Breaking Free from the Chains That Bind You

Do you ever feel trapped? It’s completely understandable during a prolonged period of confinement. But do you sometimes feel bound and constrained by the fears and doubts and insecurities that erode your dearest hopes and dreams? Fear seems to be the dominant feature on all sides. We fear the sting of rejection, the bitterness of defeat, the agony of embarrassment, the pain of failure and the wounding of people’s selfishness. Yes, welcome to the vulnerable and highly sensitive underbelly of the human condition!

Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure. – Paulo Coelho

Perhaps these deep-rooted fears explain why we feel the instinctive need to protect ourselves. For example, have you ever noticed how we tend to hunch our shoulders when we feel stressed? This ancient gesture is a curious reminder that we need to protect our hearts whenever we feel threatened – whether the threat is real or imaginary. It’s an ancient, residual artefact from our distant past. Lacking scales or a thick, protective hide to provide a reassuring layer of armour, we adopt postural gestures that create the impression of protection. We fold our arms in front of our chests. We tense our muscles to withstand a possible blow. We clench our jaws to protect our heads. We brace our butt muscles to resist the attack. That’s our evolutionary heritage. These are ancient survival mechanisms that evolved to help us survive dangerous encounters with wild, hungry predators or hostile neighbours.

The problem with this particular set of automatic survival responses is that they kick in whether the threat is real – or only a product of our imagination. And our minds have been heavily conditioned to worry, fret and react negatively to pretty much everything! It’s one of the major reasons that so many people are seriously stressed and suffering from long-term anxiety. It’s an integral part of our culture. Look at the news. It’s like a daily guest appearance of the Four Riders of the Apocalypse!

There is no illusion greater than fear. – Lao Tzu

And yet, in the face of this lifelong habit of over-reacting to every situation and infusing it with fear, there is an underlying principle that can help all of us to overcome the boundaries of this severely limiting behaviour. It’s a powerful and life-changing insight into the nature of fear that has been recognised and repeated for countless centuries.

Fear is the greatest illusion that we have ever created.

In reality, there are very few situations during the course of our lives in which our fears are justified. They are little more than a habit, a repetitive behaviour that operates automatically and depletes our power and freedom. It’s an illusion because fear can only exist for as long as we feed it with the emotional energy upon which it thrives. Switch off the emotional fuel supply – and fear disappears in an instant.

Early pioneering psychologists noticed that their patients invariably demonstrated some specific form of postural anomaly that was related to their mental condition. This observation led some doctors to encourage their patients to work on their posture as much as on their regular therapy sessions. The connection was clear. By unlocking the physical restraints that reflected an emotional or psychological imbalance, patients recovered much more quickly.

Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, today, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously. Our eyes can still see the beautiful sky. Our ears can still hear the voices of our loved ones. – Thich Nhat Hanh

The instinct to protect ourselves results in something called ‘body armouring’. We close our chests, our hearts and shoulders to create the illusion of being protected. We are armouring ourselves against the greatest illusion in the world.

The answer is to learn to remove your armour, piece by piece, muscle by muscle, until you can stand free of the weight and burden that you’ve been carrying around with you for most of your life. The results will astonish you.

To be fair, most people feel very uncomfortable with the concept of peeling away the layers of protection. And that’s entirely understandable. It’s like appearing naked in the midst of a multitude of strangers. Yet, despite the fear and anxiety of removing your armour, the fears ultimately prove to be completely groundless. You step out of the cage of your personal circle of protection and – nothing. Absolutely nothing. The world doesn’t open up to swallow you. Hordes of screaming barbarian warriors fail to materialise.

Because the change you seek is entirely within you.

You feel lighter. You begin to experience a new sense of freedom. You begin to appreciate that you’ve spent most of your life protecting yourself from the shadows of your own imagination. The fears were in your heart and mind, fueled every single moment by your powerful emotional energy. It’s like waking up from a disturbing dream. You open your eyes and the sun is shining and peace reigns in your heart.

The key to growth is acknowledging your fear of the unknown – and jumping in anyway. – Jen Sincero

So, take a moment to breathe. Relax those tense shoulders. Unlock your jaw muscles and let go of all the tension in your body. Turn your feelings towards something truly bright and inspiring. Fill your heart with joy. Release the weight of your armour and watch the world bow before you in acknowledgement of your newly-won power, freedom and grace.

Even though you may want to move forward in your life, it’s possible that you may have one foot firmly pressing on the brakes. In order to be free, we must learn how to let go. Release the hurt. Release the fear. Refuse to entertain your old pain. The energy it takes to hang onto the past is holding you back from a new life. What is it you would let go of today? – Mary Manin Morrissey