Beating Fear with a Stick

Eff Being “Positive.” Be Authentic.

March 26, 2013

Hi Jennifer,

It was such a pleasure to meet you yesterday! Thank you for the wonderful workshop in Seattle!

I do have a question for you though.

After the workshop it was time to go back to the life I live, and all the chaos that comes with it, and I had a thought that terrified me. Is it possible to manifest the bad without meaning to?

You see I’ve been in this beautiful relationship for 9 months now. And sadly my boyfriend is a fisherman, and so he has spent the past 11 weeks up in Alaska with two more to go. The long distance is hard, ugly, depressing, a chance to learn and grow, and all the rest that comes with it. But in the last two weeks it seems harder than ever, he seems farther away than ever. And I carry around this thought, this fear that he and I won’t love each other more or even the same amount when he returns home. Is it possible to manifest away the most amazing individual in my life, because this fear consumes my thoughts?

What are your thoughts on negative manifestation? Thanks, K in Seattle.

When I was a kid I was pretty much sure that God hated me. I thought I manifested my dad’s death. Obviously I didn’t know the word “manifesting” then but I knew that something I did/said/thought caused this rupture of the world as I knew it and I was not only at fault, but apparently very powerful. I even told people God hates me. 

Things would happen and it would be proof. See? God hates me. I might as well have said I manifested this because that is essentially what I believed at that time.

We had this dog named Baby when I was twelve. She looked like an underfed golden retriever with a little Doberman Pincher but no one knew for sure. We’d gotten her at the pound and I loved her in the way you love the closest thing to your dead parent that you can find. You an keep touching that thing or person you find and make sure it’s there now and now and now. 

I found this dog and I vowed to never do/think/say anything to make something bad happen to her. We’d lived in a condo near a busy street and the dog was kind of wild so when the front gate opened we’d have to make sure our front door wasn’t opened so Baby wouldn’t run out into the street. We were always grabbing handfuls of her fur at the neck or her collar just before she smelled that the door would be opened and freedom was close.

One afternoon my friend and I were playing at my house. Let’s call her G. G opened the door and the front gate and Baby darted out in the way something darts when you know it will be the last time you see it. Tail, left paw, nose, right paw, tail, gone. Gone.

I did it again.

Thankfully I missed seeing Baby getting hit by the car but I never forgave G or myself. I cried more than I’d cried when my father had died a few years before and I was sure this latest “negative manifestation” was a result of God’s hating me and something I did/said/thought. Even though G had done it and it had been an accident I was sure it was my fault. Again. Negative manifester!

I am not that powerful. Neither are you.

Baby was never meant to be in a condo. She wanted to run and play and be wild and it was hard to manage that. It was also unfair to her. So yes, it was our fault to the extent that we adopted her in the first place from the pound but she had a short and sweet little life with us and we’d loved her fiercely. It certainly didn’t happen because of anything I did/said/thought. My guess is that eventually it would have happened because that’s who Baby was. It’s like dealing a with someone on drugs who just won’t quit and one day they finally overdose and everyone says It was bound to happen sooner or later. We just thought/hoped it would be later.

Recently I led a retreat in Maui. There was this man there who everyone said was “enlightened” so naturally I wanted to be in his presence. He’d lead these group meditations which were silent for two hours and the second two hours you just sat and stared into his eyes and he spoke weird little mystical snippets to you.

One girl came in and basically asked what you just asked. Can I manifest bad things with my thoughts?

He chuckled. Nope. Your thoughts aren’t that powerful, sister.

You have a monkey mind. We all do, he’d said.

I sat there and had a moment of What? How dare you? This is what I teach! Until I realized he was right.

Look, you can shift some things and make a few changes and create the life you want for yourself the best you can. That’s possible. Does that mean shitty things won’t happen to you? Nope. They might. Or they might not.

Does that mean if someone gets raped they manifested it? Nope. Never. If someone dies that you caused it with your thoughts? Nope. If your nephew gets a rare genetic disorder it’s because God hates you? Sorry, but no.

What I knew already and the enlightened dude in Maui confirmed was that although our thoughts are powerful, they are just thoughts. Yes, they are important for our own happiness and sanity but they aren’t powerful enough to kill your father or your dog Baby or your make your boyfriend not love you enough or not come home.

Am I suggesting that having “negative” thoughts is the way to go then? Nope.

I don’t even know what “negative” and “positive” mean anymore.  I like authentic. 

I think what happens though is this: sometimes our thoughts make us act a little crazy. Here’s an example. You think your man is cheating so you act suspicious and doubting and then he gets so sick of it he finally thinks I might as well cheat since you think it anyway. Or you create such a chasm in the relationship by not being authentic that the people who fell in love with each other are no longer in love with each other because those people are nowhere to be found.

You can make yourself sick with worry. I know because I do. You write: And I carry around this thought, this fear that he and I won’t love each other more or even the same amount when he returns home. Is it possible to manifest away the most amazing individual in my life, because this fear consumes my thoughts?

Fear is the beast. Fear is out there with a hatchet. Fear is a mother*cker. Fear is most likely the greatest obstacle in why most of us don’t do/think/say what we want to. At least it is for me. So yes, if you let that fear eat away at your brain long enough, eventually it works its way down into your heart and once it’s there you can forget about it. Your heart doesn’t know that it’s a lie. It doesn’t know a lie from the truth most days. It only knows the rush of blood and the thump of what if.

So when the fear starts to tap on the window and you see that it has the hatchet, say this little mantra out loud so it can hear you: You are not real. 

Is it real? Most likely no.

If there is really a man out there with a hatchet then yes, it is very real.

You know what else? You may not love each other the same. It might be more and then a little less and then more again.

Have you ever been in a long-term relationship or marriage? This is how it is. When I get back from my trip, even from Seattle yesterday, my husband and I are on fire. We’ve missed each other so much and it’s great and life is good and then he gets annoyed at my mess and I get annoyed that he is talking too slow or too quiet or whatever it is but life is back to normal. It always evens out. It will never ever ever be just one way or always the same.

You can count on that.

This is precisely what I struggle with having lost my father so young.  I want a guarantee that things will always be the same and that you will never go or leave me. But no matter what thoughts I think I can’t change that. I am not powerful enough with simply my thoughts to crack the earth or to make someone fall in or out of love with me.

But what we are both powerful enough to do is to create change by how we act. So yes, if we act needy or mopey or fearful all the time, at some point, someone may actually say I don’t like you right now.  It’s all like some bad algebra or something, isn’t it?

 So if I think this then I act this way and if I act this way then this will happen? Nope.

I failed math. Every kind of math, I failed. I had to see a therapist when I was 11 because I apparently had a math phobia so no, please do not try to solve the equation.

Here is the truth: it’s not a matter of any of that if that, then this.

It’s a matter of truly living authentically. Not positively. Not negatively. Authentically. From the place of what you know to be true. Not from the place of fear or worry or what if.

So stop worrying so much.

When he gets off that boat from Alaska, no matter how dirty he is or fishy he smells, look him in the eye and say I love you. I’ve missed you, if that is the truth.

And then take care of business, if you know what I mean.

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane. Her work has been featured on The Rumpus, The Nervous Breakdown, Jezebel, Salon,, among others. She’s the founder of The Manifest-Station. Jen’s leading a weekend retreat in May to Ojai, Calif as well as 4 day retreat over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up is Seattle in May and London July 6. (London sells out fast so book soon if you plan on attending!)

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  • Reply Penny March 26, 2013 at 7:01 pm

    Jennifer, this is the perfect topic for me right now. I have been struggling with this very thought; manifesting goodness/badness vs the Buddhist perspective of acceptance and letting good/bad flow through me. The response of the gentleman in this article struck home as well as your comments about it. How many of us have beat ourselves up since childhood for whatever crap happened then…it’s time we forgave ourselves for being 12 years old and not knowing everything…it’s time we forgive ourselves for being 50 and not knowing everything! You’re a wise woman, Jennifer. Hold yourself close, love yourself and put your own Grand Heart on your “Stuff to be Grateful For” list. Hugs, Chickie!

  • Reply barbarapotter March 26, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    I just love this one so much. Excellent.

  • Reply Lisa Newton March 26, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    Good stuff right here. Thank you =)

  • Reply Katie March 26, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    This post is absolute GOLD. One of my favorites of yours, so muchso I just had to comment (I have to get better, commenting on writing I love instead of just sitting here alone nodding. and “YES!”ing. and fist pumping the air. by myself). SO so good.

    The people who don’t know me well don’t get it when I say I’m an introvert – but the thing they don’t get even more is that I am not even close to an optimist. Butterflies and rainbows? F that. My natural inclination is towards the depression or the worry or the fact that I probably did something wrong. What I do own is that I work to be pragmatically positive (something I totally need to write about, so thank you for reminding me of this!!), 100% realistic with an effort to see opportunity and hope. But honestly, as long as I’m living my truth, the worry and the hope both just start to fall away and I see things as they are…and that’s really living. Love you, woman. xoxo

  • Reply Deb March 27, 2013 at 2:32 am

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts. Seems so simple, and yet, so difficult to do. I needed to read this, be reminded of this very important way of being, that authentic is good enough.

  • Reply Follow Me Films March 27, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Reblogged this on Follow Me Films and commented:
    If ever a day is getting you down..hop over the The Manifestation Station and Jen will straighten you out in a few seconds! A daily dose of sanity!!

  • Reply Elise Ballard March 27, 2013 at 6:53 pm

    haha! LOVE this. Take care of business. TCB, baby. TCB. And another trick I’ve learned about worrying is to try to shift focus on to the moments that have been beautiful and fun, and feel those feelings for a bit, even if it’s short-lived — will help get you back in gratitude which is a miracle-worker in monkey-mind and getting calm. M-I-R-A-C-L-E. (And so sorry about Baby, Jen. But glad for her that she had some time in a home full of love!) Love u, xo

  • Reply judiesjuice March 28, 2013 at 8:44 am

    I love this!! Thank you for writing it.

  • Reply Danielle May 3, 2014 at 8:33 pm

    another beautiful beautiful vulnerable essay. thank you!

  • Reply nikky44 May 4, 2014 at 4:33 am

    Love it!!! Thank you !

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