The Calm Beyond the Storm

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I often find it helpful to use metaphors to capture our internal experiences of life. I wanted to share a metaphor that came to me the other day that my clients and I have found helpful in capturing why change can be so hard for so many people.

Imagine you’re in a boat that’s tied to the shoreline by a very long thick rope. The shoreline represents the programming of our subconscious mind – or our mind’s database as I like to refer to it. The database is all the programming we’ve collected from our family, friends, society, and culture beginning from our earliest days. This programming reflects the relative health or dysfunction of our early environments, and it’s important to understand that our subconscious mind does not make any judgment regarding the quality of the programming it acquires. Because our subconscious mind is not the rational, conscious part of our mind, it just blindly accepts what it learns from observing and interacting with our environments.

Once the subconscious mind forms our core beliefs based on these interactions, it just assumes that’s the way life is supposed to be, regardless of whether it makes us miserable or limits our experience of life. Our mind’s database, or ego as many refer to it, is typically very determined to make sure our lives reflect its programming. Unfortunately, it is quite powerful and will often go to great lengths to sabotage us should we try and ultimately break free from its limiting programming.

Now back to our metaphor…

You’re in your boat and have your hands on the wheel. You see off in the horizon where you would like to go, what you would like to consciously create in your life. You naturally start steering the boat in that direction and give it some gas. However, there is a problem – you are still tethered to the shoreline by that thick rope. Because the rope is quite long, you can make some headway in the direction you’re trying to sail, but soon your progress is stalled because the rope has become taught.

The way the subconscious mind is designed, it is okay with you making some positive progress or temporary changes in your life as long as it ultimately retains control over you. Frustrated by your lack of progress, you get the idea of cutting the rope once and for all so you’d have the freedom to sail wherever you would like.

It’s when you cut the rope that we really see the power of the subconscious mind. When the rope is cut, the subconscious mind signals the alarms and creates a massive “storm” in the sea. Your boat starts getting rocked by the high winds and huge waves crashing down on it. How does the subconscious mind have the power to create such a storm? Its power comes from the weapons it has at its disposal: fear, doubt, and insecurity.

The subconscious mind may allow you to play with the idea of living life in a more constructive fulfilling way, but if it thinks it’s going to lose all power over you, it will hold nothing back. It will turn the volume up so far on fear, doubt, guilt, and insecurity that the majority of people take the predictable course – as the storm begins to surge, they turn the boat around and head back to shore. Once back at shore, they dutifully yoke themselves again to the long thick rope. When the mind’s database realizes it has regained control over you, the storm quickly subsides – all is right with the world, and you find yourself falling right back into your old comfort zone and patterns.

On the surface, it now seems like danger has been averted and that you are “safe” again. However, the truth is that the real danger lies not in the storm but in living your whole life tethered to the shore. If you always remain tethered, you unfortunately never fully experience life beyond the storm, the one you were meant to live.

The real key to living your ideal life is learning how to persevere through the storm – to keep taking constructive action even when the boat is being tossed around. To do so, we need to comprehend that there is no actual storm when we’re trying to make changes in our life. The storm is a figment of our imagination that our subconscious mind creates to try and force us to stay within the confines of our programming.

Now, I’m certainly not going to pretend continuing to take action when the storm is peaking is easy and I, for one, don’t comprehend how anyone could do it without the help of a coach, mentor or counselor. However, I can only tell you that it’s worth it because beyond the storm is genuine peace – a smooth ocean with the wind at your back ready to help you sail where you consciously choose. This smooth ocean is the real peace and contentment that you can find only when you’ve regained mastery over your ego. It is what makes self-actualization possible and while it is definitely, “The Road Less Traveled,” as Robert Frost explains, it’s what makes all the difference!

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