Requiem for inner step parents

When we encounter negative emotions, the first thing we try to do is to cut them off. Anger, sadness, envy, hatred, whatever brings us down (or up way too high) should be treated as our mental disease/cancer/bug and thus be removed swiftly.

Nothing unusual is going on, it seems. We are just trimming the unnecessary branches that stem out of our trunk, so we will grow healthily and strongly upward, straight up toward the sky, such as an admirable giant cedar tree. Sometimes we might want to keep us in more “natural shape,” cutting off leaves but leaving the curves intact to create a nice art, such as a miniature bonsai tree. Therefore, we are creating an “optimum” version of ourselves. Or are we?

Whether it is a straight-up cedar tree or a crooked bonsai tree, the purpose is the same: to be useful for other people. A straight tree is preferred for ease of processing and mass production, and a freaky yet cute bonsai tree is for people who admire…freaky bonsai tree. When we undermine our negative emotions in the name of “improvement,” we might actually be turning ourselves into freak show stars. Besides, unlike trees, our negative emotions tend to grow back seconds after we “cut them off.”

All right, cutting or suppressing my negative emotions do not work, period. Then what should I do with those pesky little bastards, who come up right at the moment when I need a moment of concentration and tranquility to mess my life up once again?

The key lies in the fact that my negative emotions are trying to PROTECT me, rather than attack me. Every time I am about to go up on a stage and deliver a speech, my emotions try to de-motivate me, telling me that I am not interested in doing it at all. They try to numb my limbs and give me headaches, yet through this seemingly obvious act of sabotage, what they are trying to do is to save me from feeling awful after failing miserably at my attempt. Their motivation is pure and based on goodwill; they just don’t know how to do what they do otherwise. Yet their message is clear: the world is hostile. Stay inside, and we will protect you.

Right, but the problem is that their method of protection is no longer working. In order to move forward, I am taking over the leading role and let them gently retire. What follows is sort of a private letter to my negative emotions:

I hear you, my negative peeps. I hear you. When you say the world is hostile, I feel it too. After all, that is how I have viewed the world for a long time. The world is cold, the world do not understand me. And I appreciate your protection so far: who knows how many disasters I have avoided thanks to your advice? (And how many excitements I have missed…)

I will accept you as my family, my dear negative friends. I will take you in as my inner stepfathers and stepmothers. I will listen to you, I will feed you, and I will provide a warm place to live in, which is my inner world.

But I do not necessarily follow your advice any more. I am the head of our clan, and I decide the priorities and the directions for our entire family. Dear my negative parents, you have grown old, though you might not have realized. You have stayed out of touch from the external world for a long time, and what remained true when you have acquired your survival skill no longer applies to where we are now in this real world.

Don’t take me wrong, I am not going to kick you out. I simply am saying that we switch our rolls. I am now the protector, and you are the protected. We can still peacefully coexist in our small and cozy inner world. I will now lead all of us, occasionally using the wisdom and power you have given me, to a new cozy world that exists somewhere “out there.” I believe the world we live in has become too small for us. We need a bigger place to live, and also to survive.

The difference between you, my step parents, and I, lies in my physical body. I see, hear, smell, touch the world, and bring information back and forth between here and out there. I am the interface, and from what I have observed (with your help), the world out there is full of potentials. Yes it is not always warm. Yes some people are downright hostile. But we may also see wonderful moments with beautiful sceneries, people whom we love, incomprehensible yet hilarious adventures, none of them we can obtain just by sitting here.

We are simply too accustomed to where we are, as anything “different” is automatically taken as a threat to our existence. I will lead all of us into a new territory. It might feel cold and hostile at first, but mind you, all new territories feel alien to us in the beginning. Let’s begin, shall we?