Don't Forget, I've Been Hurt Before
You Have to Keep Breaking Your Heart Until It Opens
What does it mean to be courageous?
Beverly Hills, California
I’ve been trying to talk myself into doing something courageous. Except I can’t figure out what that means. I have spent a lot of time being trying to be brave, leaping before looking, but I don’t think that’s the same thing as being courageous.
Bravery has bravado and hubris. Bravery wants to relieve the tension. Bravery needs to be seen. But, courage? Courage does not need or want. Courage can be quiet. Courage has patience. Courage just is.
Or is it?
There is a clip floating around social media with expert on archetypes Caroline Myss explaining the difference between fantasy and intuition.
The first time this clip appeared in my feed, I was deep, dark place. I swiped away.
The second time it appeared, I was on the other side of something. So I listened — and it triggered me.
In the clip the interviewer asks, “How do you know when it’s truly intuition and not just wishful thinking?” and Myss responds, “Intuition makes you feel uncomfortable. Fantasy doesn’t.”
I watched the clip several times as I rolled those words around my mouth. “Intuition makes you feel uncomfortable. Fantasy doesn’t.”
It sounded true. But what kind of “uncomfortable” was she referring to?
The discomfort that comes from taking action? Or the discomfort that comes from not taking action?
I have a habit of making myself uncomfortable, putting myself through discomfort. Traveling solo, documenting police violence, speaking my truth, running for politics. None of these are comfortable things to do — but they did come with a package of courage.
But even with that courage, I still had to push myself. A lot.
I think that’s what we call bravery — fabricating courage after we have run out.
Bravery, which I equated above with hubris and bravado, is not a bad thing. We need it to get us through sometimes. But maybe building bravery from scratch — building bravery where courage was never present — is not the best idea.
Many of the circumstances in our life that bring sorrow and dislodgement of personality occur when we do not pay attention to how the past continues to affect the decisions we make in the present.
(Seven of Swords, Sphere of Venus)
excerpt: Mysticism and Qabalah in the Knapp-Hall Tarot, Yolanda Robinson
Last month, as I questioned whether or not the action I desired to take was courageous or brave, as I asked myself if my intention came from a place of intuition or fantasy, I happened across a passage from one of my favourite novels.
Written by Paulo Coelho (author of The Alchemist), this “novel of obsession” — The Zahir — is a story about a best selling novelist who, after his wife disappears, is forced to reexamine his life and their marriage.
At first, he does not understand why she has left him, but as the book progresses (and he encounters and begins to learn from his wife’s lover, Mikhail) he understands how careless he had become—in particular with his own soul’s growth.
Despite his obsession with his wife, this famous novelist man has many lovers and, in the following exchange, his newest lover tries to make him understand how he's been acting from the past, from a place of fear and hatred.
The Zahir, Paulo Coelho
"You see? You don't even want to say his name. Are you superstitious?"
"Mikhail. There you are, that's his name."
"The energy of hatred won't get you anywhere; but the energy of forgiveness, which reveals itself through love, will transform your life in a positive way."
"Now you're sounding like some Tibetan sage, spouting stuff that is all very nice in theory, but impossible in practice. Don't forget, I've been hurt before."
"Exactly, and you're still carrying inside you the little boy, the school weakling, who had to hide his tears from his parents. You still bear the marks of the skinny little boy who couldn't get a girlfriend and who was never any good at sports. You still haven't managed to heal the scars left by some of the injustices committed against you in your life. But what good does that do?"
"Who told you about that?"
"I just know. I can see it in your eyes, and it doesn't do you any good. All it does is feed a constant desire to feel sorry for yourself, because you were the victim of people stronger than you. Or else it makes you go to the other extreme and disguise yourself as an avenger ready to hit out at the people who hurt you. Isn't that a waste of time?"
"It's just human."
"Oh, it is, but it's not intelligent or reasonable. Show some respect for your time on this earth."
Acting out of fear is human. Acting out of hatred is human. Acting based on the past and not the present is human. But none of these actions are reasonable or intelligent and they do not show respect for our time on earth.
I ended up doing it, choosing action. I took the risk. I did it despite the inkling that I was being brave and not courageous. I did it despite the lack of clarity on whether it was based on fantasy or intuition.
Then I polled several friends, sending them the Caroline Myss to clip and asking if they agreed, Does your intuition make you feel uncomfortable?
They did not agree. Their relationship to intuition was one of calm knowing — of space and breath.
Their certainty grounded me. And then I became frustrated with myself for taking Myss so seriously. Here I’d been trying to understand something that wasn’t even true.
But then, what is truth?
It has been a motto of mine for some time, “Tell the Truth. Save the World.” It is the icon for this very newsletter. But is that still the idiom I want to live by?
Writing to myself several years ago about feelings of unrequited love I reflected, “my behaviour, that which I assumed was deeply sincere and true, was not. My kindness and persistence and openness and trust were all founded on a false belief.”
How many false beliefs guide and shape the stories we tell ourselves? The stories we base our life choices upon? I say “Tell the Truth. Save the World” but I also say There Is No World so that also has to mean that There Is No Truth.
This is the journey of unravelling, of recognizing that each of us is a book of individual truths in a multiverse of infinite truths. That we are all built out of stories, based on fear of the past and dreams of the future and an ever-deepening relationship to the present.
The truth is — discomfort has many definitions, as does intuition. The truth is — we all have a different relationship to the story of our Self. The truth is that sometimes it easy for us to confuse fantasy with reality because reality can be so slippery. The truth is —
What if there is no truth? What if there are only stories?
Love and the Multiverse is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.