Professor Xavier and Our Inner Strength

I just got home from watching the new X-Men flick (hooray, summer movie season!). And (surprisingly? Perhaps not surprisingly…), it got me thinking about the wisdom of allowing. Let me explain…

There’s a place in the movie – and I don’t think this is a spoiler here – where the young Professor is advised that it’s not the pain of others that he fears; it’s his own pain. And if he can allow himself that pain – stop striving against it, and just let it come, let himself feel it – then he’ll be freed. Ultimately, that’s the place from which his power will come.

Disco Professor Xavier

Disco Professor Xavier

It reminded me of a piece I heard on NPR just this morning, about anxious children of anxious parents. The article noted that kids of anxiety-ridden parents are 2-to-7 times more likely to suffer anxiety themselves, and went on to explore the factors that contribute to that correlation. The focus was on the Cummings family, including their son, Noah, and the work they did with psychotherapist Lynn Lyons.

Lyons observed the Cummings’s efforts to continually reassure Noah that he would be fine and that nothing bad would happen to him – and told them to stop.

“The way you learn how to manage life is by making mistakes or by stepping into things that feel uncertain, uncomfortable, or overwhelming and then proving to yourself through experience that you can manage it,” Lyons says.

By allowing Noah to feel his fears, he was able to discover and use his inner resources to deal with the uncertainties that were fueling his anxiety, and ultimately release his fears and need for reassurance.

So what does this mean for you and me? (And what does it have to do with Professor Xavier?) For many of us, a lot of struggle and worry comes from the fear of feeling our own feelings. What if it hurts too much? What if my anger gets out of control? What if I can’t stop crying once I start? What if, what if, what if? The irony of it is that once we allow those feelings to arise, we find that we have the inner strength to survive – and even grow beyond the place where we thought our limits existed. That’s the place from which our power will come.

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