Escalating into Tenderness

Excerpt from Unconditional Confidence: Instructions for Meeting Any Experience with Trust and Courage by Pema Chödrön:

unconditionalconfidence It’s not like saying, if you turn towards fear, if you smile at fear, then BOOM—you’re fearless. Instead, you don’t discover courage right away. What you discover is something actually painful, but extremely tender.

So fear arises, and it causes you to close your mind and your heart and you harden. You harden against yourself, you harden against other people.

Or fear arises, in the form of slight anxiety, in the form of feeling inadequate, in the form of being embarrassed, in the form of absolute terror. It arises and it can escalate into the hardness of aggression or it can escalate into tenderness.

[You will have the actual experience of this tenderness] if you become curious about fear itself and go under the story line and actually feel it and know it even for one and a half minutes—even for two seconds. Right away, you understand that there’s something very tender hearted and vulnerable in the best sense that’s underneath the fear.

My own experience really is that the tenderness is under all strong emotions—not just fear. It’s also under aggression and jealousy and envy and addictive urges of all kinds. Somehow we always go in the direction of digging the hole deeper. Escalating the ubiquitous nervousness. But the encouragement here is to stop, and to breathe, and to feel the underlying tenderness.