Flinching Again

8 replies on “Flinching Again”

Here’s my rant about The Flinch and its ilk: emotional pain does not benefit us. I keep hearing people talk about the glory of taking the bruises and scars of wading into the fight with your bare hands.


Here’s how it’s done: that scary shape in the corner? Sure, you could leap across the room and get all banged up, wrestling it into submission.

Or you could shine a light on it and discover that it’s a pair of jeans over the back of a chair.

Now, I agree wholeheartedly with Steven Pressfield: you must, every day, rise up and slay Resistance.

But to stick yourself in a cold shower, to inflict discomfort on yourself as some kind of training for the fight? No. A thousand times, no. Let’s stop pretending that emotional pain benefits us; it does not. Instead, shine a light on the fear and realise that there is, in fact, nothing to be afraid of.

Training for The Flinch is arming yourself for a fight you don’t have to have.

Thanks for the honest rant, Joel. It’s good to hear opposition, it makes me think harder.

I need to think more about what you’re saying. Maybe you can elaborate.

So if you’re agreeing that you must ‘slay the Resistance’, and it is some kind of mental or emotional force like fear, then isn’t overcoming it kind of like an emotional fight?

It seems like your difference is housed in the analogy. Maybe if I’m a smart fighter, I outsmart it by shining a light, rather than use a strategy that involves pain.

Then again, ‘pain’ may be somewhat analogous itself. Emotional pain may only be doing something you’re not comfortable with. It’s not real pain, it’s just the change of breaking out of the rut, or corridor, of your usual patterns.

Maybe you can clarify what you mean by emotional pain and why it’s bad for us.

As I said, Rex, stupendous questions. I need this exercise. I feel a book coming on . . .

The emotional pain of discomfort, stepping out of our comfort zone: not what I’m talking about. This is reactive pain.

I’m talking about the proactive pain we cause ourselves by making a fight where we could have something else.

First, what we expect is what we create. I wrote about it here:

Plan for a fight, you’ll get one. But what if you could simply disbelieve Resistance out of existence? Sure, you have to do it every day. I don’t doubt that for an instant. But what if, instead of a sword or weapons of violence, we went out armed with the ability to disbelieve that Resistance had any hold on us today?

Well, isn’t that exactly what you did here?

Did you come away from those 5-minute sessions battered and bruised, even emotionally? No, you were energised, freed from fear, productive.

Think about it literally: scary shape in the corner—if you leap through the air, weapon in hand, you’ll end up hurt, whether it’s a monster or a pair of jeans over a chair. Shine a light on it, and it’s not a tool for dealing with fear, it’s a tool for making the fear irrelevant.

How often is the scary shape in your bedroom a monster, vs the number of times it’s an innocuous household item exaggerated by imagination? Let’s assume the proportions are zero percent vs one hundred percent, shall we?

I put it to you: what is the true proportion of genuinely dangerous circumstances while shipping your art, vs innocuous events exaggerated by imagination?

Good question. “…exaggerated by imagination” is true. But imagination of what? Is it of negative consequences?
Of course, it’s of ‘perceived’ negative consequeces, but at what point is our mental anaylsis valid? We need to make judgements all the time of how to act, what to say, what to do. We can’t just unilaterally say they are all wrong and motivated by the lizard brain. I do have a regular brain too.

How do you tell good judgement from weak judgement? There’s always a reason.

Agreed: emotional threats and pain are valid, perhaps even more than physical.

Continuing my analogy, though: which is a better solution to the scary shape in the corner, regardless of what it turns out to be? Dive in, in the dark, or start with more light? And once the light is on and we see that it is, indeed, a Scary Thing, which is better, to attack with fists and blood or to talk it into giving up peacefully?

That last has to be proven possible, I realise, which would be the point of my book.

This conversation is really helping, Rex. Thanks.

Well then, we might as well keep it going. Plus, if someone sees a post with a whole bunch of comments, they might think I’ve got a huge following and really active blog. (I guess until they actually look at who’s commenting. But hopefully, if they’re curious enough to find out why we’re having such a conversation, maybe they’ll actually read it… and learn something.)

Meanwhile, back to your analogy, does it work in multiple situations or circumstances? I’m sure it does, but here are two different cases I’m thinking about (and I know there are more) where fighting lizard brain thinking applies.

One, is in the case of a major goal or accomplishment, like writing a book, or climbing a mountain, or becoming an accomplished pianist. You have fear, or status quo to overcome with thoughts like, “I can’t do that. That’s not like me. I don’t deserve that kind of achievment. etc.” So you have to squash the lizard brain on a consistent basis, over time, to accomplish your goal.

The second example is when you have to make snap judgement or decisions on the spot, like when you’re sitting in a meeting and you think of something to say, but then rationalize why you shouldn’t say it and end up just being quiet. Or when you see a stranger in a situation where you could relate and you could say something friendly to them, but then hold back because you don’t want to make a scene, or you think that you’re not really an outgoing friendly type of person, so that would be weird of you to say something.

So you can see the similarity of these two situations where the lizard brain holds you back, but I could give different examples of the second situation where thinking and rationalizing may be a good thing. Like say I usually mouth off without thinking, but instead, try to hold my tongue and observe and listen more during the meeting. Am I being smarter in this case? Maybe I want to be a more quiet and observant person. But then I wouldn’t have those thoughts of wanting to speak up, would I?

Or would I?

Let me clarify: I’m not suggesting that we don’t have to overcome Resistance. I’m saying we do, absolutely, but that it does not have to be a violent struggle. It can be peaceful.

You’re in that meeting with a thought to share. Your lizard brain speaks up, but you’re prepared. You’ve planned in advance that you’ll speak your mind, trusting in your professionalism, skillset, and good manners to allow you to speak spontaneously without fear.

Preparation and confidence can overcome Resistance without violence.

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