This week’s blog is an excerpt from The Space Within.
Frank (not his real name) was a businessman from Europe who came to me to improve his client acquisition skills.
During our first session, we talked about the illusory nature of thought and how easy it was to get sucked into believing that it was important to pay attention to and even act upon the seemingly constant noise in our head.
Because I went away on holiday the day after our session, I didn’t speak with Frank again for nearly three weeks. When I came back, he asked me how I’d managed to get him to stop biting his fingernails after over 20 years of trying.
Somewhat confused, I reviewed my notes from the session and found that not only had we not spoken about his nail biting, I hadn’t even known it had been an issue for him. Yet
I did have an understanding of how a lifelong habit could completely disappear without any particular effort from either of us, miraculous though it might seem.
Here’s how I explained it to him:
Imagine living in a world stalked by a hungry dragon. For many of us, our first priority is going to be building a castle to protect ourselves. But what to build the castle out of?
Some people try to use money to build the walls of their castle. ‘If only I have enough money,’ they think, ‘the dragon won’t be able to get me and I’ll be safe.’ They spend their lives desperately earning as much as they can and fearfully spending as little of it as possible, convinced that if they can only accumulate enough, the dragon will never be able to scale the walls.
Others build their castle walls out of approval, adulation, and fame. ‘If only people love and respect and admire me enough,’ they think, ‘the dragon won’t be able to get me and I’ll be safe.’ Each new bit of acclaim is like another stone in the castle wall, while each shot to their reputation is like a battering ram against the gates.
Still others attempt to build their castle walls with sex and intimate relationships (‘If I can get just one person to really love me…’), healthy living (‘If I just eat all the right things and do all the right things…’), or the pursuit of power and position (‘If I can just fight my way to the top…’) to keep themselves safe.
But, as you can imagine, not everyone is successful at building and defending their castle, and even those who do well in the world get bitten by the dragon from time to time. And if you haven’t been bitten by a dragon before, well … let’s just say it’s extremely painful.
So people learn to drink or smoke or eat or gamble or even bite their nails to numb the pain and to mitigate the continual anxiety of having to defend themselves against the dragon, who, as every child knows, could be lurking around every corner or hidden behind the deceptive smile of a stranger posing as a friend.
But what would happen if you woke up one day and realised beyond a shadow of a doubt that there was no dragon? If you could see that what you thought was the dragon’s shadow was in fact just the shadow of a thought?
If you really saw that there was no dragon, all your anxiety and stress would dissipate almost immediately. And the cacophony of dragon-avoiding activity would come to an immediate end as well.
Nails would no longer need to be bitten (or approval sought or food/money/drugs consumed at a startling rate) if the source of your anxiety was no longer there. In short, you could simply relax and enjoy your life.
Of course things wouldn’t always turn out as you hoped, and from time to time you might even see something that looked a bit like a dragon or feel something that hurt as badly as a dragon’s bite.
But before you could get too caught up in it, something would happen to remind you that you’re never afraid of what you think you’re afraid of – you’re afraid of what you think. And in just a few moments, you would return to your natural state of health and ease and wellbeing…
Frank went on to say that not only was he no longer biting his nails, he was also truly enjoying both his work and his life for the first time in years.
With all my love,