Lessons from Neil Gaiman and Brené Brown
Anyone who’s read The Sandman comics or watched the Netflix show will know The Endless: a family of eternal beings who personify seven forces of nature. Through Death, Dream, Desire, Despair, Destiny, Delirium and Destruction, Neil Gaiman gives a face to the names of some of the universe’s most powerful forces, and over time, we get to know them all very well.
Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but this humanisation of nature’s invisible powers left me with a feeling of understanding and oddly, a sense of personal strength. Almost with new eyes, I saw the roles of each of The Endless, and even felt empathy for some of the characters at different points in the plot.
So then I wondered:
What if, instead of viewing negative emotions as invisible (and therefore untouchable) forces, we personified them anthropomorphically?
I went further again:
What if we understood negative emotions and empathised with them?
(After all, how can we fear someone we empathise with?)
A few weeks later, I watched Brené Brown’s TED Talk on Vulnerability. I listened intently as she discussed “the stories we tell ourselves”- i.e. the way we as humans assume how another human is feeling (without asking) and play that story in our minds until it’s the only story we believe. I followed Brené with the teachings of Srikumar Rao in his Quest for Personal Mastery Course on MindValley. In it, he talks about alternative realities and his parable about the man who views every situation as “neither good, nor bad, just is” really made me think about the choices we make when a situation or emotion arises. The cherry on the cake was Neville Goddard’s lecture on The Pruning Shears of Revision and how to use the imagination to revise and pre-pave.
So, I thought again about negative emotions, anthropomorphism and the stories we tell ourselves and I wondered:
What if we personified negative emotions, gave them a story and then began to understand them?
Imagine if we then befriended them, and had, in our imaginations, a conversation in which we resolve situations together: us humans would assume the voice of detachment/non-judgment, and the anthropomorphic personifications would assume the voice of emotion.
How might that go?
I was determined to find out.
I started from the bottom of Esther and Jerry Hicks’ emotional scale and began to work upwards. This is Volume 1: Conversations with Fear and Unworthiness.
The Story of Fear
Fear is 7-years-old. After a troubled childhood, he was taken from his parents at the age of 5 and was passed from foster home to foster home for the next two years. He sleeps with the lights on, wets the bed when he dreams of his past and wakes up with a feeling of dread every day. If people around him engage in an argument, he sits in the corner with his hands over his ears. He goes to school , disheveled and tired, and finds it hard to make friends. He often sits alone in the playground. He trusts no-one, retreats in new situations and prefers not to talk at all.
The next time you feel the presence of Fear, close your eyes and imagine him in front of you.
He’s clutching an old teddy bear- the last gift from his parents- and his head is bowed.
Talk to him. Ask him why he is afraid. Reassure him. You are an old friend and he can trust you. He can trust your decisions. He can go with you on adventures- to meet new people and see new things, and over time, he’ll see that he’s OK. Talk him down and send him love. Tell him to take deep breaths. Then, watch him smile as your empathy and compassion fills him up. See the light in his eyes. Be his calming, soothing adult and know that you are helping him at this moment. Then, giving him one more smile, open your eyes and continue your day.
The Story of Unworthiness
Unworthiness is 13-years-old. She grew up in a loving family and has everything she could ever want or need. She is also beautiful and kind. Yet, she always feels empty, and lately, that feeling of emptiness has grown. When she’s with her friends, she’s convinced that she’s not as pretty or slim or intelligent as the others. She recently started smoking and has started to skip meals. All of her love goes outwards, never inwards. She wishes she was someone else.
When you feel Unworthiness on the periphery, close your eyes and say hello. See her with you:
She’s dressed in a baggy overcoat and her hair is pulled over her face.
She’s smiling but you know it’s only on the outside.
Reach out to her, make eye contact and say: “My dear, don’t you know that you are enough? You are so loveable and you are enough.” She may not believe you at first, but each time you meet, tell her again and again and again. You can even write it on your mirror so that she can see it all the time. Before you leave, hug her and say again, “You are enough,” then open your eyes and know that you introduced Unworthiness to Self-Esteem.
I'd love to know your take on the above and any stories you tell yourself about Fear and Unworthiness.
Volume 2: Conversations with Jealousy and Rage