As events occur, we always assume that we know what they mean for us, and we immediately fall into what feels like the appropriate emotional reaction. That reaction further influences the way we view the following events, and in this way our initial response is “confirmed.” We rarely question either our view of events or our response to them. In fact, if someone were to tell us that things were not as we took them to be, we would probably take that person as an enemy who cared nothing for us and who was, himself, a part of the threatening situation.

As we continue to be carried unconsciously from one automatic reaction to another, these conditioned responses grow more entrenched. With repetition, they come to feel more and more natural to us, and the likelihood that we will ever question them continues to diminish. Our behavior grows more deeply settled into these mechanical responses and the way we view events becomes increasingly rigid. As a result, we are taken further away from the spontaneous lives we were meant to enjoy.

But it is not necessary to continue being defeated by our own mechanical responses. We can learn to recognize a dark horse reaction, eager to take us on a bad ride, before we are carried away by it. We already know what many of these runaway reactions are, and so the battle is half won. Fear is dark. Anger is dark. So are anxiety, dread, self-pity, and feeling the whole weight of the world upon our shoulders. Add to this list the dark horses of hatred, revenge, insistence on being right, impatience, and depression — and you have most of those negative states which, if not outright trampling us under their heartless hooves, are certainly sources of unconscious torment.

Recognizing the true purpose of these harmful reactions is not that complicated. You can be sure you’ve taken the wrong horse -- one that will lead you on a punishing, pounding ride -- whenever your inner state has you feeling:
• like you've lost control
• frightened by what you see
• angry with yourself or another
• confused or anxious about where you're headed
• pained in your present position
• hatred or resentment for someone else
• sorry you were ever born
• envious of anyone
• desperate for a solution
• certain nothing else counts besides fixing how you feel

Now, the truly amazing thing is that in spite of these "rides" that wreck everything from our health to our relationships, we still take them! Surely, if we were aware of what we were doing, nothing on earth could convince us to hop on what is hurting us. So, let's see what's happening to cause us to continue making the painful mistake.

An event occurs. We're not sure how to react so we naturally look for help. We know that a right response is the same as a rescue. And it is. But before we know it, up pops a self that always comes complete with the appropriate thoughts and feelings to support why we should let it be in charge of the moment. Simply put, this is the dark horse, and it’s there to carry us off. In the past, we've always been so grateful for the arrival of that response that told us who we were and what to do that we never questioned it. But now we want to be self-ruling rather than get carried of by one ride after another to nowhere.

Before we release ourselves into the hands of any automatically appearing rescuing agent, we must first take it into the light in order to see who sent it. The higher power to choose what will carry us and what won't is only as powerful as our willingness to come to a special kind of psychic pause, an inner halt. Momentarily anchoring ourselves in the fully present moment, we bring our own thoughts and feelings into the light of consciousness to see them for what they are. In that moment, it's not so much going with what "feels right" as it is basing your choice in seeing what is truly for you; in knowing without thinking about it that no negative state wants what is right for you.

This exercise of taking a psychic pause may sound as though it would be easy, but it takes practice and persistent effort. You see, it's very tempting to just let ourselves be carried away. In fact, there's nothing to it! Then the rest of our time is spent trying to straighten out the bad rides we’ve taken. All this not only steals our energy, but also keeps us from being someplace real.

So now, we're going to take that pause before we believe that any automatic response is the right one. We're going to just come wide-awake. This conscious choice transforms us from a person who is completely identified with the runaway state into a person who is aware of it. Through that awareness we jump off the wild ride and into the safety, sanity, and solid ground of the present moment.

Jumping clear of your own jumbled reactions takes special skills, but these come to you as you see the need for them. So, don't get discouraged. Stay off of that horse! The aim is to try to be aware and know what's happening, so you don't fall into the same mistake again and again.

When we see ourselves looking for a reaction and putting a light on it, we make an effort to determine the quality of the "help" that comes to get us by first choosing to help ourselves by stepping back from our own rush to be rescued. Standing apart in this way is the only way to see whether the arriving solution is, for us in that moment, true or false.

If we take that psychic pause that empowers, and in it allow Reality to show us that our real self cannot be hurt – or betrayed – then we are free!

Excerpted from "The Intimate Enemy" Llewellyn Publishing

Author's Bio: 

Guy Finley is an internationally renowned spiritual teacher and bestselling author. He is the Director of Life of Learning Foundation, a nonprofit center for self discovery in Merlin, Oregon. He is the author of The Secret of Letting Go and 45 other books and audio programs that have sold over 2 million copies, in 26 languages. Guy offers free online classes twice weekly. Learn more and register at