For many of us, feelings of deficiency are right around the corner. It doesn't take much--just hearing of someone else's accomplishments, being criticized, getting into an argument, making a mistake at work--to make us feel that we are not okay. Beginning to understand how our lives have become ensnared in this trance of unworthiness is our first step toward reconnecting with who we really are and what it means to live fully.--from Radical AcceptanceRadical Acceptance"Believing that something is wrong with us is a deep and tenacious suffering," says Tara Brach at the start of this illuminating book. This suffering emerges in crippling self-judgments and conflicts in our relationships, in addictions and perfectionism, in loneliness and overwork--all the forces that keep our lives constricted and unfulfilled. Radical Acceptance offers a path to freedom, including the day-to-day practical guidance developed over Dr. Brach's twenty years of work with therapy clients and Buddhist students.
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November 22, 2004
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Excerpt from Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach
The Trance of Unworthiness
You will be walking some night . . .
It will be clear to you suddenly
that you were about to escape,
and that you are guilty: you misread
the complex instructions, you are not
a member, you lost your card
or never had one . . .
For years I've had a recurring dream in which I am caught in a futile struggle to get somewhere. Sometimes I'm running up a hill; sometimes I am climbing over boulders or swimming against a current. Often a loved one is in trouble or something bad is about to happen. My mind is speeding frantically, but my body feels heavy and exhausted; I move as if through molasses. I know I should be able to handle the problem, but no matter how hard I try, I can't get where I need to go. Completely alone and shadowed by the fear of failure, I am trapped in my dilemma. Nothing else in the world exists but that.
This dream captures the essence of the trance of unworthiness. In our dreams we often seem to be the protagonist in a pre-scripted drama, fated to react to our circumstances in a given way. We seem unaware that choices and options might exist. When we are in the trance and caught up in our stories and fears about how we might fail, we are in much the same state. We are living in a waking dream that completely defines and delimits our experience of life. The rest of the world is merely a backdrop as we struggle to get somewhere, to be a better person, to accomplish, to avoid making mistakes. As in a dream, we take our stories to be the truth--a compelling reality--and they consume most of our attention. While we eat lunch or drive home from work, while we talk to our partners or read to our children at night, we continue to replay our worries and plans. Inherent in the trance is the belief that no matter how hard we try, we are always, in some way, falling short.
Feeling unworthy goes hand in hand with feeling separate from others, separate from life. If we are defective, how can we possibly belong It's a vicious cycle: The more deficient we feel, the more separate and vulnerable we feel. Underneath our fear of being flawed is a more primal fear that something is wrong with life, that something bad is going to happen. Our reaction to this fear is to feel blame, even hatred, toward whatever we consider the source of the problem: ourselves, others, life itself. But even when we have directed our aversion outward, deep down we still feel vulnerable.