Are You Holding Back?

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.

I refer to that Marienne Williamson quote a lot, not only because I like the idea of being powerful, but I started seeing that I hold back more than I realize.

One way in which it holds true for me goes like this.  I consider myself to have this “immersive” personality.  Very slow to transition but once I get going on something I get immersed in it.  You know how you lose track of time when you’re focused on something?  When I really get there, I dig myself deep and don’t come out.

When I was a kid living in Japan was a time before the bookstores started putting plastic wraps on comic books.  They started doing that, right around when I was in grade school, because they wanted to prevent kids from reading them in the store.  They felt that it was like theft, because if you read it in store you no longer had the need to buy it.  (Tangentially, it’s a curious cultural contrast, where in US big bookstores provide couches and tables and even coffeeshops so people can sit and read books.  The rationale there is that if you made it easy and comfortable for people to come and peek at the products more people buy it.  But apparently in Japan people would take advantage of that and use it as a way to not have to buy books.)

Anyway, some of my neighborhood stores didn’t have plastic wraps yet, and I sometimes would walk to the store and read comic books.  And I get so immersed in it that I’d stay there for hours.  There were a number of times when I was there until it was dark.  My mother would worry about my whereabouts and I rightfully got in trouble.  It was frightening experience, that moment when I realized I was doing it too long.  But even then I’d still keep reading, so attached to the feeling of that guilt and fear fighting against the fun I was having.  If you have kids, you know how they resist when you tell them to stop playing.  My interest in reading comic books was so strong, it sucked me in and made me lose control.

I’m sure all of us have that ability to immerse oneself in deep focus to some extent.  But to me it feels like I drown in it.  There’s tremendous power in it, if channeled the right way, because when you’re in that zone you’re having fun and can be immensely productive time.  Once I pick up my guitar it’s hard to put down.

Life now is full of distractions, I have long lists of things to do.  Somewhere along the line, though, I realized I was letting things get that way so I could keep condemning myself away from that immersion.  I built my life this way so I had opportunities to feel that guilt of unleashing this immersive power by creating a situation where I am not supposed to do so.  Painful things happened when I get so focused I lose track of time.   That viewpoint got engrained in me because there were feelings associated with that story that I was afraid to feel.

If I were my parent, I would counsel me to structure my life so it works for my immersive personality, not against it.  Instead of having every day be a series of small chores and zig-zag changes, I’d schedule things in big, long chunks, so it becomes safe and actually welcome for me to get immersed in something.  I’m hopeful that some day soon, when I am finished digging up the unfelt feelings, I may unblock myself from wielding my power in good ways, instead of fearing it as something that can hurt me.

With great power comes great responsibility.  What can hurt you devastatingly can actually be your greatest strength.  If you swing the sword with the cutting edge facing the wrong way, the only thing you do is hurt yourself.  You don’t need to change the sword.  You just need to accept what it is and hold it the right way.

Then you may find that you are powerful beyond measure.