A woman I met in Santa Fe had an incredibly sophisticated alarm system put into her home. It had motion sensors, extra back-ups, codes, timers, zones""every bell and whistle in the catalogue. She was terrified of a break-in or an assault.
As she described both her fear and the lengths to which she had gone to keep the terror out of her house, I was struck by the irony. The man with whom she was living abused her regularly and she refused to ask him to leave. Not for fear of reprisal, but because she said she loved him. I was saddened in the knowledge that no security system in the world could protect her from her own bad judgment.
Which brought another thought to mind: How do we protect ourselves when the danger is inside? Not just inside the house, but inside ourselves. When our ability to discern is undermined, when we ignore our intuition, we put ourselves in positions of extreme vulnerability.
Gavin De Becker, the author ofThe Gift of Fear, makes the case dramatically. He claims that women in particular are prone to ignoring their own feelings, not because they value love but because they're afraid to offend someone. So they get into elevators (he calls them "locked metal boxes") with men that send shivers down their spines because they don't want to appear rude. They walk down streets that make them want to run away because they don't want to appear silly or offend the man wearing a hood coming towards them. They talk to men in parking lots that make their hands shake, but they do it because they don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.
This capacity to assess and act appropriately is essential if we want to protect ourselves, far more essential than locked doors. Nothing can keep us safe if we don't trust our own eyes, ears, and hearts.
Discernmentis word that has been used with primarily religious connotations in the media over the last 30-40 years. But it came into official existence in 1586 (according to Merriam-Webster) and is defined as: the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is obscure.
The dictionary goes on to say that it is a power to see what is not evident to the average mind, stressing accuracy in reading character or assessing motivation, the ability to distinguish between truth and falsehood, and that it is attributable to an acuity of perception
There is an old adage that I love and have relied on many times both in my life and with my clients: Wisdom is a firm grasp of the obvious.
I don't know who had the wisdom to put it that way, but I keep it on a folded piece of paper in my wallet.
It's not a new sentiment. In John 8:32 we see the same admonition and promise: "Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free."
What makes us so averse to the truth? What makes us walk down streets we know hold nothing for us but fear? What makes us close our eyes when opening them could save our lives?
I did an informal survey of both women and men inAlbuquerque, NM, where I work as a psychotherapist
. It is a fairly violent town (especially in certain sections), and asked them the questions cited above. What I observed and heard was surprising.
Even though people are generally quite fearful and are, in fact, saturated with media scandals and corporate-induced viral fear tactics, they don't like to think of themselves as fearful. They'll respond (unconsciously) to the fear-based advertising urgently enjoining them to have their pressure checked and then to take a pill that lowers blood pressure and high cholesterol by going to their doctors and asking for a prescription. They'll buy more than they need "just in case." They'll get theHDTVthey can't afford and put it on a credit card that's already close to maximum because they're more afraid of being excluded than of financial ruin. But when you ask them if they're afraid, they almost all say, "Hell, no." Especially out west.
So, they walk down those dark and ominous streets, they stand alone by their mailboxes opening checks without noticing who's around them, and get involved with people who are dangerously intoxicated telling themselves one of a number of thoughts: "I can handle it." "There's nothing to be afraid of." "Don't be ridiculous." "Everyone exaggerates. Nothing's as bad as people make it out to be."
Not that we're suggesting it is. That last one is often true. But what the evidence seems to indicate is that the people who run into serious trouble almost always have some (even fleeting) indicator that trouble is running into them. And that same evidence shows that people ignore the flashing lights inside their psyches and bodies.
Not that there's a dearth of information about safety. When youGoogle
"safety tips for women" you get 1,180,000 sites to look at. When you Google "fear" you get 195,000,000. When you Google intuition development you 67,500,000. When you Google trauma
, you get 35,400,000. The tools and the reasons to use them are all out there.
The field of intuition development is actually a thriving one, the major consumer being the large corporate strategists, who pursue of form of mental weight training for the purposes of product development. One example of this is Friedman's book, The Mind Power Advantage: Training for Business.
A personal story is a case in point:
In the years that I spent studying Ericksonian hypnotherapy
, I remember one exercise the students had to do in pairs. One of us would pretend to be the patient and the other would call upon an arsenal of clinical tools to deal with whatever was being presented in front of the class. It was intimidating but invaluable. And at one point as I watched the teacher, who was quite skilled, perform a therapeutic technique called "pacing and leading," I had the most peculiar sense that I'd seen all of it before. It wasn't until I'd driven half-way home that I realized where I'd seen it: at a car dealership. The salesman was a master "pacer." When I leaned back, he leaned back. When I joked around, he joked around. Needless to say, the way I experienced it with that salesman was quite different than the way it felt in that class. The purpose of the pacing was a world apart, but there it was. The power of intuition, observation, and assessment was being used to sell not just to heal.
It was an "ah-ha" moment I've never forgotten. It made clear to me the fact that intention always manifests and that not all intuitive endeavors are the same.
In an article published a while back (2006) on Opednews, I reported that intuition has in fact been big business and that intuition training at DuPont generated a 100% increase in productivity and new product development time dropped from three years to three months (as quoted inThe Wall Street Journalat that time).
Leslie H. Wexner, CEO ofThe Limited, had said, "I never conduct formal research. I trust my intuition. It's like taste. I can't describe it." People with the most to lose and the most to win depend on their intuitive capacities for their final tallies, often over-riding opinion polls, statistics and standard protocols to do what they know, deep down, is the right thing to do.
That being said, while corporate executives have no fear of the fear they can induce in us, the need remains in this country for more ordinary people to become self-aware and self-accepting. We are fearful, yet we deny it. And because we deny it, we get in a hell of a lot of trouble we could otherwise avoid. We become fearful of thewrong things. At the wrong times. And choose the wrong paths.
People ignore their senses all the time. They double-guess themselves, saying, "nah, can't be." But, it can. One woman I knew ignored the distension and discomfort in her abdomen for three months. Those were a critical three months with a buildingovarian cancer. She died within the year.
Most of the time we have a profound psychological investment in our denial. We want to believe we're fine, because we're scared of finding out we're sick or that something is wrong. We want to believe a partner when he or she says, "it's fine" or "I still love you, honey", even though we know it's not fine and everything in our body says that, no, they don't love us at all. We want to think of ourselves as courageous and unstoppable (especially when we're young and male), but we put ourselves in danger that sooner or later stops us in terminal ways.
America has a strange relationship with fear. We seek it out in film, books, and on the internet, then pretend it doesn't exist in real life. Denial is always dangerous, but rarely does it have such a clear-cut outcome as it does when we deny a healthy fear.