Saturday, August 20, 2011

Clinging To The Familiar

Canyons of the Colorado Plateau
by Daisy Gilardini
People do not know the extent to which "clinging to the familiar" and "fear of the unfamiliar" affect their lives.  This force is so prevalent in all areas of human encounter that just not knowing about it constitutes a major muddle.  What am I talking about?  I am saying that people will cling to the familiar, only because it is familiar, even when doing so may be highly destructive, inhibiting and even paralyzing.  They would rather stick to old and bad jobs and continue to stay in long-standing destructive relationships than go on to much-improved but uncharted territory.  The statement, "At least I know what I've got," is a highly significant one, but few people really know what force this clinging to the familiar plays in their lives.  Knowing this---that you don't want to do something or to meet someone only because you haven't done so before, can often enable you to break a stultifying inhibition.  This can help you to open the door to uncharted and enriching territory.    Psychiatrist  know only too well how patients stick to their neuroses, anxieties and depression, however painful, because these have become commonplace to them.  For any person to meet new, really new, situations and new people, really new people, with openness and without the banner of prejudice and prejudgment often born of fear of the unfamiliar, means taking a chance.  But this can be such an interesting, potentially rewarding chance!  This cannot be done if you are unaware that you are afraid of the unfamiliar.  You may not even be aware that you have narrowed your life's activities and relationships down to a minimum "safe" and repetitious pattern, which   guarantees no contact with anything outside (unfamiliar).  Or you may be aware of a tight and narrow existence but unaware of how come or what can be done about it.

It is therefore necessary to examine yourself and your recent activities and to question:  Have you done anything new lately?  Have you been to museums that you never before visited?  Have you read books with new ideas that you never encountered before?  Have you gone to places that you've never been to before or met people (and different kinds of people) that you haven't known before?  Have you explored new job possibilities or the possibility of new business and cultural enterprises?  If the answer is no, no and more no, then try to open up and become aware of the extent to which you cling to known territory.

Of course being in touch with your assets and having greater self-esteem and greater feeling for values and self will be enormously helpful in exploring new areas.  People with little feeling for who they are rely very heavily on a known environment (and status quo---place, job, people) to give them a sense of identity.  Though they do not know it and are only aware of increased anxiety---getting into new areas, especially new human encounters, often represents a potential and terrifying loss of identity.  Some people cannot step out of the familiar until they have greater certainty about who they are and the solid emotional awareness that they will continue to be themselves wherever they go and whatever they do.  Some people, of course, need professional help in order to accomplish this.

* An excerpt from THE WINNER'S NOTEBOOK by, Theodore Isaac Rubin, M.D.

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