Flipping the Script: FEAR.
"Why, God, Why, God, do I gotta suffer?" - Kendrick Lamar
I recently crossed over into the comfortable part of the middle class. My therapist described it as a change in the story that’s more than starting a new chapter but while still being the same book, like a new Part or Act. What has unfolded over several weeks is the shedding of the tools that I’ve lived by for years but no longer need. I have the privilege of upward social mobility, and (I’ve only ever said this next part jokingly, but) this is actually why my parents came to this country. My dad’s family back in Vietnam doesn’t have much, but they have each other and they have enough. They’re happy. I live in the land of opportunity, but the cost of living is far higher.
I recently rebooted this blog partly because there was so much that changed about my environment. When I started to examine all of the scripts I was flipping, the common thread that emerged was FEAR. Here’s an uplifting list of things I was afraid of for so many years!
Losing my job or my ability to make an income
Interest rates rising
Utility bills rising
Food and grocery costs rising
Car accidents and costly maintenance
Never being able to afford a house
There are more, but let's not dwell on them any further.
What’s so bad about FEAR? Isn’t it a useful feeling? Can’t it motivate people to accomplish very impressive feats? Yes, sort of, like when you can wield it to serve your needs. However, when you are constantly emotionally hijacked, when a feeling bypasses your prefrontal cortex and latches onto the more primitive part of your brain, it’s hard to peel away from that. You may be more familiar with the feeling of RAGE that powers so much of social media and operates on exactly the same concept. Your mental flexibility drops significantly. When emotionally hijacked, the ideas that form your prison are easily disproved, but that doesn’t always free everyone from these chains. Why not? Our good friend, Trauma, makes another appearance! Of all the infinite possibilities that could transpire in any situation ever, the traumatized brain almost automatically snaps to its greatest fear.
Now that I'm not emotionally hijacked, I'm rewriting the narratives dictated by my state of fear; flipping the script, you could say. There are quite a lot of them, but I'll highlight a couple.
Flipped Script: Go outside and touch grass
The kids these days have an expression: “Go outside and touch grass.” You say this to someone who has gone too far down the digital rabbit hole. They’ve spent too much time screaming at strangers online, becoming the mayor of the Metaverse in the process, so people would tell them to go outside and touch grass. Flip the script! Detach from your virtual self and reconnect with your body and with nature. In northern latitudes, you get a bonus script flip because of the end of winter and second winter. Grass is growing, and it’s finally warm enough outdoors to stop watching “Inside” by Bo Burnham that you can go outside and touch things. I asked a bartender their opinion on the meaning of going outside and touching grass, and they viewed it as a grounding exercise to centre your chakra. Double bonus for the electrical meaning of grounding. Damn, the kids are alright.
Alas, figuratively touching grass is helping me flip the script on FEAR. Walking, cycling, swimming, generally soaking up the sunshine. It’s great. Physical activity builds confidence, flexes the muscles and brain, prevents injuries. Maybe it also serves as a distraction. It’s hard to ruminate when there’s an activity urgently demanding your attention, like wandering through the park. Squirrel! This past winter was pretty dark and depressing, so combined with taking time away from work for the last two months, my mood is far better now that I can get some outdoors time. Flipping the script by going outside to touch grass is badass. *self-high-five*
Flipped Script: Persona
The big bad script. The final flip. I don’t know exactly how to describe it, but there’s this persona inside me that got me through some hard times, like a captain who’s weathered the stormy seas. Very useful when the seas are stormy, but when you reach land, sea captains become much less useful. I’m sure that I will have to embark onto new adventures at some point in the distant future, but I will be landlocked until further notice.
Let’s describe this persona, who is apparently a sea captain. Fuelled entirely on FEAR. Mentally sharp. Aware of existing risk factors along the journey with an eye to the horizon for additional threats. Cold. Severe, to the point of being heartless. Concerned for the wellbeing of the people he loves, but holds little patience for their feelings. Solid as a rock. Focused singularly on arriving at the destination safely, on time, and under budget. Simultaneously inspires feelings of love and fear. A bit of a bastard. Sometimes I even feel captive to his decisions, asking him “why are you like this?”
In the new world, I won’t need this sea captain persona anymore. He’s not warm and fuzzy like Nathan Fillion playing Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly, so let’s ditch this bitch and his boat shoes now that we’ve reached the promised land. I’m sure we’ll need his services again someday, but don’t call me; I’ll call you. The journey is over. You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.
My suspenseful Act One is finished, so now I’m turning the page to Act Two. More accurately, I’m no longer emotionally hijacked and acting from a state of FEAR. As such, I’m able to flip the script on a lot of unnecessary and unhelpful narratives and behaviours, by going outside and by leaving behind my sea captain persona. It’s been a wild couple months, but it’s made my life way quieter and happier.