Friday, February 17th – Things are beginning to really pull together for me in my life. The idea of a full recovery that was long in doubt has now begun to take up residence in my mind. There truly is a light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not certain what efforts I might need to make to reach it, but I trust that if I continue to step forward with confidence, I will be welcomed by redemption soon. I’m finding opportunities everywhere to battle my fears, and instead of retreating back to comfort, I am now charging forward, determined and resilient. Nothing is going to get in the way of my happiness.
I embark on one of the most productive days that I’ve had in months. I get up early, make a run for coffee and breakfast and even pick up a few things at the store for dinner prior to beginning my work day. Then a busy morning in my office and lunch with Mom. We head off to a restaurant that I haven’t been to in months…a big deal for me; I’m learning to step outside of my box. On the way back to my place I drive her by a few houses in the area that are for sale. A home purchase is probably the last thing that I need to be thinking about, but I’m embracing the new found feelings of independence and freedom. In my mind, I’m creating a future beyond today, and that’s pretty special considering where I had been just months before.
As we stop by one last place, anxiety begins to form in my abdomen. My mind begins to tell me, “head back to comfort”, and so we do. Something isn’t quite right. This isn’t full-fledged panic, but it’s my disorder giving me a little nudge, making me aware that it hasn’t yet fled the scene. I can’t seem to comprehend where these feelings are coming from. All that I can remember is that I had been feeling a bit overwhelmed with negative energy during lunch. I could hear myself complaining about different things or placing blame for my circumstances, and that’s not who I am at all. I sensed at the time that it wasn’t right, but I couldn’t seem to take full control of it. Even if I attempted to silence my mouth, the thoughts still continued.
So, I head back to work, my mind beginning to lure in fear of what might be happening to me. I start to feel that I need to make a sincere effort to overcome this before something small spirals out of control. I finish up my afternoon and head off to the treadmill, determined to make my ruthless enemy surrender to my will. As I begin my run, the pace is feeling tremendously difficult on me. But I start winning the battle one quarter mile at a time until I reach my goal of three miles. And then I keep running. I have to push further, beyond comfort, beyond my mind’s preconceived limits. That’s how fear is conquered. On to three and a half…then four…all the way to five miles. Wow, that’s furthest and hardest I’ve run in a long time. I’m feeling refreshed, confident, and back on top of the world.
I run to the local Italian restaurant nearby to pick up a six pack of beer to share with my guest for dinner later that evening. When I return, I get a call from a west coast client and good friend of mine. We have a great talk, wish each other nice weekends, and I head off to grab a quick shower before my date arrives. The night goes well, but just before heading to bed, I notice that feeling in my stomach again…it’s back. And this time it’s a bit more intense than before. I tell myself to just put it out of my mind and let it go, forget about it. And so I do…momentarily, anyway. I take a look at the clock and when I realize what time it is, my anxiety returns. I’m now very fearful for what might take place the following day. I know that somehow a spark has been created, and that a night of limited sleep could be enough ignite a battle with full scale panic throughout the day that follows. Somehow, I nervously drift off to sleep.
With the arrival of the morning sun, my self-fulfilling prophecy starts off right on schedule. I head over to McDonald’s to grab coffee and some breakfast, and as I drive I’m made fully aware of the presence of my anxiety. I can handle this, but I do sense that I need to be careful. Otherwise, things could turn south for me quickly. The atmosphere around me doesn’t feel “right”; I’m sensing a threat nearby. Just over 24 hours earlier, my morning experience had been completely different – like night and day. I needed to take a step back and observe the situation. I needed to call on my faith to help me understand how I invited this threat back into my world. What was taking place inside of me?
The answer to that question was quite a tricky one to uncover. I spent the better part of this week doing a lot of soul searching, praying, and thinking. And I recognized a couple of things pretty quickly. I was off track with myself. Perhaps prosperity had arrived too soon? I sure thought that I had a better handle on myself than to allow a slip this early as a result of my own decision making. But maybe I was still weak? The late night, beer drinking, story-telling Matt was not a person that I could be proud of and I didn’t want him back. I was far better than that.
I focused much of my time on Saturday and Sunday talking to God. I asked for forgiveness for my weakness and I promised to do everything that I could to steer the ship back on its course. But I couldn’t stop beating myself up over my setback. I hadn’t made any truly horrible choices, but I was disgusted with the fact that I had lost track of my priorities, even if only for a few hours. I am a man of his word…I needed to stick by it. I began to feel extremely volatile emotional tension inside. I felt like I was crawling out of my skin. It was truly as if there was a battle of conflicting desires taking place inside of me.
The two days that followed continued to be some of the most uncomfortable and emotionally torn days that I can ever remember having in my entire life. My mind was racing at light speed. I truly could not keep up with it. I was cycling between dreams and thoughts of lofty, noble pursuits, back to intense fears and horribly negative visualizations. No matter how hard I fought to hold onto the positive thoughts in my mind, I could not seem to overcome the demon inside of me that was waging war on all that had been keeping me afloat and, in recent days, lifting me to new heights. There was a dynamic clash taking place…I had never experienced anything like it. I just did my best to close my eyes and ask for God to still my mind and provide me with the wisdom to handle it in time.
By Wednesday morning, things were improving slightly, but I was still encountering quite a bit of conflict in my mind. As I headed to the shower I grabbed my iPad and something spoke to me, telling me to listen to an audiobook by positive thinking guru and self-help specialist, Bob Proctor. In the past I had reviewed his material on a regular basis, but it had now been in a couple of months since I last visited with it. Somehow, the voice reminded me that I needed a refresher. So I turned on a lecture from his Freedom Series called “The Big One”. And just minutes later, I began to understand exactly what had been happening inside of my mind.
Bob speaks about the process that takes place when an individual decides that they want to challenge their conditioned nature and seek out a new life and new opportunities. He says that there are four separate phases that an individual will experience during the transition. Phase 1: Bondage, 2: Reason, 3: The Terror Barrier, 4: Freedom. He explains all four phases in quite a bit of detail, concluding that virtually every person will go through the first three, but only a select few will ever truly achieve freedom. And why is that? Because the “terror barrier” presents a psychological wall so defiant that it can shake and destroy even the most seemingly confident individuals who attempt to pass beyond it, persuading them to eagerly retreat back to bondage. Back to comfort, back to safety.
The terror barrier is where I’ve found myself throughout this week, and I can assure you that it’s not a pleasant place for anyone to be. During the lecture by Bob Proctor, he describes the clash of forces taking place at the “terror barrier” as thunder and lightning. I’m not sure that there is any better way to illustrate the feelings of conflicting emotions than that. I thought I had reached this phase during the fall, but I’m certain now that I wasn’t nearly at this point. My reason had not yet graduated to a state where I was ready to challenge my existing conditioning with trust and confidence that a full breakthrough to freedom was possible.
But since the early part of December, I have been laying the groundwork to challenge its muscle. My actions have begun to follow my reason. I’ve begun to rattle the walls that have held me hostage. I’ve been forming new dreams that are on track with the man that I want to become, and I’ve been pursuing them. I’ve begun to look fear in the eye and have been seeking to make every effort to leave it in my rearview. I’ve truly become a threat to my very own deep-rooted conditioning.
And so last Friday as my progress began to reach new heights, my old self made its move, seeking to destroy all that I had worked so hard for and send me running back to comfort. What was all of this that I had been busy constructing anyway? Certainly these pursuits were not in harmony with the Matt of days past. Something had to be done to restore order. Lead with some negative thoughts, follow with some blame, send a little anxiety, top it all off with a night resembling the “good ol’ days” and BOOM you have a battle on your hands and an opportunity to seize back control. That’s exactly how it unfolded. My “x” wanted me back. But little did it know how strong my “Y” had become.
I was ready to fight, but I needed a bit of direction from my corner as to the nature of my opponent. Thank the Lord for speaking to me and guiding me back to the wisdom of that audiobook. I was growing exhausted in an effort to ward off the negativity that was forcing its way back into my mind. It’s truly a gut-wrenching, painful experience. Unless that is you are able to understand exactly what is taking place and you choose to embrace the enormous potential in this phase of your growth as an individual. Now that I have finally recognized what’s been going on within me, I have found tremendous comfort in reaching the terror barrier, because I know that I’m one step away from my breakthrough – FREEDOM. And with that knowledge, I’m more determined than ever to push beyond my conditioned limits and achieve the life that I desire.
Change isn’t easy…challenging who you are as a person takes tremendous courage. Our conditioning is very deeply rooted. Much of it is genetic and we build upon it through habitual thoughts and actions over the course of our lifetime. If you want to seek a new avenue for your life…if you want something more, you need to involve yourself with an intense desire strong enough to inspire you to challenge your “x” and move forward. Your desire will promote the “Y” thinking necessary to bury that old conditioning. For me, it was not until I reached my bottom that I found the fire within to create a new life for myself. But it doesn’t need to be that way. You can start anytime. Dig deep, get to know you, find your faith and allow it to reveal to you the passions of your soul – your purpose. And then, start building. Say goodbye to bondage, welcome reason, crash through the terror barrier, and enjoy freedom! It’s waiting for you, and I pray that God will give you the strength to go find it.