What holds us back at the edge of the cliff? What might happen if we took that leap?
Phil Stutz is a psychiatrist based in Hollywood who has mentored and collaborated with therapist Barry Michels, and Stutz was interviewed earlier this year in an extensive New Yorker article by Dana Goodyear that discussed the pair's innovative approach to helping their clients overcome creative blocks, fear of failure and feelings of worthlessness. I found many of their concepts provocative and even inspiring, particularly Stutz's embrace of risk:
The risk you take has a feedback effect on the unconscious. The unconscious will give you ideas and it wants you to act on them. The more courage you have when you act, the more ideas it will give you.
This quote evokes for me the feeling of standing at a cliff's edge, anticipating the thrill to come if I take the leap, but held back by fear--of a crash landing, of unanticipated difficulties, of the shame that would accompany failure. But Stutz's framing encourages me to see that my fear--and my courage--can be self-reinforcing through their influence on my unconscious, and that taking a bold leap can be a powerful way of breaking fear's grip and unleashing my courage.
(I highly recommend not only Goodyear's article but also Michels' discussion of Stutz's deceptively simple stick figure "therapy drawings" [PDF, 3.7 MB].)
Update: I was recently reminded of a similar post from just over five years ago: Doug Sundheim on Taking Risks
It's instructive to ask Sundheim's question--When in my life have I felt most alive?--and to realize that when I've quelled my fears and pushed myself to take meaningful risks, the reward has been a renewed sense of passion, a clearer sense of purpose, and a deeper connection with life.
Clearly a theme that holds some ongoing meaning for me!
Update 2: Stutz and Michels published The Tools in 2012, and although I haven't read it yet, it appears to be an interesting discussion of their philosophy and methods.
Photo by Justin Ornellas. Yay Flickr and Creative Commons.