The emotional reaction that comes with navigating people, behaviors, or events outside of our control (or even those parts of ourselves that won’t submit to our supposed-to’s, no matter how ingrained those supposed-to’s are) looks to me like the cloud of stuff following Pigpen around. Immediately after this thing I didn’t want there is a storm of ego/emotion about how I didn’t want it, it isn’t fair, this is what should have happened, this is why it is all wrong… the emotional equivalent of a toddler’s temper tantrum upon being denied Fruit Loops. The Contrarian calls it a snake. “I just lost whatever, now I must devote the kind of panic and upset to it that I would if I had just found an asp in my bed.”
Oh shit! It’s a snake! It’s a snake!
And then you freak out and grab something that can be used ineffectively to beat it to death or you run away or you try to do both and there are tears and there is a flood of adrenaline and maybe, eventually, it no longer looks like it is moving and you stop beating it and you step back and poke it with your stick only to discover that it was another stick. Or a thread. Or a bit of black balloon.
The quest, my quest, is to let it all happen while also not committing to anything in the middle of it (no statements I can’t retract, no decisions I can’t unmake) until it passes, and then, when I’m sitting somewhere breathless and stormed-out, I can be gentle with myself and the thing I thought was a snake. I can make friends with it, after a fashion. There’s room for questions instead of conclusions, understanding instead of opinions, investigation instead of judgment. Gentle interrogation opens up the possibility of a pragmatic path forward. Gentle interrogation makes sense. It’s a good way to avoid being wrong, or looking stupid, or saying something you find out you didn’t mean and now you can’t take back.
So far, one of my greatest personal achievements is to allow the Pigpen phase where all the reactions and opinions and protestations are swirling around me like a cloud of dust, let it spend me out, and then come back around to asking questions. I’m pretty sure true enlightenment skips the snake freak out and goes straight to the gentle interrogation phase.
Honestly, I’m not holding my breath. Getting this far has taken the bulk of my adult life.