Saturday, October 31, 2015

Hunting for zombies: The virtue of authenticity

“Whatever you bury before it is dead will come back to haunt you.”

Zombies are on the loose!  The fact that we see them year-round now, in movies, on television shows, in commercials, and in video games shows that they are no longer contained by Halloween.  And in our increasingly wounded world this is not accidental. 

Like all imaginary creatures zombies are powerful symbols of a very real phenomenon.  With their robotic walk, their dead eyes, and their grey skin tone, they graphically represent the parts of our lives that are “un-dead” and haunting.  We all have painful, ugly experiences we’ve not fully faced, understood, worked through, and finally put to rest forever.  And there can be good reasons for this. 

If the painful experience is overwhelming, one may need to put it off for a while, or make sense of it a little at a time….it’s just too big to do all at once.  For instance, it took me years to work through all the fear I felt about my first born son’s fragile early years, where he almost died three different times.  There was so much. 

And even with disturbing experiences that aren’t life-or-death, the bracketing of these memories can be essential to moving forward.  If we sat with all that has gone wrong, or could go wrong in life…all the possible scenarios where we could be injured in mind, body, or spirit…all the ways we have been and still are vulnerable, we’d literally have trouble getting out of bed each morning. 

So, this “compartmentalizing” of psychological pain is protective and can even be adaptive to a point, giving us time to “get ready”;  to build up psychological resources and relational support. 

But in time, whatever we bury before it is dead will come back to haunt us.

Authenticity is fundamentally about truth.  It seeks truth, loves truth, explores truth, and works at removing anything that might keep someone from living in truth.  And it is especially good at exposing and disposing of “zombies.”  As zombie hunters have special ways of searching for zombies, those who practice authenticity do as well….beginning with key questions:    

Which periods of my life do I not remember well? 
What social situations do I feel especially anxious in? 
What are the big losses I’ve had, and what did I do with the feelings connected to them?  What emotions do I feel most uncomfortable with now?

Zombies are scary, but not nearly as frightening as a life spent hiding from them.