling for someone else’s help, but rather than grab for someone’s hand, or some other idea, believing your only hope is to be pulled up by something stronger, let them help you strike at the tentacle instead. Again, being pulled might work temporarily, but you may injure yourself in the process and the ‘THING’ underwater, the idea in your psyche, is still alive, waiting to have another go. So, instead, don’t panic at your savior to pull you against your deeply rooted doubts, instead ask them to help you attack it at its source and overcome it with you.
You should still hold the knife, but someone you trust can guide your hand.
This process may not even be explicit (like, say, therapy would be). I’ve read that for more of us than we’re willing to admit, maybe even for everyone (we’re all human), true love of self can grow out of a special relationship with someone who loves us. It’s how we’re made, it’s only natural. When you aren’t just told, but FEEL, that you’re truly loved, that’s an idea that can overcome any other. If you let it!
“The greatest thing you ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” (Nature Boy)
The other thing to consider is this: be aware of when hurtful ideas, whatever they are, are lodging themselves in your consciousness. Ideas like… “What if I can’t handle this?” “What if they deserve better than this?” “What if they’re doing x, y or z behind my back?” If you notice an unpleasant seed is burying itself in to take root, burn it away – reason it out if you can, but talk it over with someone you trust, maybe someone who’s caused this idea in the first place, or someone you trust the most. Else that tiny seed might not only destroy you, but destroy your most treasured relationships.
I like this metaphor of comparing one’s mind to a big gorgeous ocean full of amazing and beautiful sights, but prone to predators which turn dangerous if we don’t keep them tamed… One of the most dangerous things in the sea? The JELLYFISH. While sense of worth can shape a person’s whole course, sense of ambition, confidence, etc, Jealousy can change a person’s attitude and behaviour so drastically in a moment, it’s almost as powerful as love itself :o (and isn’t entirely unrelated.) Jellyfish stings can be painful, but they can also be fatal – Being totally honest, I’m no stranger to jellyfish myself – and all the above paragraphs apply to avoiding them altogether, or at least treating their attacks!
I guess the other thing is – we can easily fling these seeds at each other without even realising it, so try to be aware of it. Not to the point of having to tread on eggshells around each other though! We each individually have to handle criticism, or lack of attention, or some badly made joke, it’s up to us to recognise these things for what they are, and not to react to them as some broader attack on us as a whole. Being open with someone and asking / talking about whatever is bothering us, to find out for sure, before it gets out of hand and planted in our heads, can only benefit us all.
Each of us carry our own ocean in our heads, full of ideas about ourself and our world around us, floating on its surface or preying on us underneath. Fear, even resentment, can keep someone from jumping into the sea. But in time as the monsters are extinguished, or reduced to tiny baby versions capable of no more than an irritating nip that a simple hug can cure, going for a swim around inside ourselves, reflecting on the good stuff about ourselves and the good stuff we’ve got (or got coming), can become something very relaxing and refreshing, something to look forward to.