August 20

The Plane is on Fire!

August 20, 2014

Personal Growth

I have worked with a great number of people who have claimed that they wanted to make major changes in their lives. Jack was one of these. He’d been to quite a number of therapists, none of whom had made any difference at all.

He listened well to the easy principles I taught him, but when it came to actually making changes in his long-established beliefs, feelings, and behaviors, he began to resist. He abandoned the loving feelings he had enjoyed in our early conversations, and instead withdrew into his head, from which he argued and defended himself.

“Jack,” I said, “I know you’re afraid. You’ve been afraid all your life. And not a single thing you’ve done has eliminated the crippling fear. Unconditional love is the one power most likely to help you, but instead of focusing entirely on feeling that, you’re repeating your fears—over and over—while defending the lies of a lifetime. You’re stuck. You think that if you keep doing the same old stuff you’ve always done, somehow a miracle will happen, and your life will change.”

“I’m not doing this on purpose,” Jack said

“I didn’t say you were. But I am saying that you’re not taking this seriously enough. You’re not trusting what I’m saying, and you’re not trusting my love for you.”

“But I am trusting you.”

“No, you’re not. If you were, you wouldn't be this miserable, and you wouldn't be defending yourself with every breath.”

“Maybe I’m not ready,” Jack said.

“Maybe, but that’s just an easy way to avoid any risk. Now you’re at a place where doing nothing may be emotionally fatal.”

“What do you mean?”

“How many years have you been alive?” I asked.

“Fifty-two.”

“In all those years, how many people have loved you unconditionally—not just liked you or been nice to you, but loved you in the way that I've been doing? How many people have directly told you how you can get out of the hole you’re in and find the kind of happiness you've never had?”

“Nobody.”

“If only one person has been this loving and direct with you in fifty-two years, it’s highly unlikely that it will happen again. And that doesn't mean you have to do anything I suggest—not at all. But I am saying that this is not a casual opportunity.

I continued: “You’re in an airplane that’s on fire and on its way to the ground. The results will be catastrophic. And I’m handing you a parachute. You can set the parachute on the floor, or just hold it in your hands, but if you wait long enough, the plane will crash—with you in it. You don’t have forever to think about it. I’m not afraid. I’m not in a hurry, nor am I pushing you. I’m just telling you that if you don’t put on the parachute, you really, really won’t like the results.

“But I've been studying self-help stuff for years. And I’ve read Real Love books and attended conference calls. It’s not like I've done nothing.”

“You’re right. You have done some things. Metaphorically speaking, you’ve read some materials on flying and on parachutes. You've watched some people pack their chutes. You’ve gone up in a plane, but each time you’ve had an opportunity to jump, you've backed away from the door and taken your seat. But now the plane is on fire—I’m not exaggerating for effect—and it’s going down with you in it. Now it’s not enough to say that you packed a chute and that you've been in planes before. Now the only thing left is to jump. In your case that means to trust. Either you trust—you jump—or you go down.”

“How can I know if I’m jumping?”

“Easy. You leap into the unknown and leave behind the old ways: fear, anger, controlling, victimhood—all the stuff you’ve known for a lifetime.”

“Scary.”

“Yes, it can be. If you jump, for a while you might feel alienated from family and friends who are choosing to stay on the burning plane. It’s scary to leave behind almost everything you’re accustomed to, just as it’s frightening to jump out of a plane. But look at the choices. If you jump, yes, there is a POSSIBILITY that you could be hurt, or that it would be unpleasant. But if you don’t jump, your death is CERTAIN. The plane really is on fire and falling. It WILL crash. I’m offering you a parachute. So exactly what do you have to lose by putting it on and jumping? And I’ll be with you as you do it.”

We have a tendency to avoid making big changes in our lives. We’re afraid. At some point, however, NOT making the big changes becomes far more dangerous than the risk of making them.

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