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Live Too Defensively & You Won't Live At All

A man raised a baby swan in a glass jar, but as the bird grew it became stuck in the jar. The man was caught now, for the only way to free the thing was to break the jar, killing the swan ~ Zen proverb

We have probably all experienced, or at least witnessed, these contained types of relationships, where one party appears to be exerting a limiting influence over another; be it a spouse, partner, parent, child or colleague, in the name of love, responsibility or a duty of care of some kind.

The harm comes in when the Influencer fails to understand or acknowledge, that whoever they love continues to grow, and the parameters in which their loved one lives must also expand with them, else they be stifled and suffocated. In these circumstances, the Influencer is ruled by fear and fear alone, however good their intentions might be.

I myself joked on Facebook over the weekend that my six year-old son would never be able to play rugby as he grew older, because the bubble-wrap suit I would insist he wear, would make running and throwing a ball difficult. Whilst I would prefer my son to take up professional Tiddlywinks rather than the oftentimes brutal sport of rugby, I will not thwart whatever his passions and ambitions may be one day. If he gets a bruise playing rugby, well then that is something I will have to learn to deal with, and I solemnly promise not to go charging after whoever gave it to him with a rolling pin. Partly because I don't own a rolling pin... but I digress.

What I am more concerned about however is the self-limiting jars we choose to encase ourselves in. Who amongst us can truthfully say they have never failed at anything, or been hurt by anything or anyone in their lifetime? No one can say this, because failure and hurt are the two most powerful means of learning, so life throws hurt and failure at us all with monotonous regularity.

The harm comes in however, when we place our heart, ambitions and courage into a jar, to protect them from further hurt or failure. We place an invisible force field around ourselves, we avoid making further mistakes, avoid new relationships, because our frame of reference tells us it's scary and ends in hurt and/or failure. But we continue to grow anyway. Think of the man in the proverb as your mind, and the baby swan in the jar as your heart and ambitions. You think you're protecting your heart and ambitions, and maybe you are, maybe you need to for a short time after initial hurt and failure. But we continue to grow anyway. At some point, we all have to burst out of our jars, because if we don't we can't thrive, and if we're not growing, we're dying.

The hurt and failures we experience hurt like hell, so our minds seek to protect us by limiting further endeavour. Our minds mean well, like the man nurturing a baby swan, but at some point we have to give ourselves permission to live and grow, else we will wither and die. At some point nurturing oversteps into stifling and it becomes possible that we live our lives so defensively, we never really live at all. We must not allow ourselves to live and cower in fear, ever.

We must not allow ourselves to become hardened by the experiences life throws at us; they are lessons all. Ask yourself if you really want to live inside such a hardened and constrained place, with no room to breathe, be free or grow. The threat of literally going to prison is enough to keep the majority of us law abiding, but we imprison ourselves liberally, with our daily thoughts and negative patterns of behaviour!

The secret here is to practice mindfulness; learn to be aware of and manage your thoughts. Just because you start to think a thought (remembering past hurts and failures etc), doesn't mean you have to think it all the way through - swipe it! Most of us know how smartphones use a swiping protocol to scroll through photos and information, so swipe your limiting thoughts as soon as they attempt to enter your consciousness. You do have to give up living on automatic pilot for this to succeed though. You have to practice mindfulness dedicatedly until it too becomes automatic.

Your ultimate goal here is to master your own thoughts, so they no longer control what you are able to experience in the future. The choice is yours, it's always yours: do you want to survive, or thrive? Do you you want to exist or live? Do you want to live a small constrained cooped life, or live your life huge, spread your growing wings and soar?


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