Face Everything

Early in life we learn the same survival responses as any other animal: the ‘fight-or-flight’ reaction. When we are cornered or uncomfortable, we learn to become angry and lash out, scream, hit, throw things; and we learn to become afraid and avoid, run away. As we grow older these behavioral reactions become well-used, habitual and evolved, the two actions become fused together and ingrained in us until they become our instant and familiar reactions to things we don’t like happening.

Face Everything

This behavior becomes so common in our everyday existence, most of us aren’t even aware we’ve fallen into that unhealthy, unclear pattern of lash-out-and-dash-away, fight and flight, attack and run. It happens on all levels, some of them so vague it’s hard to see the pattern. But the pattern is there, in ways small and large, hidden and overt, in every exchange between people. Even if you’re simply disagreeing with someone, you might say ‘Yeah, right!’ (a mild lashing out, putting down what they’re saying), then turn your head away, or say something like ‘I don’t want to get into it!’ (A mild avoidance, turning away from it.)

This lash and dash behavior is especially pronounced in children and teenagers, who have tons of bottled up energy to test limits and rebel against rules; when they are finally out-powered or out-talked by the more experienced adults, they often, in frustration, lose their control within the discussion or debate or argument, lose the reasons and rationale central to the topic, and it degrades to the most basic animal instinct, lash out in anger and frustration, then run away so you can’t be lashed at in return.

You see this behavior everywhere. Look at your own family and friends, your own relationships; it is common in an argument for at least one participant to finally explode, yell and swear and insult and accuse, then immediately leave the room, slamming the door behind them. This is both fight and flight, lashing out and then dashing away. You lash out because you are hurt or enraged and you want to hurt, do some damage in return, and then you run away because you want to leave them in that hurt stage, and not allow them to ‘hurt you back’.

Hurting you back takes on many forms and degrees; it can mean them giving you the same violent treatment as you are giving them, arguing and yelling and insulting you in return. Often it can mean that you feel foolish for having become so emotional, maybe you don’t even mean or believe the things you are saying, you’re just lashing out and not editing yourself with any kind of rational mind, and you don’t feel you can shoulder the burden of their eyes on you, seeing you so lost and consumed in your emotions; you feel vulnerable even as you’re lashing out, so as soon as you’re done with your attack, you need to escape, nurse your anger, fear, vulnerability on your own, in private.

Television shows, especially reality TV, make the pattern so publicly clear. You see people arguing, then finally one will go beyond the argument and say something like ‘Forget you! You’re just an idiot, you don’t even know what you’re talking about!’ (lashing out), and with some derogatory expression and gesture, they swish around and leave in a huff, usually saying something like ‘Whatever; I am so over this, I’m outta here, have a great life, Asshole!’ on their way out. (Dashing away, leaving a wake of anger and attitude and hoping it destroys some ego and self-esteem of whoever they’ve been arguing with.)

Teens do it to their parents, parents do it to their teens, kids do it to other kids and adults, adults do it to other adults and kids. Lash out, dash away. Lash and Dash. The more control you have over the lashing and dashing, the more power you can give to both. If you have your own radio show it’s fantastic; when you get tired of the debate with a caller, you can just hit the mute button so your listeners can’t hear the caller, then give your own final attack and point of view (lash) with hundreds or thousands of people hearing you get in your final say, then you can cut off the caller’s line (dash) and move on to the next. Sublime feeling of power, control in your lash and dash. An adult has this lash and dash control over a child, simply due to having such control over the child in every way… size, strength, home, money, intelligence, power. An adult can scold, hurt, practically do anything to lash out at a child, and then can leave the room, or banish the child to a room, effectively dashing away from any response or disobedience from the child, whenever that adult wants to.

This is why letter-writing is so popular, in paper copy and via email: you have so much control! You can write someone a scathing letter, really give them a piece of your mind (lash out), then you can throw away or delete any return mail or email, block their email address, filter their phone calls out, basically keep them from communicating back to you (you’re dashing away). You attack them, then you duck out of the way of their reaction. Perfect. Teens and adults alike use this lash and dash all over the internet these days, writing angry messages and then deleting return emails or blocking senders or ‘un-friending’ others’ accounts. So much cleaner and quieter than having to do it in person with all those messy emotions.

And what does ‘lash and dash’ accomplish?

Lashing out and dashing away accomplishes nothing other than letting off steam, in the most unclear, unproductive, and unhealthy way, in a power-tripping way. Really. Look at it. Look at your history of lashing and dashing, look at this behavior in anyone around you. Has that behavior ever really solved anything? What solves anything, is when you have calmed down later, apologized for lashing out and running away, and you really talk about the issue without all that messy out-of-control behavior.

KVR Railway Tunnel

View down from the KVR railway tunnel, north of Naramata.

I know someone who began seeing this behavior in herself, without my even mentioning it. It was refreshing to see her begin to open up on herself and see what was happening. She was saying very introspective things like ‘I yelled at all these people at a meeting, just so angry at them, and then I couldn’t even handle staying there for a response, I had to hurry out, in tears and swearing at them. But you know what? You think you’re so tough acting like that, you’ve cowed everyone, they’re quiet, you’re yelling at them like this all-powerful person… yet the truth is, you’re the weakest person in the room. They’re all sitting there, dealing with it, staying there, not attacking and not running, and I’m on this total power trip acting like the biggest thing in the room, and I don’t even have the courage to face it, hang around, talk it out. I just have to force my say in over everyone else, and leave immediately because I’m too brittle to withstand the possibility of anyone proving that I was wrong, or even just looking at all those faces staring at me like I’m acting crazy, like something’s wrong with me emotionally.’

She said a lot more things about it, but you get the idea. She really looked into her behavior, the dynamics of why she was lashing out and then running away, why she repeated this pattern time after time after time, blindly. It was a dazzling ‘aha’ moment when I could see her understand the polar opposites: that to lash out and run away seems like such a powerful, in-control and tough thing, and yet its purpose is really to cover up the signs of intense inner fragility, emptiness, weakness, fear, panic.

This pattern repeats throughout most peoples’ lives, never recognized or dealt with even into old age. It was refreshing to see someone starting to look into this pattern and question where it came from in her, why it was being reinforced by her even as she is approaching her middle-age, and she was seriously looking into how to break this pattern from repeating itself for the rest of her life too.

So how do you become productive, healthy, clear, within any argument or circumstance that angers or frightens you? How do you stop lashing out and running away, these behaviors you learned as a child but can’t seem to grow past as an adult? How do you stop feeling so infantile and silly, even weak and embarrassed by this behavior, especially when there are some people around you who never seem to attack and run, who always seem to maintain their calm clarity in the midst of turbulent situations and see any problem with clear and rational eyes, rather than becoming an emotional whirlwind?


When you decide you want to grow past fighting and running as a habitual response, and wish to deal with things in a clearer and more productive way, just that decision alone begins the dissolve, the washing away of your knee-jerk reaction of emotional lash and dash.

Anger, attacking things, is the desire to stop them, destroy them, in some small or large way, and this is a natural response to things which you think may hurt you. Fear, running from things, is the desire to have no contact with something, to not allow it to touch you, hurt you, control you, and this is another, opposite, natural response to things which may hurt you.

Facing everything, is neither attacking and destroying, nor running and avoiding. It is much more powerful than both. Facing everything, is a state in which you simply exist within whatever is going on, where you try to open to the truth of every part of it, to identify and realize the truths inherent in each happening, and act according to your most honest authenticity. You stand there, strong and clear, within whatever is happening, you are patient and do not try to force any immediate resolutions ‘your way’. You let go of trying to control an outcome, you let go of trying to hurt others or defend yourself emotionally.

The switch does not happen instantly. Your fight-or-flight patterns have been entrained into your mind and body through your entire life, and you still need them for survival, even simply the survival of your ego in seemingly harmless conversation and situations, until you have passed through enough learning, evolution, that ‘facing everything’ becomes your new response to situations.

You do not have to ‘try’ to face everything, you should not try to negate your natural fight-or-flight instincts, they are what have kept you coping until now. But from now on, just being aware of the existence of ‘facing everything’ eventually negates your out-of-control rage, anger, fear that arises when provoked. The more you consider facing everything, seeing it through clearly and calmly, rather than attacking and running, the less possible it is to become lost in your emotions again. You feel them, you go through them, but you can never again become lost to them, lost to rage or fear to the point where you are reacting blindly, unable to help yourself, like a child or an animal following its feral urges of attacking and running away.

Facing everything, is just that. You face everything. You do not attack it any more, you do not run from it any more. People can argue with you, but you cannot argue back. People can verbally attack you, but you cannot attack in return. Your movements, even within a debate or an argument, are the movements of someone facing everything. You are just there, opening to the truth of each move, each word. When the situation begins, you face it; you face it as it progresses, and you are there facing it until after it is over. You don’t beat it down, and you don’t run away from it. You stand there in the middle ground, opening to the truth of each moment.

Very advanced fighters, even when fighting for their lives, exist in this place of facing everything, opening to the truth of the entire embodiment of the fight, not just attacking or retreating in anger or fear, in knee-jerk response. Very advanced speakers can do this socially, even in front of crowds and within heated, potentially explosive, debate. Everything that comes along, they face, standing strong. They don’t try to tear it down, they don’t try to defend against it, they simply try to pierce to the truth of it, each moment as it unfolds. You see people who ‘lose it’ during debates and tough questions, but you also see people who face everything; no matter how tough the comments and questions are that people throw at them, you marvel as they just stand there, face it, and try to find the truth in each situation.

As you advance, you begin to face EVERYTHING, in every situation. The events that happen to you are seamless; whatever comes along, gentle or harsh, you no longer attack or run from. Your mind grows a root of stability that cannot be snapped or dug out, no matter what is happening. You still feel the emotions, and for years you will still automatically respond with your fight-or-flight emotions, but it is to lesser and lesser degrees as this old, worn-out way of reacting to things slowly dissolves. After enough time, your ability to face everything grows to such a calm, grounded power that it overpowers all your old wild, habitual reactions.

As you progress to being advanced in facing everything, each situation becomes so free, so clear. Events that used to throw you into chaos emotionally, now have become simply a breeze flowing around you.

When you face everything, your presence is always here. Fight-or-flight causes you to lose yourself within upsetting events, lose your sense of control and your sense of who you want to be within difficult happenings, makes you unstable and occasionally harmful during upsetting events. Facing everything, is your stable presence, never leaving you. It is not a goal to be worked towards, it is a gift given to you as you progress in discovering and strengthening your stability of presence.

Lashing out and dashing away are a child’s way of reacting to a frustrating world; if you are still doing the lash and dash, isn’t it time you evolved to a more productive process of dealing with difficulties? Is it time for you to begin learning to FACE EVERYTHING? To negotiate a difficult world using more mature tools?


Face Your World


  • Rebecca says:

    This wasn’t the intention I’m sure behind this article, but I found some good tidbits for the intense fear and fight or flight reaction to phobias and/or OCD type behaviors. OCD dictates how you live your life. But if you can “face everything”, you can gain some of your control back and live your life your way, not how OCD tells you to do it.

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