What To Do When You Fall

When you trip over that un-level piece of concrete, or don’t quite pick your foot up high enough on the stairs and start to fall, it’s natural to reach for something to catch yourself. Instinctively, we seek to regain our balance, and good thing, because a busted knee or broken toe are not fun injuries to deal with. 

This instinct to find and keep our balance is helpful in the physical world, but I fear we have wrongfully carried it into our mental world as well. The moment things begin to shift in our world, we frantically look around for anything to grab onto on our way down.

You know the feeling— friends change, jobs change, our health changes, and we begin the fall. We reach for whatever is closest, easiest, or seems to restore our balance.

I am tempted to say we reach for unhealthy things, like alcohol or food or bad crowds of people, but I think that anything we reach for is unhealthy in this type of fall, because it’s an illusion of balance. It’s a false sense of being “safe” and secure, when in reality, you have only paused the fall. 

Your world is still changing. The ground beneath you is still shifting, even if you’ve temporarily become unaware of it.  

If this were a physical fall, it would be the equivalent of you grabbing hold of a detached handrail. You feel, for a second, relief and comfort, but that handrail is not going to catch you, and eventually your knee will meet its demise on the rough concrete surface. 

But this is not a physical fall.

This is not a stubbed toe or a slippery spot on the floor. It’s a mental fall, the kind of fall you don’t feel on your skin or in your bones, but in your head and in your heart. Your reaction is the same, though: panic and an immediate engagement of problem-solving mode as you search for ways to restore your balance, something, anything to fill that void or stop the ground from shaking. 

I wish, though, that we could calm down. I wish we could stop our instincts from taking over and just fall, because the thing about a mental fall is that you don’t have to end up hurt. You will end up different, that is for sure, but different does not always have to be painful. Imbalance does not always have to result in injury. 

It is nice to remain balanced in our physical world, but nothing extraordinary every comes from balance in our mental world. No discovery, enlightenment, good story or valuable lesson has ever (or will ever) come from remaining mentally upright all of the time. 

And the universe knows this and wants that growth for you, even if you don’t want it for yourself or are afraid to go get it, and so the universe mentally trips you, makes the ground shake, splits the pavement unevenly. 

What do you do when that happens? Do you reach for safety or at least the perception of safety? Do you shrink back in shame that you have failed to remain upright, a position that society tells us is good and safe? Do you feel fear of the unknown, afraid of what is on the other side of this fall because this wasn't part of the plan, and you’re just sure your plan was the best plan?

What do you think would happen if you just fell? If you didn’t carry your fear of physically falling over into your mental experiences? Who would you become if, instead of constantly clinging to balance, you rode out the imbalances and let them shape you? What would happen if you stopped clenching onto to that false illusion of safety, and just let go?

It may not be instinctive, but that does not mean we can’t learn it. It may hurt a little, but pain is the precursor to growth in the biological and psychological world. And shouldn’t we be striving for growth?

The extraordinary things only come from falling, from risking, from going against your safety instincts. 

So next time you fall, which is sure to be soon if you aren’t already falling, try not to reach for the ripcord or immediately fill the void. Try to look around for the extraordinary things. Try to embrace the fall and see who you become because of it