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  • Emily Corley

Control and Courage: working with water energy

How do we relate to anxiety? Our most effective management strategy is to control it. We control it in all sorts of creative and effective ways. We run and work out. We make and accomplish our ‘to do’ lists. We stay busy and avoid space. Or we avoid engagement and space out. We establish our lives inside a set of rules, expectations, and habits. We create and live our life from within a desirable identity. We take all kinds of overt and covert medications. We engineer experience to avoid our “triggers”, emotional experiences we don’t want to feel and don’t know how to relate to. In relationship, we exert conditions that keep us safe: some of us are submissive, some abusive, some avoid and disappear.

Control keeps our experience of anxiety in stasis, manageable. For many people and in many situations, control - stasis - is a genuinely important and desirable outcome. In fact, we must know how to control anxiety to be able to develop courage at all. Our ability to control anxiety goes hand in hand with developing healthy ego. While we hope that all children develop healthy ego as a natural part of their growth and development, establishing healthy ego and learning to manage anxiety is a huge accomplishment. Adults who experienced systemic trauma in childhood, however minor, often spend their adult years establishing healthy ego, wisely employing strategies of control.

Control, the place from which many of us live our life, often looks and feels successful. Wise control strategies assure good outcomes. However, control exerts powers over situations. It’s strength is neither abiding nor achieves true depth.

Our management strategies only take us so far in life. At some point these strategies impede our ability to grow.

Courage, from the French la coeur, meaning heart, is the experience of relating to our anxiety. Our capacity to name, feel, and be curious about our anxiety opens the proverbial Pandora’s Box. It requires tremendous courage and shifts our life experience altogether. By doing so, we reestablish relationship with who we really are instead of some idealized version of who we want to be or think we are. Courage allows us to grow.

Control feels wiser, in charge. However, courage realigns us with our truth, however humbling and vulnerable. We want the truth of our experience to be strong and good and wise. Often, on the surface, it isn’t. The truth of our experience can be confused and emotional, messy. Ironically, the experience of relating to our truth – however confused - possess a deeper and truer strength than control. It delivers us to the depth of our being, the place where wisdom resides.

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