Anxiety, Change


I have many topics bubbling up for selection in the Chat, things I would love to air and share, hopefully encouraging your feedback and thoughts, and that’s my excuse for my procrastination!

So let me begin with the gasp, gasp, oh my gosh utterance, that more than a quarter of the year 2021 has been swallowed by the past.

Yes I know, “Where did it go?” That popular exclamation is often followed by anxious thoughts speculating on what is in store for us as we strain to see what remnants of normality we’ll be able to piece together into the comfort of familiarity.

I am generalising here about the anxious status quo, fed by another reflection – that of the ‘quiet desperation’ that forms the bedrock for the majority of society, which teeters between the desire for change (wanting something that is different from what is) and the fear of change.

Why is it that uncertainty scares us?

Why is it that when we think of what will be, the loudest among our mental choir of voices is the one that says words to the effect, “It won’t pan out the way I would like it to. Knowing my luck, it’s bound to go pear-shaped”… Why?

Well perhaps we can place this question on the doorstep of our mental conditioning which unfortunately fosters a negativity bias. What this means is that we give far more weight and attention to negative events, regarding them as significantly more important than positive events.

Think of the news, how much air time is given to good or happy reports? And on an individual level, consider your memory and how, as the saying goes, the mind is like Velcro for bad experiences and Teflon for the good ones.

Negative events evoke a much stronger brain response, originating, as research suggests, from the cave-dwelling era where choices could literally mean life or death.

With such neural hard-wiring in place, it’s no wonder that assumptions tend to support the probability of negative outcomes in the area of future possibilities, and therefore we mentally live on the edge in view of ‘tomorrow’, the unknown.  While this may pre-empt disappointment, the downside of this negative projection lies in this nutshell:

“Energy follows attention.”

Where you focus, so you become.

Despite the conditioning, we are not limited by genes or origins. We have the power of choice, and the ability to pause and question our runaway thought train.

To propel our thinking from the right energy base, unhindered by fear of uncertainty, we can start by:

  • practising kindness,
  • noticing and appreciating all the good and beauty that surrounds us,
  • and being present in the now.

In this way our thinking becomes less automated, as we become more aware of and receptive to the good stuff, and in turn less inclined to predict negative outcomes.

Allow each moment to naturally unfold without preconclusions, but with curiosity.

And to repeat what I’ve said in previous Chats, give the news a miss. I’m not saying that we should become ostriches (how did the poor ostrich get lumped with the crazy idiom of sticking its head in the sand?!) You’ll hear soon enough about events that spike the radar, but unless you can do something about it, there’s absolutely no benefit in fixating on it at the expense of your life force of joy.

I’m also not saying deny your feelings. Acknowledging them is important, questioning their origins and allowing yourself to emerge is good.

Sometimes I wonder whether we subconsciously regard having a vigilant focus on the bad and negative, (thereby reinforcing a belief in its continuation,) as ‘being grown-up’ – it’s what big people do while the children laugh and frolic. Yet children provide beautiful examples of allowing the miracle of the moment to reveal itself thereby fully experiencing the now while nurturing their life force.

Where’s the benefit and joy in playing the role of Negative Nancy in this game we call life?

Stop and question the automatic narrative in your mind. And whatever you see or experience that tips the scales in favour of positive, make a note of it, absorb and process it.

Writer, and self-professed humanist, Kurt Vonnegut, in one of his addresses to graduates, gave this advice, (he adopted the saying from his uncle and it’s the title of his collection of graduate addresses):

“When things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause a moment,

and then say out loud,

‘If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.’

Simple enough to remember, short enough to repeat often.