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We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.

 

You don’t need to take the leap.

I have to say, all the talk about leaps of faith and jumping off cliffs and waiting for nets to appear is … kind of disturbing.

Not that I doubt the legitimacy of the sensation for a moment. I don’t.

In fact, those are pretty accurate descriptions of what it feels like to take the first step in doing the thing.

Like you’re walking off into nothing. Plunging into a black hole. Taking first one step off and then … it all works.

The problem with this metaphor (and its associated variations) is that it’s freaking terrifying.

Which is just … oh, I don’t know, not helpful? It’s really, really not helpful. Or necessary,

Because there is no cliff.

I’m not saying it doesn’t feel like a cliff or look like a cliff or smell like a cliff.

And I’m definitely not saying that you shouldn’t be scared (I would never say that).

Just that the most important thing about these kinds of internal cliffs is remembering that they are not cliffs … and then rebuilding the metaphor. Transforming it into something that isn’t so impossibly scary.

Because honestly, there is no reason that I can think of to have to work through that much fear. It just doesn’t make sense — and it’s totally unfair.

We have more than enough fear to process in our lives already without turning each transition into the kind of experience that throws our nervous systems into panic and terror.

So if it’s not a cliff, what is it?

I don’t know.

But there’s a lot of power when it stops being a cliff.

I want to throw out a couple concepts and examples, and maybe I’ll figure out where we’re going with this.

Implied safety is not the same thing as feeling safe.

You know that thing at the Grand Canyon where you can walk out over a glass floor and stand over the canyon?

You’re not getting me to step out on that thing.

You can explain a thousand times how it’s completely safe. You can demonstrate in every possible way how physics is on your side and physics (like the house) always wins.

You can deliver social proof all over the place. You can show me people walking out and doing it. You can prove it in every way possible.

It’s still not going to happen. I’m not going to do it.

Not because I think I’m going to fall to my death. But because I’m not going to put my nerves through that kind of fear. The kind of fear that — to me, maybe not to you — is traumatizing, and takes years to heal from.

Not going to do it.

Point 1: There are enough legitimately fearful things in life. Not everyone needs to learn to face every single scary thing that exists.*

* Great example of this “facing fear” thing totally backfiring: my friend’s ex-girlfriend who jumped out of a plane to do just that. Oy.

From the jump to the path.

When I moved back to Israel, it scared me to pieces.

I was telling a friend and he said, “It’s like throwing yourself into a black hole, right?”

Exactly. That was exactly what it was like.

“Here’s the thing nobody tells you,” he said. “There is no black hole. You go from living your life here to living your life there. It’s just you and your life, with slight variations. No holes.”

He was right. I’ve moved countries twice since then and there was no black hole.

What there is instead is this big Continuum of You (ooh, fake band name!), and wherever you are on it is a part of you. You can contain different cultural and emotional identities at the same time.

That’s because you’re not constantly hurling yourself into space or off of cliffs.

You’re just going for a walk, and around this next bend is a new piece of terrain. But it’s not really all that different from what you already know.

Point 2: Not that the thing you can’t see yet isn’t scary by virtue of being unknown … it just doesn’t make it a cliff.

It’s about new structures.

I’m about to do a couple of scary new things right about now.

When I tell myself that I’m not ready to take the leap, it gets scarier.

So that’s not what I tell myself. What I tell myself is this:

“Even though this new house isn’t completely built yet, it does have a good foundation. I’m going to call on everyone who is capable of helping me, and we’re going to figure out what kind of windows I want it to have.”

I’m still on the ground. Not going anywhere near a cliff. Just building a new thing. Not alone. With help.

It’s still unknown because I can’t fully imagine what it will be like when we’re done, but at least it doesn’t require me jumping off into the fog.

Point 3: Your metaphor doesn’t have to be a building. It doesn’t have to be a path. Just try, if you can, to find something less terrifying than the cliff.

Because it pretty much always turns out that there is no cliff.

No cliffs.

Not that I want to negate your experience of the existence of your cliffs, because I don’t.

My point is really only that things get easier when I give myself these three things:

  1. permission to be scared.
  2. permission to not want to do it.
  3. enough distance to be able to remember that the metaphor is mine
    and I get to play with it.

Because not jumping off cliffs is so completely on my dammit list. I don’t jump off cliffs, dammit.

Because I don’t have to.

Comment zen for today.

We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. We’re practicing.

32 Responses to You don’t need to take the leap.

  1. Hiro Boga
    Twitter: HiroBoga
    says:

    Havi, this is such a brilliant, kind, sane way to navigate change, and to create something that hasn’t existed before.

    To remember that we already have the building blocks, and skilled, supportive helpers–this makes everything possible. And much less scary.

    When I look back on my life, I see how threads of skills and experiences acquired at earlier times have woven themselves into each new, unfolding creation. And the miraculous way in which all of those creations are woven into the blanket of my life, in an overarching pattern that has both beauty and meaning.
    .-= Hiro Boga´s last post … Whose Chakra Is It Anyway? =-.

  2. Inge
    Twitter: _i_n_g_e_
    says:

    Wow, I’ve never really thought about how the metaphors for making new things happen potentially make the thing more scary. Food for thought. I like your building metaphor, Havi, since I’m a building engineer. That’s also why it wouldn’t work for me: I would lose myself in the details of the metaphor. :o)

    So I’m leaning towards a growing plant metaphor, since the process preceding change starts growing invisibly way before actual change takes place, just like a plant. I think that’s what Hiro says at well: skills acquired for another reason could trigger and help later changes.

    Maybe a blueberry bush: according to the innernets it takes a quite some care and 3-4 for years before producing fruit. And I love blueberries. Perfect!

  3. Cairene
    Twitter: thirdhandworks
    says:

    Havi –

    This post made me think of an image I have kept at my desk for years – which somehow transforms the cliff metaphor for me without doing away with it. (http://is.gd/4R1gE)

    I was also talking with a friend recently about all we’ve accomplished as entrepreneurs in past five years. We wondered if who we were in the beginning would recognize or believe who we’ve become as even possible. Which led to talking about how all the things we were worried about turned out so differently. If I could talk to the person I was, I would have to tell her: “The stuff that is freaking you out isn’t going to matter, at least not the way you think it will.”

    Because, as you say (much more eloquently than I was able to articulate in that conversation), there is fear, but there is no cliff and no black hole. It’s just you learning and doing your thing. And thank goodness for that. oxo C
    .-= Cairene´s last post … The Puttering Basket =-.

  4. Emily
    Twitter: emilyroots
    says:

    @Inge: I love your plant metaphor. Totally resonates with me. Blueberries, strawberries, asparagus, any orchard trees…all of these take much input and care before they turn out delicious things to eat (though you can kind of cheat with strawberries, or, well I did anyway). In fact, they need care of the soil you’re going to put them in before you ever bring home the seedlings or saplings. I love how that kind of coincides with the self-nurturance and attention to the “ground” you’re going to plant your “thing” in. Even once they’re in the ground, more care is needed…pulling out weeds (removing what’s not needed), feeding the soil, water and sunshine. Oh yay! I love it!
    .-= Emily´s last post … Flipping the Switch – A Look Back After Three Months of The Artist’s Way =-.

  5. Angela Duffy says:

    Oh, Havi-of-the-fantabulous-timing! Thank you for posting this today! After an hour of procrastinating, I’m suddenly ready to go off and do some things that are now NOT jumping off a cliff. Yay! :)

  6. Tracy
    Twitter: verdissage
    says:

    THANK YOU! This resonates on so many levels. But mostly the part about unnecessary trauma. There’s no need to compound the scariness of an already daunting situation with metaphor abuse, when the right metaphor could be a means of easing into the experience. I’m with you on the glass-floor-over-the-Grand-Canyon thing. (Me and a whole bunch of 6-month-old babies in the 1950s “visual cliff” experiment.)
    .-= Tracy´s last post … Retrospective: Stumbling Towards Grace =-.

  7. Amber
    Twitter: AmberStrocel
    says:

    This is really comforting me this morning. I am just building a house. Sometimes, building a house is kind of a pain in the butt, but it’s not dangerous or scary. And you can get other people to help you. (The other people helping you part is sort of huge, for me.)

    I am not ‘leaping’ anymore, now I’m ‘building’. I like it. :)
    .-= Amber´s last post … Maternity Leave for the Self-Employed Announced =-.

  8. Amy Crook
    Twitter: amysnotdeadyet
    says:

    This makes me think of hopscotch. Like, when you’re a kid, and you’ve drawn up this whole chalk outline of where you’re going and what you’re going to do next. Then you stand there, and right then you’re just a kid standing on a sidewalk, but then, you jump. And all of a sudden, you’re playing hopscotch, you’re on the path and you can’t get off because you made that first magic jump, and now there’s nothing for it but to keep going.

    Even if my chalk outline isn’t perfect, I think it’s about time to jump in with both feet.

  9. Charlotte says:

    Utterly wonderful.

    Also: Continuum of You? Totally just one guy.
    .-= Charlotte´s last post … Return on Investment (or: How love puts food on your table.) =-.

  10. ilikered
    Twitter: carriemoore
    says:

    yes the timing!

    ( )= recognized stuckness

    I had/am having a bit of a freak out about my Thing. I have this opportunity (that I don’t feel I deserve) I will be an intern/volunteer at a gallery/studio/shop here in town. The owner (very cool, talented, connected,I’ll never measure up/fit in with that crowd)said very plainly, “this is a place where we are all about the making of art and not the talking about it. We want your time here to be spent working on your own stuff…” (YIKES! but what if my stuff is awful, what if I freeze up? I have not made work in SO LONG… can I still do it?! These people are all so dedicated and productive… EEP!)
    So here I am being handed exactly what I dreamed of and it is terrifying to get started and it totally feels like a huge cliff with crashing waves at the bottom. and sharks. big hungry ones. A new metaphor is something I definitely need to come up with. Surely that will help.

  11. elizabeth
    Twitter: elizabethhalt
    says:

    Yes! I like this. No cliffs.

    I really like the sound of the growing metaphor that @Inge mentioned. Now the cliff is really a tiny little seeding and I am taking such kind and gentle care of the ground around it because even though I can’t see it right now, I know it’s coming. Yes, so much better.
    .-= elizabeth´s last post … a lovely scene =-.

  12. Havi Brooks
    Twitter: havi
    says:


    Whooo. Metaphor mice.

    What I love about all of this is the way planning gets so much easier when you switch out the violent part of the metaphor.

    So plants work. Buildings work. For all I know, pickles work. It almost doesn’t matter, as long as you find something that contains the elements of process and change, without the “ohmygod it’s going to freaking kill me” part.

    It’s neat reading these responses.

    @ilikered – hug!

    @amy crook – ohmygod. Hopscotch. Now that is completely inspired. Now you *have* to jump. But you’re not jumping OFF of anything. Wish I’d thought of that! Thank you. Genius.

    @amber – ooh yeah. me too. I mean, the other people helping part. yes.

  13. Kaushik says:

    it doesn’t take courage or faith. We identify with our thoughts and this creates an opaque wall of concepts and judgments, and so we feel claustrophobic fear and acrophobic fright, but it’s okay because we never have to go beyond the edge fear.

    Thanks for the wonderful insight!

    k
    .-= Kaushik´s last post … Getting into the flow of Awakening =-.

  14. Andi
    Twitter: annaline_39
    says:

    I had to get rid of the cliff after the suddenness of Marty’s job loss back in 2006. There’s a wonderful description in the novel “I Never Promised You A Rose Garden” of a character who is constantly falling, and that is how I felt for months after that terrible and exhiliarating day. (I really would rather he’d left the job on his own terms, but he was *out* of there). It took me a year to touch ground again, fortunately a soft landing after finding so many wonderful blogs and online support systems.

    Now I think of taking those scary first steps in terms of an experiment. What would happen if I took this step? Guess, test, revise. Once the worst has happened, what is there to be afraid of? Not that I don’t have procrastination, and stuck, but if I reframe it in terms of something temporary, I can take a step.
    .-= Andi´s last post … Painting, A Love Story =-.

  15. Kate
    Twitter: ingoodcoproject
    says:

    What a fantastic reframing. I’m so going to remember this next time I have something that looks cliff-like ahead of me. You’re so, so right. I’ve jumped off a quite a lot of ‘cliffs’, and you’re right, there never was actually a cliff. Every time I’ve found that things become manageable when you get to them. Beforehand, they look like a big scary void, because you can’t imagine what it’ll be like when you’re there (I’ve learnt that whatever you imagine, it won’t be that, so there’s no point imagining, at least beyond the amount of imagining required to decide what to pack). But once you’re there, they’re no longer that big scary non-existing thing in your head, they’re a real solid thing that you can deal with just the way you deal with anything else, one trip to the supermarket at a time.

  16. claire
    Twitter: claireofRA
    says:

    Love this. I don’t think I’ve dwelled much on cliff jumping but I have made some leaps in my life, and all they did was lead to more leaps to be made. Wherever you go-and however you got there, there you are.

    “Deuparth gwaith ei ddechrau,” a Welsh proverb meaning “Beginning is two-thirds of the work” is what I often think when I’m stuck on starting something. “Begin anyway” is even my theme for this year. (Seems absolutely fitting that the beginning of that post is about asking for help.)

    I like the hopscotch metaphor but it’s a little too concrete for me which lead me to freeform hopscotch which inevitably lead me to DDR which is PERFECT.

    Whenever you mention Shiva Nata, I think of playing Dance Dance Revolution because it resets my brain. Reminds me that mistakes are no big deal, you get better by playing, and you’re more likely to improve (& faster) if you play above your skill level, i.e. challenge your limits. Being a game, the stakes aren’t high, so it’s easier for me to process these ideas. Using DDR as metaphor with all its variety of songs, step patterns, difficulty levels, even exercise mode which allows some freestyle has a lot of potential. Songs are usually short so it’s doable chunks. Besides, it’s awesome & fun, so it has that going for it too.
    .-= claire´s last post … Side effects of writing about one’s voice =-.

  17. Josiane
    Twitter: kimianak
    says:

    A path with new, yet not all that different, pieces of terrain to explore revealing themselves around the bends… Slight changes of landscape, while still walking on the same path that’s already supporting our steps. I love that! That will be extremely helpful.

    Oh, and I found some more food for thought in my reaction to this part of Andi’s comment: “Now I think of taking those scary first steps in terms of an experiment. What would happen if I took this step?” The thought that immediately came to mind was: well, nothing bad would happen, it would work and I’d move towards where I want to be, but *that* is totally scary! Hmm, clearly I’ve got some talking to do with that fear of success…
    .-= Josiane´s last post … Noticing – the dragonfly edition =-.

  18. Sarah says:

    Havi,

    Thank you. That phrase “The Continuum of You” resonates with me. Earlier this fall I was avoiding making positive, exciting, healthy, not even inherently scary, changes because I was too freaked out by the possibility of not recognizing my current/future, changed, self- and I didn’t like the lack of control I had over who that self was becoming. There’s this great Kierkegaard quote: “Anxiety is the dizziness of freedom.” Something about picturing yourself as still you in the gap- just dizzy you, “gap” you- that’s a really helpful image you’ve given us, that continuum.

    SG

  19. Claudia says:

    A path. Definitely a path. And the only thing you need to do is figure out which step is the healthiest for you at that time, and take just that one step. Get your feet grounded, then look for the next healthiest step. Pretty soon, you’re out of the woods, you’re out of the woods, etc. Pardon that. This is a night for taking a look at my own stuckinesses. Nice to discover more of your right people.

  20. Tracey says:

    OMG- Thank you thank you thank you!
    6 months ago I left my job (corporate) to pursue my art full time. I was good with it- good with change- confident, moving forward. I planned for 6 months prior,knew atleast my first 5 steps down the path- then I made my announcement that I was leaving and then it started… everyone telling me about how i was taking that leap into the unknown, off a cliff, black hole, pit of no return. I went from confident to terrified! what the heck did I do-no horrahs of encouragement, not way to go- wish it were me- No- good for you… one by one they all said the same thing.. leaping off that cliff- eh?! AAAAggghghghghghhhh- Now- while I am not saying that your post cured the constant butterflies that have taken residence in my stomach since these other “helpful” people voiced their interest- I will say – that they have slowed down enough for me to breath- contemplate your words- reread them a 100 times- maybe post them in 500 font on the ceiling and a few doors, maybe a mirror. I particularly was struck by the words of your friend. no cliff- just you and your life. how on earth did I ever forget that !!
    many thanks.
    .-= Tracey´s last post … A Promise you can keep =-.

  21. spiralsongkat
    Twitter: spiralsongkat
    says:

    This reminds me a bit of some singing techniques I’ve learned over the years: when I need to sing a high note, if I think in terms of reaching up for that note, I’m liable to tense my body and constrict my voice — rather stressful, and the exact opposite of what I need to do to make the note sound right. So, instead, I imagine that I’m reaching down for the note, that I’m floating lightly somewhere above it and just need to sort of bend down and pat it gently on the head. Sometimes I’ll imagine that I’m actually preparing to sing the note an octave below the one I’ll really be singing; that way, my body relaxes, and I create the vocal space that I need.

    We are the masters of our metaphors! Yes! That is so important. Thanks for the reminder, Havi.
    .-= spiralsongkat´s last post … We can’t do it all…or can we? =-.

  22. Randi Buckley says:

    I’m a new reader. And very happy to be one! Here’s my thought:

    Yay for not just jumping because there is fear! That’s almost as silly as not doing something just because we are afraid. It can get in the way at times, sure. But I suspect it is also serving as a protective parent with my greater interest at stake. The problemo is when it becomes overprotective and restrictive.

    If we get to the edge of the cliff and the terror subsides because we suddenly see something else, something bigger than before, well then, caaaanoooonball… If we don’t have the emotional bandwidth for it, there may be a perfectly fine reason and one that, at least for a little while we can heed. Or, poof, we get a whole new scene (in the shape of your new metaphor) that makes more sense, resonates and we’re in our own movie and get to dance our own dance (to our own soundtrack even). The one we actually desire.

    Thanks for your lovely thoughts!

  23. JoVE
    Twitter: jovanevery
    says:

    Personally, I like the metaphor suggested by your friend in your story about moving to Israel — a bend in the road.

    I tweak it to a fork or another road coming off this road.

    The advantage to that is that it is connected to the road you are on right now. But instead of going towards destination A, you are thinking about going to destination B. But you can’t see the whole road to B, just the first bit, maybe.

    It also helps to recognize that by going down this new road you are probably giving up something that you can’t see further down the road you are on.

    But the other thing about roads is that most of the time you can turn around and go back. Get back on the road to A if you like. But also that further down the road to B, there is probably another fork or sideroad that’ll take you to C. Another decision. Maybe you stick with B. Maybe you never get to B.

    And knowing that, you know that doing this thing you are doing is not forever. ANd that doesn’t mean you aren’t committed or aren’t giving it your all, or whatever, just that if it doesn’t work out you will have options. You have no idea what those options will be until you get there but there will be options.

    And even if this road turns out to be a great road, options will still turn up and you might decide to take one (or not) anyway.

    But that making choices and going down roads that promise nice destinations but everything is a bit vague because you can only see the next bit of the road… well that’s normal.

    And in that sense it is absolutely nothing like jumping off a cliff.
    .-= JoVE´s last post … Is teaching pushing everything else out? =-.

  24. Christine Bougie
    Twitter: christinebougie
    says:

    My favourite metaphor is the road. It just makes so much sense, to me, to see life that way. I like to think of “doing the thing” as just making a slight turn on the road…and then envisioning that if I just continue along that path for years I will end up in a totally different place than if I hadn’t made that tiny shift.
    Then it’s not so scary to think about “the thing.” It just requires a daily little shift, hardly noticeable day to day.
    .-= Christine Bougie´s last post … Home =-.

  25. Jenn Z says:

    Havi, I loved this post also.
    My favorite reassurance which you shared – met me exactly where I am at in the last few weeks!

    Thank you for this:
    [You’re just going for a walk, and around this next bend is a new piece of terrain. But it’s not really all that different from what you already know.
    I’m still on the ground. Not going anywhere near a cliff. Just building a new thing. Not alone. With help.]

    Thank you,
    Jenn
    .-= Jenn Z´s last post … 8 Organic Steps to Become Deeply Rooted in Love =-.

  26. Andrew Lightheart
    Twitter: alightheart
    says:

    Makes me think of some stuff I’ve been reading on systems thinking.

    Seems we might be built more for sudden change/danger and so gradual change registers less. Most change we expect to be sudden and dramatic and it very often turns out to be incremental.

    Evidently, if predict that the weather tomorrow will be much like today, you’ll be right 86.49% of the time (Made Up Statistic Alert).

    Consciousness about metaphors can be very powerful, especially as our nervous system often treats concepts as if they were physical truths.

    Thanks for the thinking food.
    .-= Andrew Lightheart´s last post … Provisional thoughts about being less certain =-.

  27. Dawn says:

    Thank you so much! I started a new, big, hard, “real-world” job 2 days ago, and I’m scared. It DID feel like a cliff, but this gives me something different to play with. I also love what you say about it being YOU in a new environment. That is so important to me. That it’s still ME. Everything else might feel different, the scenery may have changed, but I’m ME. I KNOW me.

    I also appreciate the reminder that there are wonderful people to help support me along the way. People in my life who know me through all my life changes.

    Thanks for the comforting words, Havi.
    .-= Dawn´s last post … Still Feeling Defensive… =-.

  28. Tiffany says:

    This really resonated with me. Thanks so much!
    .-= Tiffany´s last post … Gray Skies and Lunch Escapes and Fast Food Bigotry =-.

  29. […] go of what it might feel like: hold on to what it does feel like. Remember Havi’s thing about how you don’t need to jump off the cliff, you just need to start with what you have and expand from there. Your comfort zone can also […]

  30. […] She thinks it is abusive. She thinks that confronting fear entails a violence to self and re-experiencing pain and terror is regressive and personally harmful. She thinks we develop comfort zones for a reason and you don’t need to jump out of the plane. […]

  31. […] the boat feels like Havi’s jumping off the cliff. But I get it. And we’re not burning the boat out at sea — this is dry land, the new […]

  32. Raine says:

    I realize this is an old post, but it is so helpful and timely for me right now!
    I actually don’t mind diving off real cliffs or standing on glass walkways or any of that, what does seem to daunt the heck out of me is feeling like I need hurry up and make some kind of life or career choice RIGHT NOW and decide on the Rest of My Life Right Now and it has to be The Perfect Rightest Decision.

    Ugh.
    No kidding, though, just a couple of weeks ago I dreamed I was stepping off a cliff, and stepped right into a big warm pool of water. There was no cliff.
    Got it. Thank you! Going to sit with that.

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