The Solid Ground under Your Leap of Faith
Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith. —Margaret Shepard
A few years ago, an image from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade flashed through my head as I was explaining how the mechanism that I call natural well-being works. In the movie, Indy stands at the edge of a huge chasm. He sees the cave he needs to get to on the other side, but no bridge or other way to get there. The next line in his treasure map suggests that it’s time for a leap of faith. He groans.
But, Indy’s father’s life depends on him getting to that cave, so he closes his eyes, takes a deep breath, puts his foot out over the abyss, and then leans forward. To his great surprise, his foot lands on something solid. An invisible bridge was there all along.
That invisible bridge is such a great picture of what I call natural well-being, which is the energy at our core that is meant to allow things to go well for us naturally and support us. It’s what we are meant to depend on, rather than all the things we rely on instead, like getting what we need from others, or working way beyond our natural capacity, or keeping everything under control, among others.
Why is it that we default to these mechanisms, instead of relying on this natural, internal well-being? It’s because early in life, we absorb the feeling that there’s something wrong being ourselves, which I call Learned Distress. We feel that instead of being exactly as we are, which allows us to rely on well-being, we have to be a different way in order to survive. Some people feel that they have to be dependent on others. Others depend on working overtime to keep some kind of “pretty picture” in place, such as being the ideal businesswoman or the ideal family man. Yet others rely on setting up boundaries to make sure that everything around them is the “right” way (whatever that means for them. And others rely on dictating to everyone how they should be.
Our Learned Distress and reliance on these survival mechanisms cuts us off from natural well-being, our invisible bridge of support. People work with me to unlearn layers of Learned Distress, so their well-being can rise to the surface and they can begin to rely on it more and more. When they find the need to move into some new territory—to take a leap of faith and walk across their invisible bridge—what they find in the cave across the chasm is the feeling at their core which has been there all along—the feeling that they matter just as they are, that they have everything they need within them to achieve what matters to them, that their uniqueness is just what the world needs.
That invisible bridge starts to become much more tangible over time. My clients report feeling an underlying sense of calm or peace, even through big changes. They say that they know, in a way they never have before, that things are really going to be OK. My own experience with the “leap of faith” moments is that they seem much less risky. I may not know what practical-level support is coming, but as someone who always felt dependent on others, I now live with the very different feeling that something within me is solidly and surely going to meet every need I have as I move into some uncharted territory. I might even say that the leaping is more exciting than it is scary. More like opening a present than jumping off a cliff.
How do you feel when you reach one of those seemingly impossible situations that require a leap of faith? Do you find yourself reaching for a familiar survival mechanism, hoping it will save you, or do you put your foot out over nothing and lean forward, excited to find what your invisible bridge will lead you to this time?
Sara Avery helps people get unstuck in their relationships, health, career, and self-expression. Learn how she can help you tackle your biggest challenges.