The major news last night was that at literally the 11th hour Congress was able to pass a bipartisan bill which President Obama signed – the result being the long government shutdown now being over and the raising of the debt ceiling. Essentially the bill represents a stopgap measure, buying more time until early next year. Unless a more comprehensive budget package gets passed, we will be going through this same artificial crisis again in a few months.

In making his announcement last night, the President voiced his hope that we learned our lessons from these events and his optimism that both parties would come together for the good of the nation. I hope he is right.

Robert Redford Speaks Out

Interestingly, there was another story in the news last night – one not getting as much attention. Actor Robert Redford was promoting his new movie in an interview with CNN when their conversation shifted into the political arena. Here is a link to the full article including for his call for more voices of women and young people in our political system.

When asked about the government shutdown and the recent fiscal debates, Redford made the following comments:

“It’s so divided now with the people that are so narrow and so limited that they would take us back into the past. And I was trying to figure out, why are these people behaving so stupidly? Why are they behaving so horribly that it’s crippling our whole country? And I think it has to do with fear. I think it’s a group of people that are so afraid of change, and they’re so narrow-minded that some people — when they see change coming — get so threatened by change, they get angry and they get terrorized, and then they get vicious. I think that’s who these people are. They’re so afraid of change that they’re behaving miserably.”

Redford is voicing what most of us feel. We may politely make comments like “all our politicians need to come together” and “our system is broken and we need to fix it” which paint broad strokes over everyone involved in our federal government – but inside we can’t help but feel that the real issue is our inability to deal with the fear-based minority who are purposefully disrupting our government. Yes, these individuals may voice some political opinions which many of us can agree with – ensuring fiscal responsibility within our government and limiting unnecessary governmental intrusions into our personal lives are probably ideas that resonate with most of us. But their actions unfortunately speak louder than their words. Their actions are irrational and destructive to America. Their actions are based upon their fears. It’s time these fears were faced and released.

Fear Has an Evolutionary Basis

Fear can be useful. Fear has served our evolutionary past. A healthy dose of fear has protected us in situations where we might potentially be harmed. Those with no fear at all generally don’t live as long so as to reproduce and pass on those traits. Almost all of us walk around carrying some fear.

As individuals, we learned fear as a young child. When we became scared, we developed techniques to express our fear and protect ourselves. We cried, we threw temper tantrums, we learned ways to manipulate our caretakers – sometimes rational but frequently irrational ones – so as to change our circumstances until the fear subsided. When our parents gave in, we got rewarded for being disruptive. Much of our fear centered around new things that we did not understand – the fear of the unknown – the fear of any change. We acted in fear-based irrational ways in the face of new vegetables on our plate or the first day of school.

At some point in our development, we learned to control our fear. We realized that to truly maximize our success in life, we needed to place our fears in check and move boldly into change and newness. We faced our fears of going to school, of moving to new cities, taking new jobs, meeting new people and so on. Ultimately our success has been based on our navigating the tension between our fear of the unknown and growing through a life where change – and the unknown – are constant.

Facing Major Changes

Sometimes life throws us such big changes that it’s hard for us to deal with them. Anyone who has gone through such major events as the death of a loved one, loss of a job or a divorce has most likely experienced a retreat into fear wondering how they could go on after such a cataclysmic event. Yet most of us do go on – we push through the fear and get to the other side. And, with some time and some distance we can look back upon the life-changing incident and realize how much we’ve grown because of it. We may not want to go through the situation again but we do realize that we gained something from the experience.

There’s no doubt that our modern world can be a fearful place – we seem to be facing major changes all around us. The pace of transformation has certainly picked up during the course of my lifetime. Many foundations of our culture which I could lean upon for emotional safety and security have disappeared. Gone is that 1950s picture of Main Street America, that Norman Rockwell painting reassuring us that everything is in its proper place. Instead, we seem to live in a world of shifting sands and continuously evolving cultural norms and technological advancements.

Our Inner Child

Each of us has an array of personalities which live inside us. One is an inner child seeking to protect us from the scary external world. Our fear of change comes from that inner two-year-old. It’s intentions are survival based. It’s serving a purpose and needs to be acknowledged. But acknowledging our fears doesn’t mean letting them rule our lives.

For us to grow and to thrive, we must learn to navigate through our fears, to embrace the gift of change, to move boldly towards our highest potential even when we’re not sure what that looks like. So many of us hold back in certain aspects of our lives based upon these fears. We resist releasing jobs, beliefs and relationships which no longer serve us. We resist listening to that inner voice guiding us towards our life’s purpose. We frequently cling to an unsatisfying known quantity out of fear of the unknown.

As individuals, in order to be healthy, we have to release our fears and turn our attention towards our highest vision of what our lives can be and live it. This journey to wholeness is a challenge every one of us faces in our personal lives.

America’s Inner Child

In a sense, America is just like us as individuals. We have an array of personalities which live inside our one country, speaking our different voices. We have an inner child who is expressing our fear of change. That inner child will go to any lengths – shutting down the government, defaulting on our debts, blocking any change such as the Affordable Care Act – to protect itself from its fear of the unknown. Just as the temper tantrums of the two-year-old seem totally irrational and counterproductive to the logic of the adult, rational Americans are having difficulty understanding the dysfunctional behavior of the Tea Party.

America, too, is also on a journey to wholeness. And, just as we as individuals must push through our fears so as to thrive as adults in a changing world, America must do the same. It’s time for our country’s fears – as expressed by a minority of its politicians – to be released. When we let go of our fears, it creates within us the space to face our future and move into newness. Breakdowns lead us into breakthroughs.

The gifts of the future can be ours if we can push through our fear. It’s time for America’s inner child to release its fear of the unknown and embrace the possibilities of change. I am optimistic that we can do this. Together we can create a world where we can all thrive.

Mark Gilbert

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Check out all of Mark Gilbert’s books—available at Amazon. Click here to visit his Author Page. This includes his recent one Our Spiritual Rights and Responsibilities. In this book, he offers what he suggests are the 5 basic rights we all possess by virtue of our being these spiritual beings on planet Earth — and our 2 responsibilities we all hold in relation to one another! Check it out!