Taboo vaccines and fear inoculations

She looked down at the screaming woman’s face and instantly felt her stomaching tightening up into a tense little knot.  

The fierce and wild expression seemed out of place with all of the softer pictures and words in her collage.

Like someone else had stuck it there by accident, or worse, glued it there intentionally to make her sick.

Over the last few weeks I’ve done four vision board workshops and spoke with dozens of women about what they see in their collages.

Each collage is made up of cut-out images and words that my clients choose quickly and then edit and arrange on their boards with care.

When the collages are all done and everyone has started talking about the lovely things they see in their boards, I shift speed and throw out a doozy of a question. 

What part of the collage makes you feel uncomfortable?

That was the question I asked that led us to “the scream.”

The question hits hard, especially since all of the other questions are as sweet and cuddly as a basket full of puppies. 

It’s my favorite question. (And no, I’m not a sadist.)

So, why do I love that question so much?

What we recoil from and find irritating, repulsive or just flat out unacceptable (mostly in others) is the proverbial “pot of goal” of personal development. 

It helps us uncover a desire or need that seems totally off-limits to us. Unauthorized. Unorthodox. Taboo. 

Watching others nonchalantly behave in that taboo way feels like nails across a chalkboard. Just plain wrong! 

But, you want what, it’s not about them, it’s about you. 

The reason that image or behavior shocks us is because we need a little bit of it in our lives. Let me explain.

Like a vaccine shot to protect us from getting deathly ill, we need a little bit of what repulses us to balance out the rest. 

What we can’t stand in others is what we’re missing (to a certain degree) in ourselves. 

Here are some examples:

Repulsion: That “pretentious snob” of a co-worker who’s loud and outspoken in meetings even though his ideas are so basic and boring.

Vaccine: Accepting imperfection. 

Next steps Don’t kill your ideas before they’ve hatched. Share them even when you’re not 100% convinced others will appreciate them. 

Repulsion: That “selfish” and “insensitive” friend who always arrives late. Always. And never apologizes for it. 

Vaccine: Living in the present. 

Next steps: What’s most important to you right now? If there were no consequences to any of your decisions, what would you decide to do?

Repulsion: That “rigid” co-worker who’s “inflexibility” and “hesitation” keeps everything stuck in standstill.   

Vaccine: Slowing down the process. 

Next steps: What would happen if you slowed down the process and embraced the journey without racing to the destination? 

You see where I’m going with this?

Now let’s get back to that screaming face in the first sentence of this post. What did my client find so repulsive about it? 

As a new entrepreneur starting out in the wellness business, it was a reminder of how scared she is about speaking publicly about her new profession and how terrified she is that she’ll never get over her insecurities.

What she realized during the workshop was that the scream symbolizes brazenness, intensity, determination. The exact qualities, in vaccine-size-doses, that she needs to develop in order to live off of what she loves. 

It boils down to identifying (and accepting), rather than reacting to and recoiling from what makes us uncomfortable, like the dragons in this famous Rainer Maria Rilke quote:

“How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races—the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses. Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”

Where does this mean for you?

  • Next time you have a strong reaction/repulsion to someone’s behavior, move beyond the “EEK” feeling and try and see what bothers you so much. 

  • What has this person allowed themselves to do/be that offends you so much ?

  • When you peel back the onion, what permission in its purest form is at the root of their behavior (honesty, spontaneity, self-love )?

  • What vaccine-size-dose of that permission could you inject yourself with?

  • What one thing could you try differently now that you’ve been inoculated?

Keep me posted on what you uncover, and if you want to go further and tackle some more of taboos, reach out and book a call with me.

Photo by Gabriel Matula on Unsplash