One City

One City

Words as Walls

Today I got news that one of the documentary projects I’ve been trying to get financing for will likely get both financing and distribution, and collaboration from the perfect partner. Great news, and my initial reaction was energetic excitement. Within the hour however, I noticed that my conversation with my partners on the project was turning to potential problems with the schedule, potential pitfalls with the deal, and all the other ways that things weren’t exactly as I wanted them.

This is not an unusual reaction for me. In fact, I am known professionally in the film and televison industry for having what is considered a well balanced combination of optimism and excitement and pragmatic realism.  But something else is going on, I realized today, as I tried to remain mindful and observant of myself even as I was spouting a well-intentioned litany of all the things we had to protect ourselves from.  I realized suddenly that I was using my carefully chosen stream of language as a wall between myself and possibility; or more precisely, I was using words to build a wall to prevent myself from feeling present moment emotion and to try to protect myself and my partners from some non-existent grievances in a dimly imagined future.



It was as if I was trying to imbue my words with some talismanic power; as I verbalized the same thoughts over and over, each time with a more nuanced and beautiful phrasing until the ideas achieved a kind of branded crystal perfection, it became clear to me that I was trying to avoid feeling something. But what? I looked under the surface and had to acknowledge that I was going on and on like a broken record, because deep down I was scared.  Scared of what? Failure? No – that wasn’t exactly it. I looked for the emotion underneath the outward action (thanks, Spectrum of Ecstasy) and had to face the fact that if anything, I fear success – the responsbility, and expectations, that come each time I “succeed” at a higher level.


It is only thanks to mindfulness practice that I was able to observe myself, and then investigate my own mind and emotions in the midst of a turbulent day.  Being able to do so completely changed how I handled my interactions with everyone for the rest of the day.  I’m also amazed now that no one has ever told me to shut up, but maybe I am overestimating the annoyance of my proselytizing on behalf of all the things that may befall us if we arrive in the future.  That’s a good habit to break, and being mindful seems to be a great way to break it.

Anyone else do this  or is it just me?

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Patrick Groneman

posted June 11, 2009 at 3:51 pm

I totally understand that fear you describe of success, more abstractly the fear of a full embrace of potential. This relates to the teachings on the 8 Worldy Dharmas (Or 8 Traps of Hope and Fear). The basic premise is that both the Hope of Success and Fear of Failure are actually driven by the same larger fear of the death of the ego.
Juan Carlos did a great talk on it. Here’s the link:
This is a great post Jerry! Congrats on the good news.

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posted June 15, 2009 at 1:00 am

This is competely pertinent to me, and quite revelatory. Thank you very much.

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posted June 15, 2009 at 9:11 am

Yup. I do this, too.

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