Fear: The Practice Killer
Once upon a time, I was speaking with a friend online about some aspects of shamanic work, and the old axiom of “keeping silent” came up as a topic relevant for both us. Sometimes the things we see or experience in our Work can contradict what is generally accepted or acceptable among modern magical practitioners, and we keep quiet lest someone declare that what we are doing is wrong. I realized that I have internalized this attitude to a certain level. It keeps me from actually doing or trying different things, not just in trance work but in any sort of esoteric practice I might undertake.
Letting yourself be limited isn’t a healthy approach to spiritual work. When worry about things you cannot control, like potential failure or community censure, comes into the picture, it can quickly overshadow anything else happening in your practice. Fear can keep me from undertaking any sort of new or unfamiliar practice, which is probably the worst possible response.
First, on the matter of failure itself. It’s easy for me to sit here and type that if you tried and failed, at least you tried, which is better than not trying at all. I can also tell you that people doing their work for years or even decades, whether mundane or magical, will still fail sometimes. The key is how you handle that failure. Do you get up, dust yourself off and try again, or do you wallow in the feeling of failure? I know how hard it is to pick yourself back up when you’re in that moment — wondering if it’s even worthwhile to make the effort to continue or to simply keep replaying that failed moment in your head.
The only thing that seems to help is to learn from it. Don’t give up, and don’t feel sorry for yourself. Take an inventory: Is your failed magic based upon a technique you have previously used successfully, or is it something new? Is there some bigger reason for your magic not succeeding? Maybe you have doubts as to the wisdom of the work, or maybe you feel you don’t deserve success. Is it perhaps time to try a new technique, or a different practice entirely? Maybe you need to shift your perspective from, say, a particular concrete result to the efficacy of the process itself.
If you are in suffering a failed working, I would suggest not making any rash decision in the heat of the moment. Take some time to distance yourself from the event to gain impartiality, and work from there. If you let missteps keep you from walking, your only option is to stay in the exact same place, never progressing further. Rather than giving up, step back and look at things more objectively.
When the fear comes from a worry of being shunned, that is more difficult. I am well aware of the drive in most people to seek both approval and success. Positive reinforcement from others is a powerful motivator, and success means you live to see another day. But what do you do when you fall on your face? Or do not receive reinforcement? Or when people tell you exactly how you messed up? Are these people, the ones who’ll be judging, of any real consequence? Do their personal opinions really matter to you? Do you even need to share what you’re doing? Community is a wonderful resource for support, and it helps knowing that at least one other person has possibly tread this path before you. There is no substitute for learning from others, even if we are a community made up of people who most often learn from books. But when we worry for our reputation, often it’s a misguided need for validation that will enhance (or at least not undermine) our self-esteem.
Are their reactions knee-jerk? Are they responding from a place of concern for your well-being? This is one that is not as easily answered. I would hate to sound like a relativist and somehow allow my words to imply that if you’re doing something, it’s automatically okay. On the other hand, in my own Work I often find myself at the boundaries, which is not a regular space for most people, nor a comfortable one. Some of what I learn, I share — and some of it is meant to be shared. A great deal of my work is private and, at this point, meant for me first and foremost. I find that it’s a balancing act.
My best advise it to take a good look at why other people might not agree with the directions your magical work takes you. Are you ready to be taking this step? Could what you’re doing cause a great deal of hurt or harm? These are necessary questions to ask
yourself in this situation. Don’t shy away from the answers if they are not to your liking.
Hopefully, you are not in a position in which your choices are potentially harmful, and the fallout from whatever you’re doing will be minimal. If this is so, and you’re still feeling fear, and you’re not doing as a result, what can you do?
Perhaps a divination is in order, either cast by yourself or someone you trust. Or you could set this particular Working aside for the time being and focus on another project, or even on another aspect of your life, whether it be magical or mundane. You could throw caution to the wind and do it anyway, and see what happens. If you fail, so what? You’re not the first person to do so, and certainly not the last. That’s when you pick yourself up and learn from the experience.
And, perhaps, you’ll succeed.
©2010 by Soli.
Edited by Sheta Kaey.