What is it about the unknown that seems to strike most of us down with fear and trepidation? Just take a second to think about it: how do you imagine the unknown? For the majority of us, it looks, feels and sounds uncomfortable. We feel ill at ease at the mere thought. But why?
Our social conditioning no doubt has plenty to do with it. Society, the family and the media teach us from very young to mistrust that which we do not know: don’t talk to strangers, for example. We are encouraged to categorise things and put people into boxes. Those who can’t be, become ‘problematic’ – outlier cases – or societal misfits and there’s a wealth of sociological literature to support this.
However, this doesn’t reflect our true innate nature as human beings, I believe. Think of a small child, seeing something for the very first time. His/her first reaction is curiosity not fear. S/he wants to investigate and find out more about this new phenomenon.
As adults, sadly, we learn to mistrust curiosity. We replace it with fear. This is not to say that a little scepticism is not necessarily a good thing. After all, the positive intention of fear is to protect us from danger. It’s a primal instinct: fight or flight. What I’m proposing, however, is not a Pollyanna type of naiveté that knows no bounds; rather a healthy curiosity to exploring and learning more about ourselves, the world and others.
This involves, to a major extent, having faith – in oneself and one’s inner resources as well as faith and trust in the process of life. For some of us, this is quite straightforward; for others, it’s a lot harder. Those who have suffered major trauma in their lives, especially in childhood, for instance, tend to find it more difficult…
Although, as individuals we may trust to varying degrees, it’s important to acknowledge that we all trust in ‘the process’ at some basic level: we trust that when we go to sleep at night, we will continue breathing until we awake again the next day (at least most of us believe we will!).
Take also, the example of the age-old argument of the role that faith plays in science. If the first explorers hadn’t had faith and courage in their own beliefs and convictions, they’d never have set sail to discover the world. Science would have remained limited, at best, and ultimately would not have survived, at worst through lack of progress; and the world as we know it would not have existed. Likewise, faith in our own personal beliefs and convictions is what allows us to grow as individuals; or if they are beliefs that limit us, can stifle and stunt our growth.
These explorers were truly remarkable people! Think of the mindset they must have had to overcome – the apocalyptic images of death and destruction that represented the unknown, the perceived wisdom of the time? Yet, their curiosity exceeded their fears – their willingness to grow and learn outstripped their fear for their own survival.
They believed that the world was round and not flat – that the reality was different from how it seemed. They had faith in the science and knowledge that had been passed down to them. It was this that allowed them to look beyond the appearance.
And this is an important point, because metaphysics teaches us that ‘reality’ – that is, that which can be perceived alone with the eye – is an illusion. Certainly how things look in daily life is very different from how it appears at a molecular level. Similarly, from a scientific point of view what are emotions? What is love? They are mere chemical reactions, which occur, for the greater part, as a result of what and how we perceive.
I think that the potentially unsettling thing about any voyage into the unknown – whether within our inner or outer worlds – is precisely that: how we perceive it. In terms of an inner journey, (as that’s what concerns us here), for most, it is intangible, dark, mysterious and somehow fear-provoking. But what is it exactly that we are afraid of? Discovering ourselves? Coming face to face with the pain of confronting our inner demons? It takes tremendous courage, yes! – But, I’m convinced it is one that we all possess, deep within.
Or, let’s put it another way: how many of us have ever stopped to take stock of the huge amount of energy that is required to keep our most inner fears at bay? It is perhaps only in our darkest moments, with our backs up against the wall that we are left with little choice other than to let go and release this energy to positive use…
Facing our true light, our own inner brilliance, often for most of us, oddly enough, represents what we fear the most. Many of us content ourselves with playing at being insignificant. We pretend to ourselves that this is how we truly are. We try to run away from ourselves or hide rather than confront the greatness of who it is our destiny to become: standing tall in our own inner strength and self-knowledge.
When we allow ourselves, however, to experience the courage and faith it takes to trust our own inner resources, journeying into our own inner unknown world ceases to become quite so terrifying. Indeed, if we perceive it as a child, with curiosity and wonder, it can become fun – exciting even! There to be discovered, are the many gifts that self-knowledge brings: peace, acceptance, love of self and others, inner-strength, gentleness, compassion and what it really means to find our true potential. Our lives and the quality of all of our relationships become much fuller and richer as a result.
It is said that in life there exist only two core emotions: love and its opposite, fear. Which one would you prefer to experience?
When you have come to the edge of all light that you know and are about to drop off into the darkness of the unknown, Faith is knowing one of two things will happen: there will be something solid to stand on; or you will be taught to fly. (Patrick Overton)