Each cell in our physical body has one priority focus, and that’s to survive. That means that every function of that body of cells is behaving in relationship to fear and safety. It’s a binary system; fear — bad, safety — good.
The instinctual pull of this need is strong, and it often contradicts the needs of the emotional and spiritual body. Keep this in mind when you’re wondering why you made a certain choice with a seemingly unconscious drive.
Our animal body wants certainty, repetition, predictability, homeostasis, contraction, hiding, repetition, consistency— anything that aids in our safety and survival. It’s built into our biological hard-wiring and our hormonal chemical system to avoid change.
However, our higher, spiritual self wants expansion, novelty, learning, growth, change, ascension, curiosity, exploration — everything that aids in expanding our experience as a conscious being.
Many of us feel this in the oxymoronic struggle in the forms of anxiety and depression.
The depression (an expression of the higher self) wants us to get out in the world and grow, try new things, seek opportunity, overcome obstacles, take risks, experience triumph, and thus — find meaning.
The anxiety (an expression of the animal self), wants nothing more than to avoid challenges, unknown territory, new places and people, uncertain risks and unpredictable outcomes.
This dichotomy of conflicting desires is the root of so many of our internal challenges. It’s that polarity we feel between “I want to, but I don’t” when trying to decide whether or not to take a opportunistic risk. We are unsure of what feels “right” because they both feel like they have equal pull on us. That’s because both choices are the right answer for one part of our self.
Without an understanding of this duality, we will sit back and watch as they work in equal opposition of each other. In this case we may even label ourselves as an “indecisive person”, which we accept as an inherent personality trait and deem it futile to try to change it. Either way, we end up in a state of inaction accompanied by discomfort. Yay! Psych..it sucks.
Our higher consciousness and our instinct are two extremely powerful — and necessary — forces. Neither is “good” or “bad”, and fully giving into one and ignoring the other will likely create problems.
Ignoring the body creates anxiety, and ignoring the spirit creates depression. So what to do? How can we get these two forces work in harmony? After all, both of these innate desires are working for our greater good. They are both on our side, and they both want to serve us.
The best way to progress healthily is to witness, understand, and serve both parts of our human duality and the complexity of our needs. We have to learn to carve out time and space to hear both voices.
This is where the practice of negotiation comes in to play. Can we take risks in small doses, in one area of life at a time, while the others areas stay consistent? Can we play freely and explore without limits in an avenue that doesn’t feel dangerous, or that exists in an area of life that has the room for it? For example, maybe novelty, change, and play belong in our hobbies or art rather than in our career or finances. At least to start, until we build more self-trust.
On the flip side: can we find safety and certainty in ways that don’t inhibit our spiritual growth and exploration? Maybe our safety comes from our morning routine and consistent relationships, instead of in our belief systems and narrative or identity. Maybe you feel comfortable bouncing from home to home if your career and income is very stable and reliable. Maybe we can lean into change in our career if our home and family is supportive and consistent.
There is space for both, and finding the balance is a matter of assessing all areas of your life and anchoring down the non-negotiables, as well as the verticals that have wiggle room.
This can help make those tricky decisions a little easier, too. When it’s a big risk, we can ask ourselves “do I have enough stability elsewhere to keep me grounded if I step into this uncertainty?” or “if I don’t take this risk, do I have enough challenge and growth opportunities elsewhere?” or “where can I make a trade between stability and uncertainty in my life to keep a balance?”.
Our brains prefer a binary world, sorted into easy-to-judge binary answers. We prefer to label stability and risk as inherently good or bad… and we all know people of each kind! But we simply can’t live that way. It’s too easy to get pigeonholed into a “this or that” mentality that will silence an entire half of our whole self.
Instead, we can try to honor the complexity of our human experience by observing our relationship to the choice and how it plays into our unique story. We can’t go wrong with a decision if it get us closer to where we want to be, via a path of balanced awareness.