Reducing Anxiety

1347 Relax and Succeed - Anxiety can feel like drowning in thought

A growing number of otherwise successful people are being slowly crippled by anxiety.  Even many sleep issues end up being tracked back to nighttime anxiety. It can affect our love lives, our careers and our personal health and I’m having more and more people come to me for it.

Everyone feels like there is too much to know and do, and far too much to understand. And that’s just to exist, let alone to have a healthy relationship. In fact, modern life and quality relationships of all kinds are often at odds, so people very rightfully feel overwhelmed.

And yet not everyone does.

Too often we see the calm, graceful or productive people as being a part of a different breed. We forget that those people also have moments of doubt; they also experience shortages of confidence and frozen reactions. Like looking at a bucket of water and suggesting it is representative of an entire river, we cannot judge people by where they are at various moments in time. Not others or ourselves.

None of us are permanently successful or permanently failing, we are simply either being clear-minded or we are lost in ego. But we all do both things. It’s only a matter of how much.

The lessons I teach people do not make the problems of the world go away, obviously. But problems exist for confident capable people too, so the difference between a good life and a bad one isn’t whether or not it has challenges –it’s about which mindset we choose to approach those challenges from.

The feeling of anxiety is generated by us worriedly flitting between many of life’s variables without ever slowing down enough to actually consider them. It’s not that we’re lying about the challenges –they are often entirely real. Yet there are ways to either gracefully accept, or gracefully approach the resolution of a challenge. But to do so we need to know how to cultivate a calm mind.

None of us are permanently successful or permanently failing, we are simply either being clear-minded or we are lost in ego.

Someone experiencing grief or betrayal or guilt is looking to avoid a certain type of intense thought. But people working on anxiety are more focused on developing a greater sense of focus, which steals their ability to flit between thoughts. Otherwise they are like bees who never spend enough time on any flower to either eat or spread the flower’s pollen. In that way their flitting undermines both themselves and their environment.

Calm thoughts and a deeper and slower sense of being does not belong to some special class of people. Those who achieve those productive states of mind do so intentionally, even if they also sometimes to it unconsciously. Mental health is achieved when we gain greater and greater conscious control over that intention.

We must become more aware of how we use our minds to create our current and undesirable reality. Once we can see our innocent participation in our suffering we naturally stop. And stopping our anxiety is much like finding ourselves, because lurking behind all of our thinking is the greater being doing that thinking. And that self is bigger than our thoughts can define.

peace. s

From Raving to Adulting

1340 Relax and Succeed - We should consider every day lost

Over the last few years, as people mature and their relationships and job responsibilities become more serious, I have heard from more and more people who want to shift some of their focus away from their party-lives and onto their adult lives.

Electronic Dance Music (EDM) has been a wonderful trend in human experience in that its venues have generally provided wonderful spaces in which people could feel free. With few ‘rules’ for dancing or dressing, people could really immerse themselves into the music, and that lead them to experience periods of true bliss. These can be genuinely profound experiences.

While the above is true, it is also true that much of the reason that EDM culture and raves are known for being so ‘loving’ or ‘free’ is because there is a much larger percentage of drug users at those events. But by their 30’s most ravers have seen drugs ravage many friend’s lives if not end them entirely, so concerns are natural. And they are increased by recent changes in the trustworthiness of drug purity. There are a lot of people who want to quit.

The favoured drugs tend to tip people towards temporary, drug-induced feelings of strength and energy (cocaine, methamphetamine etc.), emotional freedom (ecstasy, molly, MDMA, alcohol etc.), relaxation (ketamine, opiates) or spirituality (LSD, DMT, Salvia etc.). In a busy, stressful world, it is easy to see why searching for quick paths to those sensations would be welcomed by many.

These are often referred to as ‘lifestyle’ drugs, because they, together with the music and certain fashions etc., all form a subculture. It is valid as a subculture, but it can also be a legitimate impediment to developing a successful adult life.

1340 Relax and Succeed - Man is fully responsible

It’s one thing to date someone at 23 and spend your weekends on drugs raving to your favourite DJ’s, but eventually the job promotion thing, or the biological clock thing happen, and the people who want families tend to desire less partying and more responsibility. This is often when people first face the idea that they may have a casual addiction.

In truth, I rarely work on the addiction itself. For the most part, what’s needed is a helpful identity shift that allows us to keep the most important parts of ourselves from an earlier incarnation of our life, while we make a legitimate shift into our next phase of life –and until that final curtain, there is always another phase, so it’s a good skill to develop.

Once people have been taught how to make this shift comfortably, the drugs rarely disappear, but they do become more events than a lifestyle. Parents that used to go to every summer festival and rave possible are suddenly having children, serious jobs, and now they hit one or two big festivals a year as their adult time without the kids. Even then, most find their drug use trails off quite naturally and comfortably.

People should not feel strange or feel as though they’ve made a mistake if they’re wrestling with this change. It is never enjoyable to have to surrender freedom to assume responsibility for our life partners or children, but we’re not looking at the whole picture if we think we don’t gain in that trade. We don’t lose our old selves and go backwards, we build on that person and we go up.

There are other ‘highs’ in life. People don’t have to hate or be ashamed of their previous selves to find them. They merely need some guidance on how they can make that shift in ways that make sense, that foster growth, and that feel good. Because no one ever felt weaker by feeling more capable.

peace. s

When Others Let Us Down

 

1333 Relax and Succeed - Human beings are gods hidden from themselves

For some of us it was a cheating spouse. For others, an addicted friend, or a neglectful parent. For some it was a crime, or it may even be abuse by an authority, or an institution. There are many ways to feel the extremely tormented pain of neglect or betrayal. But there are also ways to be free.

It is a deeply poignant thing to move through the rush of feelings we experience when we sense that those around us have let us down. Part of our reality shatters. The whole experience makes more of the universe feel forever less certain and that makes us angry. We don’t feel safe. It makes sense that we resent whoever is associated with our feelings of vulnerability and helplessness.

But our resentment, anger, or need for moral justice rarely pay off. Like the Buddha says, we are not punished for our anger, but by it. Even if we exact revenge, the best that can happen is someone else suffering and any pleasure we get from that is short-lived even if we remain satisfied that justice has been done.

There simply is no going back in time. No matter how important something was, no one can unscramble scrambled eggs. People can’t undo one hour of sex, two years at a bad job, or 18 years of absent parenting. Each of those things and everything else like them are water under the bridge, and the desire for a different history will generate a great deal of anger and regret.

Fortunately, those feelings won’t last, and for fairly logical reasons because the reasons for the feelings make sense. But because they do, it is possible for us to speed up our ‘recovery’ to a potentially positive view of a situation, or even another person– if we’re prepared to.

Firstly, we must accept that our brain has these people or institutions weaved into massive amounts of our lives, and anger is like a jolt of electricity through our system. This means that when we are angry we are likely to grab information from all over life and history to express our outrage. But that’s fine. We can even be totally unreasonable.

The process of fully feeling our emotions isn’t about the perpetrator(s) of the betrayal, it’s about us bleeding off some of our own totally understandable brain chemistry steam in a non-destructive way. We have many compelling and painful thoughts under a lot of pressure.

This is why our pain from these experiences should be fully felt. Rather than pretend we’re okay and then convert four angry days into 20 resentful years, we are better to fully feel the feelings we have. We need not be scared of them. They are there to be felt. And after we’ve felt them, we can get on to empathy.

1333 Relax and Succeed - Empathy when you plant lettuce
We should nurture our understanding of those who we feel have done us wrong.

If we feel badly expressing ourselves honestly we have to remember that it’s society that told us to hold those feelings in, and we’re still recovering from the Victorians and they were scandalized by the word ‘leg’ (you had to use ‘limb.’). We don’t have to go insane or commit crimes or hurt others to let pain out. We just have to find constructive forms of letting off that emotional pressure.

Run, lift weights, listen to thrash metal, go to one of those places where you can pay to smash things. Or maybe just find someone who loves you that will let you rant, or abuse them for a while, on the understanding that you’re going to get proxy angry at them because you can’t yell at the person or institution that hurt you.

People that love us can survive that experience because they are the ones that accept us with our imperfections, just as we do theirs. That’s why we love them. But it’s a very healthy thing to ensure the person understands that we know full well that it is misplaced anger, and that we are grateful to them for helping us.

By doing that we make it much easier for the other person to hear us being unreasonable without taking it personally. If our point is to inflict pain, of course we’ll choose painful things to say. That doesn’t mean the things we say are somehow true. We’re blowing off steam, not doing journalism.

Once the anger has dissipated we can then begin a meditation that will untie the Gordian Knot of anger and blame in our imagination. In reviewing any situation from a less emotional distance, and by meditating on the other person’s context and history, we can often find that what happened makes more sense than what we had hoped would happen.

When we go from being an ego having a personal struggle to a limitless self having a psychological experience, we move from having feelings about a knot of things, to simply cutting through those feelings with understanding

Eventually our meditations on others lives lead us to realize more profoundly that others do not see their role in life as fulfilling all of our expectations. Nor should they. Otherwise we would be doomed to have to do likewise.

This means that, essentially, we feel let down when people fail to meet our expectations by merely being the only people they could be, given their experiences and their awareness. None of us can be someone we aren’t no matter how much we love those around us.

The people that let us down are merely people who are not who we had imagined they were. We can’t blame them for our imagination. Instead, by taking responsibility for our own speculation, we achieve understanding and forgiveness in return. And resentment and anger for understanding and forgiveness is a trade worth making.

peace. s