“Again, we are daily forced to choose between depression and anxiety. Depression results from the wounding of the individuation imperative; anxiety results from moving forward into the unknown. That path of anxiety is necessary because therein lies the hope of the person to more nearly become an individual. My analyst once said to me, “You must make your fears your agenda.” When we do take on that agenda, for all the anxiety engendered, we feel better because we know we are living in ‘bonne foi’ [good faith] with ourselves. Courage is not the absence of fear. It is the perception that some things are more important to us than what we fear.” ― James Hollis, Swamplands of the Soul: New Life in Dismal Places
James Hollis challenges the stories we tell ourselves to stay on course. We tell ourselves to stick with the plan, to not deviate into dalliances of adventure and irresponsibility, to do what must be done… but is that living in good faith—bonne foi—with our hopes and dreams? What matters most to us anyway?
The thing is, we each have the promises we make to ourselves about what we’ll do when we get past whatever responsibility has a hold of us at the present moment. Pretty stories about career path and mortgages and obligations. Les mensonges que nous nous disons de continuer.
We do a disservice to ourselves by limiting ourselves to what feels comfortable. We know we ought to do more and yet hold ourselves back for reasons that feel just real enough in the moment to justify the safe route. We slowly extinguish our life force for the mundane and routine. What a depressing agenda that is.
Alternatively, we might choose to feed the spark:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like a flame
and make big shadows I can move in.
— Rainer Maria Rilke, Go to the Limits of Your Longing
There’s no time to waste, we must be the arsonist with the deadwood in our soul. We must feel the fear of the unknown and do it anyway. We must embrace the imperative to reach our potential while there’s still time. Some things are more important than what we fear.