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Thursday, October 6, 2016

Crossing Thresholds to Greater Growth

Just a few words today about change, newness, and the unknown.

Venturing Into the Unknown

We tend to fear it. We tend to think that because we are changing to something different (job, challenge, city, country, relationship, environment of any kind), or doing something new, or going to some type of unknown element in our lives as opposed to what we have done to this point, we will have difficulty with it or even fail. The new aspect can even be something such as changing a behavior, exchanging one way of doing something for another, because we have come to recognize that it is better (for example, when people learn to set healthy boundaries (see also Do Your Relationship Boundaries Contribute to Your Well-Being?). So when they do this, people are generally fearful at the beginning of putting this new behavior into practice, because even though they see its great value for their own psychological health (and that of any of their relationships), actually doing what it takes to have healthy boundaries can be daunting when one has not been doing it.

But the real point of today’s article is to discuss the fear.

The Many Faces of Fear

Fear of the unknown. Fear of the untried. Fear of stepping outside of our comfort zone (see also Leaving Your Comfort Zone: Fear of Emotional Expression).

What exactly does this fear tell us?

First of all, welcome it. Recognize that it is the hallmark of growth to come. Fear of this type signals that as you cross a new threshold into a new arena, you will be learning something that will move your process of growth up a notch.

Secondly, recognize that you have been in this place many times before, with all the other things you have done or lived through for the first time in your life in the past, and now you are much more – or even totally - at ease and comfortable with them. You passed over the threshold when you did whatever it was for the first time, and now you are in an entirely new place. But since you are already comfortable with whatever it was that once caused your fear, you no longer view it as something threatening and fearful. Use that "success" experience (the Germans call it Erfolgserlebniss) to help you cross the new threshold. Use the knowledge that what was once so far outside your comfort zone, has now become your new comfort zone. Recognize that the fear you feel indicates that you are in the process of expanding this comfort zone once again, and that this will bring about new growth. (Also see
Making Fear of the Unknown Work for You).

In other words: fear that is felt before starting something new could in fact be a good sign, because it means that once again you are on the road to new growth. Your life and your world are expanding, and you are vital and vibrant and alive in this process. In such a case, fear could be defined as your friend.

Growth Takes Place at the Borders of Chaos and Order

I recently listened to a short interview of John DeMartini. He said something to the effect that the greatest growth takes place at the borders of chaos and order.

That’s a fascinating theory. It takes you back to
Hegel, the German philosopher (and even to Marx), and the concept of dialectical reasoning (thesis, antithesis, and synthesis), where the transition of thought moves from an initial conviction about something, to its opposite, and then to a new, higher conception that involves but transcends both of them.

Order might be likened to the thesis aspect of Hegelian philosophy, chaos to antithesis, and finally, the new, higher order, i.e. the place where growth has taken place, and is now both assimilated and visible in its manifestation of the personality, is the synthesis. Once the new thought or conviction about something (the new synthesis) has remained this new order for some time, and hence has become becomes the new thesis, the entire process repeats itself, because without it, there is no growth.

You might say that when chaos is the determining factor, when there is no longer any order, there is no homeostasis or balance in the personality, and until it again finds an equilibrium – but at a higher level – chaos reigns. When, however, balance is achieved, a new synthesis takes place, and homeostasis is once again in evidence.

Inner Growth Needs Some Type of Friction

What all of this boils down to as stated in slightly different terms at the beginning of this article is: inner growth needs some type of friction (fear, pain, suffering, etc.), or stated in other words: chaos, antithesis, lack of balance, for the personality to seek a new order, a new balance, a new synthesis on higher levels. I’ve even heard of people talking about it from the point of view of the actual brain re-structuring itself on new levels after the initial scrambling about in chaos to search for a new balance. Neuroscientists would refer to new neural pathways having been formed in the pre-frontal cortex that lead the individual to a higher level of functioning. (See also Creating New Neural Pathways (And Getting a Better Life in the Process) this link also points to a wonderful audio broadcast about this general topic).

So looking at it from that point of view, I suggest that you welcome situations that appear in your life that you might have regarded as difficulties or hardships, stress-filled times, and moments saturated with problem after problem, as times when your greatest inner growth can take place. Observe yourself as you deal with the situation, observe how you look for, and eventually find solutions, observe how you apply them, and how they then begin to form part of your normal life, and ultimately, observe how your parameters have expanded, how your comfort zone has grown, and how you yourself have become a much richer personality, a human being with a new order and equilibrium that must in the future, if further growth is to take place, again give way to another restructuring.

Image: "The Birth of a New Star" painting by Nguyen Dinh Dang


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