Over the last several days, inquiry has happened in a different way for me.
An emotion comes up. Lately, it has been dread & terror, or a deep sense of longing. I may lie down on the bed, or do this before falling asleep or just after waking up. I go back to when I first remember having had that feeling, often as a very young kid. I remember the situation. I then go into who I was in that situation, a kid of perhaps four years old. And there is a dialog, encouraging me – as a four year old or how old I may be – to gently and slowly explore what’s happening.
Look at the feeling in itself. Set thoughts and images on the shelf for a while. Just look at the feeling. Is it OK? What are you afraid may happen if you allow and welcome that feeling? Is it likely to happen? How bad would it be if it happened? How is it right now? Notice it is just an emotion. Is it OK? Is there anything to really fear about this emotion? How is it to allow it, welcome it? How is it to be it?
Now look at the stories and images behind the feeling. What are you afraid may happen? What is more likely to happen? What is the worst that can happen? How bad would it be if it happened?
When I follow the feeling of dread back to when I first can remember experiencing it, I find myself as three or four years old. My father is very angry at me. I first set aside the stories around it. I notice the feeling of dread. It feels unbearable. I want it to go away. I want to escape from it. Then I remind myself it is just a feeling. Is it OK? Yes, it is OK. I can allow it. I can be it. And it is OK. Nothing bad happens from the feeling alone.
I ask myself what the stories are behind the dread. I am afraid that my parents will leave me. I am afraid they don’t love me anymore and won’t take care of me anymore. I feel helpless. I am afraid my parents will leave me. I am afraid I will die. How bad is it if I died? Hm. Not too bad. There may be nothing, and that’s OK. As I look into this, I find that death is OK. I may die as a little child, and it is OK. Death may just be nothing. What is more likely to happen if I lost my parents? Someone else would take care of me. Would that be OK? Yes, probably. It may even be a better family for me. I don’t know. How likely is it that they will leave me? Not very likely. I have no evidence that the would, and plenty of evidence that they care about me.
By going through this inquiry as three or four years old, with that feeling of dread and the fear that I may lose my parents, I discover several things. (a) The feeling of dread itself is actually OK. I dreaded the feeling of dread, and wanted it to go away. But it is actually OK. In itself, it is harmless. Nothing bad happens from it. (b) I am afraid I will lose my parents. My worst fear is that I will die, and I find – again to my surprise – that dying is actually OK. Also, if I lose my parents, someone else will take care of me, and they may be a very nice family. They are likely to be a nice family. And also, I find that even if my father is angry at me, it is not very likely that they will leave me. I have no evidence they will, and plenty of evidence they care about me greatly.
Note: I find this helpful in general right now: (a) Set aside stories and bring attention to the experience. Is it OK? (b) Notice how I project this experience into the future. I feel…. and that means that…. (c) Find the beliefs behind the emotions or fear, and explore these beliefs. Can I know it is true? What’s the worst that can happen? How likely is it? What is equally or more likely?
- going back to the first time
- belief/fear – find when i first had it, usually as a young child
- then dialogue with myself as a kid
- the feeling itself, how is it to allow it?
- is it ok? what do you fear may happen? what actually happens?
- notice, it is just an emotion, just sensations
- the belief, is it true?
- what are you afraid may happen?
- what is more likely to happen?
- what’s the worst that can happen?
- how bad is it?
- fear of dying, not surviving
- if parents die or leave me, will still be taken care of – may even be a better family for me
- if die, then may be nothing – which is ok
- going into taboos, important
- parents leaving me, dying
- being taken care of in a another family that may be better
– feeling of dread, terror, panic – coming up now, going straight back to childhood
– set thoughts aside, only the feeling – is it ok? what’s the worst that can happen if the feeling is here? how likely is it? is it ok?
– then explore the beliefs, ….. and it means…., is it true?, how bad would it be if it happened?, would it be ok?
– ask for inner/outer support, admit i can’t do it on my own