2012-09-01

Only Way Out Is Through

When we’re frozen, paralyzed with fear – or paralyzed with comfort – hovering over the big hole, we could spend the rest of our lives stuck there. Or we could get into it. That would be what growing looks like.
“If you can’t get out of it, get into it.”
I had not heard of the Outward Bound motto when I formulated my own version of that wisdom. The year I worked as a hospital chaplain, I started to think, and sometimes to say:
“The only way out is through.”
At least, I thought at the time it was my own. Turns out a lot of people use the expression -- including Alanis Morissette in a song of hers:
“Every time I'm confused
I think there must be easier ways
Every time our horns are locked I'm towel throwing
Every time we're at a loss, we've bolted from difficulty
Anytime we're in stalemate of final bowing
My tendency to want to hide away feels easier and
The immediacy is picturing another place comforting to go
We could just walk away and hide our heads in the sand
We could just call it quits, only to start all over again with somebody else
The only way out is through
The faster we're in the better
The only way out is through.”


"The only way out is through." I said this to myself, mostly, as I worked through my "stuff." I'm not sure if I ever said it out loud to a patient -- though I had it in mind as they told me about their "stuff."

Whatever your difficulty, your problem, whatever fear or sadness besets you, turn toward it rather than away – embrace your demons rather than push them away – plunge into whatever it is that you don’t like about your situation or your self, rather than repress it. The only way out is through.

Avoiding what makes us anxious, gives the anxiety more power. It has long been a part of folk wisdom to get back on the horse that threw you, back on the bicycle you fell off of. The way to get over fear of elevators is to keep getting into them. The way to get over fear of spiders is to handle them. (Maybe it’s not worth it to get over that fear!) The only way out is through.

Doctor Kenneth Porter also uses that expression when writing about depression. He recommends awareness
“Let yourself feel the actual physical and emotional sensations of the depression.” 
Understand it. It’s coming from a legitimate place and doesn’t mean anything’s wrong with you. Accept it, and yourself. Don’t run away from it.

The only way out is through. You can’t get out of it, so get into it. That’s what growing looks like.

* * *
This is part 4 of 6 of "What Growing Looks Like"

Next: Part 5: "Hiding Behind the Veil of Reason"
Previous: Part 3: "If You Can't Get Out, Get In"
Beginning: Part 1: "Growth Amidst Perfection"