When we are growing up, we do things without really thinking about why we’re doing them. We do what we feel is right in a particular moment and move through life following our hearts and our instincts. As kids, we don’t question why we feel a certain way or why we have certain preferences. A little girl accepts the fact that she is afraid of the dark without trying to understand where this fear stems from. Another kid will not wonder why he suffers from separation anxiety and has a hard time letting people go. They just feel this way and they accept it, no questions asked. It’s not until we get a little older, a little wiser, that we start questioning ourselves and digging deeper to understand the reasons why we are the way we are and why we behave the way we do.
This was the case with me, starting around my university years (the sober part of them at least) and continuing throughout my relationships, career and marriage. This act of reflection did not start out as a conscious effort, it was more of a realization that came in waves, sometimes soft and subtle and other times forceful and intense.
When I started allowing myself to ride these waves and let them flow through me, things began to look different, from the inside out and from the outside in.
Gone was the little girl I once was, who didn’t ask questions, and in came a curious woman, eager to discover (and psychoanalyze) herself.
It is incredible the things that we learn by taking a step back and looking at ourselves from beyond. What’s even more incredible is how much we discover by looking at ourselves from within, holding on to one thread and tracing it all the way back to its origins; our childhood, our upbringing, our parents, our siblings, our teachers… I believe that nature plays a big part of shaping our characters, but our personal stories and backgrounds play a role, just as big if not even bigger, in making us who we are.
When we accept the fact that the way we react to everything in life has more to do with us than with the situation itself, we begin the process of peeling off the layers that surround us, one by one.
Darkness is not scary for everyone. We don’t all have the same levels of separation anxiety. These emotions and fears have reasons that we can discover the closer we look and the deeper we dig. That little girl who can only sleep with the lights on might discover, if she goes back in time and remembers her early years, that her mother always kept the lights on for her as a baby, or she might recall a time when she was woken up in a dark room to receive bad news. The association of darkness to this negative emotion becomes linked in her brain and that’s where the fear cultivates. The case could be similar with the boy who has major issues with separation. His story could be that his father worked abroad and only returned home a few times a year. This physical (and very real) separation he felt as a child then becomes a constant worry he has with everyone in his life, leading him to become more possessive and jealous. All these are not personality traits we are born with, they are fears and insecurities, preferences and inklings, likes and dislikes that are a result of personal experiences we live through, and they become our story.
Many people go through life not asking themselves these questions. But if you had to choose between blissful ignorance and enlightened mindfulness, would you choose to stay in the dark?