After more than 20 years working with spiritual, creative women in the areas of empowerment, success and manifestation, I have a wealth of observations about what helps and what hinders our fulfillment.
Today I want to talk about one of those things that hinders our success ~though our intention is to protect our beautiful essence and precious talents. I’m going to request that you keep an open heart and mind because this is delicate topic which can bring out defensiveness or a quick “that’s not me” reaction that could lead you to missing something valuable.
I’m risking entering these deep waters because what I’m going to dive into is essential in our ability to grow our business, share our gifts and succeed. My intention is to open a space of exploration where we can examine if, how, when or with whom we tend to respond in ways that hinder our success and to practice a shift in our response that opens new horizons for our growth, empowerment and success.
This article has four sections:
- What is Fear-based Reactivity vs. Free-choice Response and my personal stories to shed light into how they manifest in real life.
- Reflections on Success as a Path of Freedom and on how these two choices help or hinder a woman’s business, mission, purpose or success
- Journal writing questions for you to do your own exploration, and
- A resource section.
Fear-based Reactivity vs. Free-choice Response
I work with Emotional Alchemy, the creative and intentional transformation or channeling of emotions towards our growth, health and free choices.
I have come to see that what we call “negative” emotions are often Constrictive Emotions. They are constrictive because they are fear-based. Fear constricts our capacity to understand, process and respond creatively.
The emotions we perceive as “positive” ~by contrast~ are Expansive Emotions. The are expansive because they are love-based. Love allows us to reach out and connect. It plugs us into Oneness, dissolving defensiveness, isolation and separation.
In the same manner, our responses to life can be fear-based or love-based. Most of the time for the majority of people our responses are what I call Primary Responses. This mean that they are triggered instantly, consistently and subconsciously whenever certain situation activates a Story Field or memory file in our psyche.
Fear-based Reactivity is then a Primary Response ~usually learned~ to situations that our subconscious determines threatening.
Free-Choice Response ~in contrast~ is a fresh, creative response to a new situation, taking it within its context instead of overlaying our past onto it.
My Before and After Stories
Since this is a space for practical exploration ~not intellectual elucidation~ I’m going to share stories that allow you to see how these two terms show up in our real life when we are sharing our gifts, embodying our purpose or serving the world.
My Fear-based Reactive Story
In my 20s-30s I was a rebel and very defensive of my creative freedom. There was a lot of family wounding and baggage around that defensiveness.
Early on my young adult life ~when I was in college~ my family shone me for being different, thinking differently, being an artist and having a different political perception of the world and worse still ~speaking that truth openly.
There are few things as painful as being evicted from your core tribe, you family. It leaves a young person who is coming out in the world completely exposed, vulnerable and afraid.
This lead to me adopting a rebel stance in life. This stance was protecting my heart, protecting my autonomy and protecting my creativity.
This Story Field was archived in my psyche in connection to anyone who would question my creativity, political view or my right to speak freely.
Unfortunately, Story Fields are often activated by unconscious triggers, and we end up linking new opportunities with old scary stories, which then makes us react defensively to the unknown… and of course, anything new or bigger than what we have experienced is unknown.
So here is just one instance, one mini-story of how I consistently blew opportunities because of my Fear-based Reactivity.
At the time this story took place I was writing theater reviews for a small political newspaper when the editor of “The Village Voice,” a well known NY culturally-focused newspaper called me to offer me a position writing theater reviews.
That was a great opportunity. It would have build my name as a writer and given me entry to write about other topics in the “mainstream” artistic NY world.
What did I do with this unexpected opportunity?
It was something new and bigger than what I had experienced, so I resorted to my Primary Response of rebellious defensiveness, and I said:
“Well, I will consider it if you print everything exactly as I write it and do not censure anything.”
Of course, I did not get that opportunity.
My Free-choice Response Story
Fast forward decades later…
At the time this story took place, I had just started my business and was seeking partners for promotion. I called a woman who had a huge network of radio programs for women. I told her my idea, but she kept saying NO to all my partnering ideas.
However, I noticed that she stayed on the line. Instead of reacting to her “Nos” as rejection and activating my Fear-based Reactivity, I decided to interpret this as an opportunity. I stopped talking and said to her:
“You are still here, so I’m going to take this as interest. But nothing I’ve offered you resonates with you. So I’m not talking anymore. I am listening. What would work for you?”
This response was radically different than my old defensive reactions. Firstly, it did not carry a negative interpretation to a “No.” It did not see it as rejection, judgment or a door slammed close on my face. I don’t remember if it triggered my Shoned Young Adult Wounded Self, but if it did, I did not allow that old story to contaminate this new opportunity.
I was able to perceive the opportunity because I could see past a negative interpretation of “no” to the fact that the lady ~as busy as she was~ still stayed on the line and was listening.
I had learned to shift my Primary Response of Fear-based Reactivity to a more receptive, open perception of the current moment. This fresh, free and intentional receptivity is what I term Free-Choice Response.
Once I started listening to her needs and desires, the conversation completely changed. The lady told me what she was looking for and we begin to see the points of connection where we could help each other.
The end of this story is that she offered me a program to reach Latinas, with all of the resources of her network at my disposal.
Two very different endings to two instances where opportunity was either evident or latent.
What allowed me to see opportunities in spite of the many “nos” was my capacity to detach from my old limiting fear-based stories. Detachment is a little-understood shamanic tool. People believe that detachment is cold and impersonal. But in fact, it is an act of self-love and connection where we detach from old limitations, interpretations and expectations to allow fresh new life to flow into our being and our life.
Success as a Path of Freedom
When we are sharing our gifts or embodying our purpose, success ceases to be about personal achievement and becomes linked to our life purpose. We do not want to lead with our ego. Conversely we can’t risk playing or staying small because we have gifts, messages and talents we want to share with the world to make a difference!
Our success becomes a spiritual path. It is now linked to our spiritual evolution, to our BIG why.
In order to transmute those old fences in our mind that keep us within learned Primary Responses, we must walk what the shaman calls The Path of Freedom; where we dismantle the walls keeping us in the ghetto of our fear and we open a clear, expansive path to our unfolding potential and universal possibilities.
When we want to transform the world, we reach a point where we understand that this transformation starts from within. At that point we dedicate an extraordinary amount of time, energy and resources to our personal growth.
Then we spend a ton of time learning new skills, developing our wisdom and expertise and lastly, developing our business, service, creations or offers.
So why, after all this learning, changing, growing and dedication, would we blow an opportunity, react defensively in a way that throws a bad light upon us or sabotage ourselves by “shooting” our allies?
Simply because we are human. And as humans, one of the most challenging areas to test our personal growth is relationship. And ~connected to this~ the other area is visibility.
Trust as the Test for Freedom
It is easy to trust when we are working in isolation. Alone with ourselves, we are wise beyond measure. We “know” everything we’ve studied. We have changed our habits and we are free of all old stories…. until we meet someone who pushes our buttons.
What happens when we are thrown in relationships that feel threatening, that push our buttons or feel that they are questioning our authority? Perhaps we come out with our gift and someone attacks, criticizes or questions us.
Or how do we respond when we are suddenly given an opportunity to become visible, something scary-new? Perhaps we are offered an interview, a cross-promotional opportunity, to be included in an anthology, to participate in a telesummit, to get a huge contract, to lead a high-profile project?
I have noticed that it is at those moments that my true level of freedom, detachment, clarity and courage (vs. fear) is tested.
- Have you been tested like this? Have you been able to dive into the opportunity ~not blindly~ but trusting yourself to walk into the unknown?
- Or have you begun to doubt yourself, to remember all your horror stories and finally succumbed to either withdrawal or defensive counter-attack that transmuted an opportunity into a problem or worse?
Through the years I have worked and researched success in the life of spiritual, creative women I have had the sad opportunity to observe talented, beautiful, spiritual creative women who are loving and giving –and yet when they meet a visibility opportunity come out with gun in hand “shooting” their allies–or at the other extreme– with begging hands outstretched.
And when they meet a feedback that is negative they instantly get defensive and either counter-attack or allow the other person’s opinion to send them down a black hole of despair and self-doubt.
Detachment and Shifting
So how do we detach from those old fear-based stories that are triggered with the unknown?
How do we shift from Fear-based Reactivity to Free-choice Response?
First, we detach from the stories. We take a step back and become The Witness, so that even when we are feeling the fear, anger, defensiveness and threat; we can observe that part of us that is free, infinite and wise.
It’s like taming a wild horse inside us. We talk to it gently as we hold its reins. We do not allow it to run in panic with our response.
Then, we breathe into that fear, accepting and allowing it while we step out of the story that is causing it. We stop being The Victim in an old story written by others long ago and become The Creatress, writing her new story of creating the life she wants.
The Creatress knows that she is the author of her life. She knows that she have choices and a creative genius that can transmute an apparent obstacle into a bridge to new possibilities.
This is what I did in my “After” story. I transmuted that “No” into an amazing opportunity. It was there. All I had to do was see and seize it.
Had I stayed in fear, I would not have been able to perceive the possibility in that chain of “Nos.” But by shifting into the creative receptivity of the Free-choice Responsiveness I was able to stay open enough to invite the fresh possibilities latent in the present moment. Until I open a space for these possibilities to shine through they were invisible. Had I slammed the door, they would have never filtered through.
Over to you. Do you recognize the difference between Fear-based Reactivity and Free-choice Response? Have they played a role in your life? What has been the outcome?
Journal Writing Questions
- How do you or how can you stand in your core truth and self-authority when you feel challenged, attacked, rejected or questioned in your gifts or expertise?
- What measures or process do you have or can you put in place to avoid reacting from fear and instead centering yourself to respond from a place of both self-authority and love/respect for others?
Don Miguel Ruiz, Renown Toltec spiritual teacher and best selling author is a great guide in the Path of Personal Freedom.
His book “The Four Agreements” transmits a core map to move into Free-choice based on our personal power, creativity and divine connection.
One of those agreements, the second one, is Do not take things personally.
Here’s an interview of Don Miguel done by Oprah in Supersoul Sunday.
Learn more about Don Miguel at his website: https://www.miguelruiz.com
Check out the book at Amazon here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1878424319/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i0