We stare at forests and see different shades of green. We marvel at the strength and size of tree trunks. We happily enjoy the fruits and flowers that plants provide.
We nearly always forget about the roots.
For a blog called “Deep & Below,” it should come as no surprise that I speak of things beneath the surface. The roots are where it all starts, where everything can be traced back to. Everyone knows this, but because it’s not immediately available in our line of sight, we skip over the roots. We see it all except the truth.
Getting to the roots is a practice I’m trying to encourage in my daily life. When we fully examine where our actions, thoughts, and beliefs stem from, we become unstuck. It is from focusing on our roots that we are able to grow.
The Roots of Our Worries
Careers, relationships, money, health—all of our fears come from a source. Identifying the source is instrumental to feeling more at peace with our worries.
It’s a complex practice but, like everything, it’s one that gets easier over time. I try to break it down like this:
- Name the fear. I have a fear of throwing up. I had it really bad as a kid, the fear went away in college, and then (not coincidentally, I imagine) it resurfaced this past year when I was dealing with E. coli and other unknown stomach troubles.
- Why does it scare me? I capital-H Hate the discomfort and the buildup. No one likes being or feeling sick, but all time stops when you’re throwing up. You can’t distract yourself, you can’t stop it from happening, there isn’t really a cure, it’s just your body taking over and feeling miserable.
- Why does that scare me? This is where I focus on an aspect of what I described that stands out to me. I think I hate the feeling of not being in control.
- And why does that scare me? I can’t protect myself if something bad happens. I try to be so in control in every other part of my life that throwing up is almost more of a social fear and a character flaw than it is feeling sick. I don’t want people thinking there’s something wrong with me or worrying too much; I want to be the one who always gets to write the narrative for how I’m perceived
“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” – Mark Twain
Clearly, I could keep going on this path. That’s the thing about roots: they branch out. But for now, it’s time for a conclusion.
What reminders can I give myself to work through this fear? Being in control is not what life is about. Letting go of the reins is truly how we grow. Sickness sucks, but it’s temporary, and it’s a sign that our body needs to do its thing—and we need to respect that.
I’m not here to say “get over your fears,” because I learned firsthand this past year that most fears never truly go away. Instead of trying to will something into nonexistence, getting to the roots of our fears can help us understand them more. Having fears by our side as companions takes away the shame and makes them lose their power.
The Roots of Our Thoughts
Our brains go down negative pathways far more frequently than we realize. Making quick judgments about someone (or ourselves), determining whether someone is or isn’t capable, it happens very fast and very often.
It’s a good exercise to break down these thought patterns in the same manner of breaking down our fears, but there’s also a simpler, faster way to check in. I got this from @millennial.therapist Sarah Kuburić:
How am I speaking to myself today (e.g. critical, supportive)?
Am I acting in a way that resonates with who I am?
I use “thinking” interchangeably with “speaking to myself” when reflecting. Check in with these questions throughout the day to set your roots growing in a good direction.
The Roots of Our Beliefs
This is such a complex branch that I won’t dive too deep in this blog alone. There are some questions I think everyone should ask themselves regarding their own personal beliefs:
- Where did this belief come from (chances are, it did not just come from you)?
- Where are the cracks in this belief?
- Put another way, what would a smart, rational, logical person on the other side of this belief say (playing devil’s advocate)?
- Do I have the right to speak on this belief?
- For example, if a white person thinks police brutality isn’t a thing, they likely aren’t affected by it like members of the Black community are, and therefore can’t speak to the experiences of those who are affected.
- When do I generalize with this belief, and how is this dangerous?
- I think people driving trucks (i.e. Dodge or Chevy trucks, not actual truck drivers) in cities like Fort Collins are super annoying, particularly when they blow exhaust and rev their engines. I immediately generalize this with conservative white boys who don’t actually need a truck, and are the epitome of toxic masculinity. However, this isn’t fair a) to the many people who do use trucks for work and b) to the fact that a person doesn’t have to have a reason to buy a truck. A person has a right to a truck just as I have a right to my Toyota Corolla.
- Is my belief helping or hurting others? If the answer is hurting, then it’s time I change my belief.
Many people love to stay on the surface. The grit and grime where our roots live is incomprehensibly uncomfortable to navigate. But avoiding the roots, the source of it all is never the solution. We are happier, more thoughtful, and better as a whole when we make digging deep a habit.
Feature image via Unsplash