Admittedly, from the outside, my life did look good. A few weeks before, my first book, The Tapping Solution for Weight Loss & Body Confidence, had become a New York Times bestseller. Since the book’s release, I’d appeared on television, been interviewed by major magazines and celebrated by followers, friends, and family. Privately, though, I’d been struggling, overwhelmed by the attention and anxious that I couldn’t meet what felt like mounting expectations.
As I began speaking into my phone that day, I wasn’t sure how much I should say . . . and not say. Thankfully, it was Cheryl Richardson on the other end of the line. In addition to being a self-care expert and a repeat New York Times best-selling author herself, she is one of the most compassionate, caring people I’ve ever known.
Cheryl’s soothing, empathetic tone quickly paved the way for an authentic, heart-centered exchange. Before long the floodgates of my emotions opened, and I voiced the painful truths I’d been working hard to hide.
Of course, I was (and still am!) overjoyed about becoming a best-selling author. It was an honor and a thrill, and incredible validation that years of hard work were having a positive impact. For weeks, though, I’d been playing the part of the confident first-time author, while inside I felt increasingly unsure of myself.
The worst part was that I’d been so busy speaking and doing interviews about the power of Tapping that I had unintentionally let my own practice slip. Distracted by my demanding schedule, I’d been inconsistent with the practice that I knew kept me balanced and feeling my best. It felt like a sure sign that I was a phony; I knew better, yet I wasn’t following through.
As I spoke, my tears flowed easily and abundantly. Then, as only she can do, Cheryl decoded my entire experience. In the most motherly, generous voice, she said,
“Jess, when you are scared because of something new, you’re not adult Jessica. You’re not the resourceful adult who knows how to tap. You’re this little girl who is really scared. And that little girl doesn’t know how to tap. That scared part of you deserves your own compassion first and foremost.”
As soon as Cheryl said those words, I exhaled. She had captured my experience so perfectly that my relief was physical as well as emotional. I could suddenly see that I’d been suppressing the mature, resourceful adult I am. Up until that moment, my fear had temporarily caused me to resort to a younger version of myself.
Have you ever done that? It’s what we often do when we’re faced with new circumstances. We expect ourselves to be resourceful and productive when, on a deeper level, we’re overwhelmed by a primal fear of the unknown.
Truthfully, that fear had snuck back into my life. During the months surrounding my book launch, I’d told myself repeatedly that I’d be fine once the book launch was over. It was just my schedule, the constant demands. The problem, I kept telling myself, was my external circumstances. Ironically, during the many months prior to the launch, which I’d spent writing the book, my stress had been around how my book would be received. I wanted, really wanted, the book to be a bestseller. When my book did hit the bestsellers list, my primitive brain found new reasons to freak out.
That’s what the primitive brain does. It constantly scans your internal and external surroundings to locate new threats and unforeseen dangers. It doesn’t kick back and relax once you’ve reached a goal. Instead, it prods and pokes at your successes (and everything else in your life) to find the shadow side. Once it finds those dark spots, it rushes in to reveal those findings. That’s how it keeps you continuously cycling through what I call the pattern of panic.
The primitive brain’s tireless search for danger, even in positive developments like reaching a major milestone, is why focusing on external circumstances—love, money, success, and more—as ways to “fix” our lives never delivers the peace of mind and flow we hope for.
Once Cheryl had given me the space that day to replace my self-judgment with compassion, we spent time tapping together on the phone, processing and releasing everything I’d been feeling. Afterward, I felt lighter, like a dense weight had been lifted off of me. From that day forward, I resumed my regular Tapping meditation practice and made sure to take time each day to connect with my inner self—this time without the panic.
Still, though, I had questions. I reached out to friends and colleagues who are also authors. Each of them reassured me that what I was feeling was part of the process. As the weeks turned into months, I found myself repeatedly asking questions like:
Why do we fear the unknown so intensely that we’re willing to shy away from our deepest desires and settle for playing small?
Why do we get enthused when we first start something, only to burn out the moment things feel challenging?
Why does getting what we want sometimes feel just as scary as not getting what we want? And why, even with new outcomes we desire, do we often struggle to sustain them and instead slip back into old, self-sabotaging patterns?
Eventually, it became clear that I was exploring our relationship with the one unavoidable constant in life:
The above is an excerpt from The Tapping Solution to Create Lasting Change: A Guide to Get Unstuck and Find Your Flow by Jessica Ortner, available in bookstores and online at www.hayhouse.com on September 4, 2018.