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Fear

Not so long ago I was having a difficult time with a number of things in my life.  There were many round pegs and too few square holes.  This wasn’t just relegated to my personal life.  I had a few clients who were challenging, one of whom was delusional, possibly psychotic, with hints of antisocial personality disorder.  Think manipulation.  Think rape.   One day in particular I felt as if I were being drawn inexorably into a black hole.  I felt, in a sense, hopeless, as if I were losing myself and as if life as I had known it was being wrenched from my hands.  I felt cut off and alone in my suffering.   In the midst of this inner turmoil I turned to a number of people who were closest to me, sharing my experience and maybe even looking for some advice.  A family member recommended that I contact some people whom I admired and who did similar work as I do.  With that I called a man who, whether he realized it or not, had become a mentor.   What I respected about this man, apart from him being a professor of spiritual counseling, was his brutal honesty and joyful sarcasm.  I also respected the fact that he had spent years as a Buddhist practitioner before becoming a committed Christian, a not very common spiritual trajectory.   When I called this man I sensed him setting aside all that he was doing so that he could be present with me, a skill I assumed he had procured through years of mindfulness training and meditation.  I spoke some of my current personal challenges but mostly about my clients, in particular the delusional, possibly psychotic, anti-social one.  After describing my inner experience of floating inexorably into a black hole he hesitated before speaking.   “What if you didn’t have to bring yourself from that black hole?” he said.   Hearing this a number of thoughts went through my mind.  The first was through the filter of my childhood and the many rather intense personalities that filled it – life is scary and sometimes dark and you just need to deal with it.  The second thought was more defensive – what the #@$% is this guy talking about?  I call in a moment of existential angst and all this man can give me is some wonky Zen paradox?   As the weeks went by and as I dealt more and more with both personal and professional challenges the question my mentor had posed to me kept coming back, especially when I sensed that black hole looming.  The question had changed somewhat in my mind, however; it was altered...

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