I had a dream. I was in a white-water kayak and I was on a river. The river was swift, but did not contain rapids, at least not on the stretch I was supposed to boat. I was out ahead of my friends and swept right past the take-out. In my pleasure I'd ignored it. And ahead was a bend in the river and the roaring sound and a hint of white that told me there were standing waves. The next thing I know I'm on the bank, in a woods, and I'm having a head-slapping moment: "Oh yeah. I didn't make a plan for transporting the boat and myself back upriver! How could I have missed that!" That feeling is sharpened by the realization that I am keeping waiting people I was supposed to meet at the take-out, now upstream of me. I return to the boat, trying to work my way upriver by using the eddies, or areas of slack current adjacent to the bank. I see that I am in the midst of downed timber, floating alongside me. I have a vague feeling of alarm, and I can hear the voice of an old boyfriend saying "I don't do anything around logs."
The dream reminded me of kayaking trips. My mind was flooded with an image of me, in a boat, people waiting downstream of a tricky rapid to negotiate, and me, paralyzed with fear. Me, terrified of that first moment of commitment, because I'm not at all certain I have the skill to thread that needle, not get turned sideways and breeched, the force of the water bending the boat and breaking my legs. Or pinned underwater, knowing I'm beyond help and that I will feel the water flood my lungs when I can no longer resist the imperative to inhale. Worse, I'm afraid that my own fear will cause me to seize up and therefore fail to make the hair-trigger decisions that are required to be effectively responsive.
Not that I was ever in a situation that was quite so dramatically desperate. I'm afraid my over-active imagination is biased toward worst-case scenarios (which has worsened since having kids).
Still, I thought I'd examine that moment of recoil, where I feel myself on the brink of something and draw back in horror. For a split second I feel a ghost of the actual experience, of what something would feel like in my body--the moment I launch, of terror, the moment of surrender, the moment of knowing that this is my last.
All that was based on a belief that I couldn't count on myself. That in a moment where a split-second decision was required I'd be unable to deliver. Fearing fear itself, and fearing the self who fears.
Basically, I believed that self was trying to kill me. And I suddenly realized that in a way my life has been based on this belief that left to its own devices, my self would ruin everything I cherish, cause me to make bad choices, could never be happy and would make endless demands that would drive whatever I wanted away from me.
I tried to outwit her. I tried to subvert her with positive affirmations, with censoring "negative" thoughts, of censoring desire thoughts. I blamed her for everything from relationships that went badly to picking the slow line at the grocery store.
So who was trying to kill whom?
I realized as I mulled this over that the paralyzing fear at the top of a rapid was not an effort of a subversive self to keep me from functioning optimally. It was as loud and clear a message as possible that I didn't have the skills I needed to negotiate that problem. Rather than trying to kill me, she was mutinying against what she must have perceived as me trying to kill her.