When the serpent has outgrown his skin, the colors of his skin fade, his eyesight becomes poor, and he crawls off to be alone. Then he spends time rubbing up against rough rocks and sharp branches so that he can shed his worn and faded skin. Once the old skin is fully shed, the serpent looks brand new – his colors now vibrant, his eyesight clear and he emerges from his time alone to go back out in the world.
When people are ready to shed their old and worn identities, their old beliefs, their old stories, and their old points of view, they don’t often follow the wisdom of the serpent.
Instead of letting go of the old and embracing the new, they often become…FANATICS.
When you bump into a fanatic, you can almost be sure that they are experiencing tremendous inner pressure to change. But instead of willingly allowing themselves to shed the old and embrace the new, they dig in, and use all their energy to try and hold on to their old beliefs and old habits and try to convince and convert others to align with their old point of view.
Instead of gracefully allowing themselves to bravely step into a new identity with new beliefs and new stories and new points of view, they stubbornly hang on to the old and do everything in their power to double down and reinforce their old and outworn persona.
I have a longtime friend who is going through this now. She experienced the traumatic loss of a close friend and was bombarded by many other seismic changes all around her and is fighting mightily now to not step into an entirely new life. Instead of embracing her new life, she has doubled down and is clinging to the old and turning every encounter with others as an excuse to fight and argue and forcefully convert others to her old way of thinking. A way of thinking and experiencing the world that may be worn out and begging to be let go of.
In many ways she is grieving. The 5 states of grief are Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. The Fanatic is often stuck between Denial and Anger.
Moving through stages of grief, stages of letting go of the old and embracing the new are often painful and may take years.
Fanatics are everywhere.
In politics, religion, spiritual practices, tribes, cities, countries, culture, work, relationships, health and wellness, race, sex and so much more.
The secret truth about fanatics is that they often don’t believe what they say anymore!
But it may feel like it is too painful for them to admit that they don’t believe what they say anymore, and it may feel too frightening to say what they really think and feel today.
When faith and trust are rock solid, there is no need to convince or convert others.
Instead of battling with fanatics, it may be more helpful and fulfilling to offer compassion, maybe give them a hug, or a comforting pat on the back, or maybe to listen deeply to them, and to acknowledge them. And then see if you can intuit what lay beneath the heated angry forceful words.
Can you meet the fanatic where they are at without trying to argue, fight back, judge or change them?
Even the most heated, controlling and terrorizing fanatic may simply be scared. Fighting fiercely to hang onto to their old identity, their old beliefs, their old opinions and their old habits like a drowning man struggling to keep his head above water. To a fanatic, what they are going through, may indeed feel like they are battling a terrifying and looming death.
If there really is a Fountain of Youth, I suspect the serpent has much to teach us. Allowing yourself to shed the old and embrace the new keeps life fresh and new and revitalized.
Renew and Regenerate. It is the way of Life.
The fanatic may fight it every step of the way but even they will eventually learn that you can always begin again.