In the last couple of months, I have found myself frequently referring to people being ‘on the edge’ and afraid to step off into the unknown. I’ve had conversations with many of them but there are many who aren’t in a place where they can talk about it yet.
I’m not talking about being so uncomfortable that you want to commit suicide. I’m talking about having the feeling that where you are isn’t completely comfortable any more, at the least, or is possibly even downright uncomfortable at the worst. We could call this, ‘edge territory’. Any of you who have worked with me have probably heard me refer to this place.
Edge territory is the the foggy land between the you with whom you can identify and the as-yet unknown you. As we get older, life teaches us more about ourselves. You could say that it increases our window of self-awareness. But all of us have a blind spot. That’s the part of ourselves that is still undiscovered. It’s hard to deliberately do something about this because a blind spot is, well… blind.
The biggest challenge about increasing our self-awareness and decreasing the size of our blind spot is that we’re really not identified with it. We experience it as ‘other’. A teacher of mine once said that we often have emotional allergies to the qualities that we see as ‘other’.
My personal favourite was the ‘selfish’ person. It was so easy for me to point out anyone who had the slightest scent of what I saw as selfishness. ‘Selfish people’ were ‘them’ and I was part of the ‘unselfish people’. Once I had this ‘allergy’ pointed out to me, I could see the nonsense in my perspective, but it took a while! In reality, we all have every quality. Before I could accept that I had this one, I had to reframe it as ‘self-ful–ness‘. Being selfish is actually a neutral quality. The positive and negative aspects just depend on how we express it.
Exploring Our Wholeness
We may choose not to identify with part of our emotional wholeness, or not express it, but all the emotions are there. For many years, I thought that I wasn’t an ‘angry person’. In fact, I prided myself in not being angry. I started seeing a therapist in my early thirties and began to see how I expressed, or leaked, my repressed anger. I was under the impression that it wasn’t acceptable to be angry, let alone express it.
All the reasons behind why each of us repress certain qualities in ourselves could fill a book. Suffice it to say that some of it is gender-related, some cultural, some to do with the era in which we were raised, and much to do with our life experiences. But lest I mislead you, being afraid of certain emotions or qualities in ourselves isn’t the whole story of ‘edge territory’.
Let’s go back to feeling uncomfortable. I was talking to someone at coffee the other day who knows exactly what she wants to do, and she’s not doing it. She was under the impression that it was just that she couldn’t get organized and get off her duff. We played with the idea that it’s related to a responsibility that she has been carrying for years. The need to carry it has all but gone now but she suspects that she might be holding herself back because she’s afraid that the need to carry the responsibility could suddenly return. Very simple, but it hadn’t occurred to her. If this is in fact true, she may have more options than she had thought, in terms of how she steps out over her personal edge.
Courage and Change
What’s ‘over the edge’, so-to-speak, is unknown and therefore a bit shadowy; ranging from uncomfortable to downright terrifying. One thing is certain; venturing into this place, alone or with support, always brings growth, excitement and change. So, whether we’re afraid to go for a dream, or make a long-overdue change, or explore our blind spot, or just own another part of our wholeness, carpe diem!