#117 The Impasse


“Thinking is rehearsing in fantasy for the role you have to play to society. And when it comes to the moment of performance, and you’re not sure whether your performance will be well received, then you get stage fright.”

“This stage fright has been given by psychiatry the name “anxiety”.
“What will I have to say on the examination?”
“What will I say in my lecture?”
You meet a girl and you think, “What will I wear to impress her?” And so on.
All this rehearsing for the role you play.”

Anxiety is rampant in our culture. Bruce Lee calls it stage fright because we are rehearsing the role we think we have to play, a role that may be inauthentic to our true self. This anxiety and rehearsal means that we are not fully in the present moment and are not actively engaged in our life. If we over think a situation then we are likely to feel more anxiety about the situation because we are imagining every possible outcome.

Sometimes we rehearse for tough conversations. We are anxious that we will forget to say something in the heat of the conversation. If you get overwhelmed in a conversation it is ok to say “I am feeling flustered right now.” It is ok to express your feelings.

Rehearsing for these types of conversations can actually cause you to have anxiety about the conversation or become flustered during it because these conversations never follow a script. We do not know how other people will behave or what they will say, and it is usually not how you rehearsed it in your head.

“In this neurosis a part of our personality or of our potential is not available.”

When we are caught up in this overthinking and rehearsing, causing our anxiety, then we are not present. There is a piece of us that is not fully available.

This rehearsing is an attempt at control. Rehearsing for a sensitive conversation is our attempt to make sure we say everything we want to say. But it is ok to return to the conversation if we forget something we wanted to say.

If we think of a sensitive conversation in the context of winning or losing, or trying to control the other person, it is already a failure from the beginning.

“If you can stay with an “awareness continuum”, “discovering”, and “becoming” fully aware of each experience, you will soon come across some experience that is unpleasant – this critical moment is the interruption of whatever we are experiencing in the now. The interruption of the awareness continuum prevents maturation, prevents therapy from becoming successful, prevents marriage from becoming richer and deeper and prevents inner conflicts from being resolved.”

Bruce Lee calls this the “Avoidance Tendency.” This is when we are going through life fully engaged in the moment and then something unpleasant happens that jars us. Instead of dealing with it, healing it, acknowledging it, we shut it down and avoid it. This prevents our growth and maturation.

“The whole purpose of the avoidance tendency is to maintain the status quo. (And what is the status quo? The status quo is holding onto the concept that we are children). We are infantile because we are afraid to take responsibility in the now. To take our place in history, to be mature, means giving up the concept that we have parents, that we have to be submissive or defiant, or the other variations on the child’s role that we play.”

This is not to say that we should pretend that we do not have actual parents or that we should dismiss them, but rather this is about how we show up in the world as individuals.

“Maturation is the development from environmental support to self-support. However the neurotic child will use his potential, not for self support, but to act out the roles. These phony roles are meant to mobilize the environment for support instead of mobilizing one’s own potential. We manipulate the environment by being helpless, by staying stupid, by asking endless questions, wheedling flattery – the result is that we come to the sticking point or the impasse.”

The impasse is when we are not growing and are stuck in that neurotic child state.

“The impasse occurs when we cannot produce our own support and when environmental support is not forthcoming.”

We have all hit an impasse in our lives where we get stuck and want someone else to come along and make it better. At this impasse we have not yet developed the skills to take care of ourselves. When we are in an impasse we want our environment to take care of us instead of looking within for our own calmness, joy, and happiness.

We are meant to have multiple impasses in life because they are signals for areas of growth. When we reach this moment and we are looking around for someone to make it better, we should look within ourselves and ask, “How do I feel better? What do I need to find and grow within myself to feel better?”

This is about learning to know ourselves and discovering what brings us joy.

This is not to say that we should never ask for help, sometimes asking for help from others is the way to move beyond the impasse and help ourselves.

“The impasse occurs when we cannot produce our own support and when environmental support is not forthcoming. Then one person has no eyes, another no ears, another no legs to stand on, another no perspective, another no emotion. In order to fill these voids, which are usually experienced as boredom with life, emptiness, loneliness, we have to get through the impasse and through the frustrations of the impasse, which usually lead us to shortcut the frustrations and with them the whole learning process.”

As we grow and mature, we bring a sense of peace, joyfulness, and accomplishment to the hard parts of life we encounter.

“I know that I will have done the best that I could have done and I was the most sincere. What more do you want out of life?”

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