Inner Strength: Anxiety and Your Inner Dialogue
How do I know that I have the ability to solve, or at least deal wit my unique challenges? The simple truth is because I have an inner strength – perhaps hidden at times – I may not even be aware that I possess.
Let me share with you how I discovered my own inner strength:
I woke up one morning and dragged myself to the bathroom. I looked in the mirror and was startled to find someone looking back at me. Even more astonishingly, he began to talk.
The image asked, “Who are you?”
“Yisroel Roll,” I answered.
It said, “I didn’t ask you your name. I asked, ‘Who are you?’”
I responded, “I am a psychotherapist”
The image said, “I didn’t ask you what you did for a living. I asked, ‘Who are you?’”
I tried again, “I am the husband of Julie, and father of…”
It said, “I didn’t ask what your relationships were. I asked, ‘Who are you?’”
Persevering, I ventured, “I have a home, I drive a…”
The image cut me off. “I didn’t ask what you owned. I asked, ‘Who are you?’”
Exasperated, I responded, “I give up. Who am I?”
It said, “You are a horse.”
I replied indignantly, “A horse! What in the world do you mean?”
He explained, “Horses like to graze on the meadow. And I happen to know that you like to graze over a well-done rib steak with Southern barbecue sauce.”
I said, “That’s a pretty broad comparison. You’ll have to do better than that.”
He boldly replied, “When horses run in the meadow, there is always one horse who tries to run ahead of the pack. In your career, you always try to come up with new ideas and programs so that you too can run ahead of the competition. So, you are just like a horse.”
Getting a little nervous, I stuttered, “Not bad. What else have you got?”
He said, “When a filly enters the meadow, the stallions get up on their hind legs and begin to neigh. It’s their way of reacting to the filly. I happen to know that you act differently when there are women in the room than when you are with men only. So, you are a horse.”
After having been compared not-too-inaccurately to a horse, I defiantly said, “Just a minute. I may have certain basic qualities similar in nature to a horse, but I am not a horse. I am the rider of the horse. I can direct and determine what I eat, what career I pursue, and my demeanor, and I can control my inner passions and desires. I can direct my ‘horse-like’ tendencies and guide them. I can raise myself above the level of the horse within me by reminding myself it is I who is in the saddle. So I can direct myself to meaningful activities because I am in control of the reins.”
This odd encounter at the bathroom mirror was a revelation. I understood clearly who I was and that the horse within me is only Level One of my psyche – the animal-like part of my being. It is true that, like a horse, I have instincts, lusts, and passions that drive me. I have to admit that those impulses for self-preservation (i.e., food), self-gratification (i.e., pleasure), and power (i.e., money), rage so powerfully within me that I am sometimes convinced that these drives make up the sum total of my being. But that is not all I am. The rider within me, directs these passions and animal instincts. The rider is the core of my real self – the part of me that decides which passions to pursue, which to delay pursuing, and which not to pursue at all.
The rider within me allows me to discern between worthwhile and meaningless activities. It allows me to appreciate sensations like beauty, symmetry and harmony. It allows me to “choose” to pursue spiritual endeavors like kindness, empathy and fairness. It inspires me to pursue values like truth, honesty and loyalty. It allows me to look inward and to become aware of my “self.”
This core, this rider within me, is my spiritual center. It is the source of my decision-making process. It is the life energy, which activates and motivates me. This is the source from which I can draw my hidden strength in order to help me deal with and meet life’s challenges. The ability to access and activate my spiritual center is my inner strength.
If I stop running through life in the “fast lane” and take a moment to reflect upon my character, I will be able to get in touch with my spiritual center. By so doing I will be able to get to know more of my authentic self. What a wonderful self-empowering feeling to be able to perform a quick “quality control” check on myself to ensure that I am channeling my drives and passions in the direction that I – true to my spiritual center – want them to go, rather than allowing my passions to drive me.
My spiritual center enables me to summon all of the strengths, passions and drives within me to deal with a challenge from a position of conscious choice rather than with my usual knee-jerk instinctive reactions. My spiritual center – which is my decision-making headquarters – ultimately gives me the strongest resource at my disposal: it provides the power and inner strength for me to choose how to deal with a challenge from a considered, informed vantage point. And I can access and activate this inner strength at will, any time I choose.