Monday Musings..."The Sky is Falling!!"
One of the wonderful things about having grandchildren is getting the opportunity to recreate your own childhood. You get to play, dream, imagine, and of course read those timeless tales that still grace our bookshelves. Humpty Dumpty, Henny Penny, Goldilocks and the Three Bears…
Childhood is so vitally important for it lays the foundation for how we will emerge as adults. And although many people have issues with Freud, we have to give him credit for two things: firstly, for placing emphasis on the influence of those formative years in our head space, and secondly, for his theory that informs us that we all inherently experience anxiety from the beginning of life. In fact, it is part of our survival instinct which is necessary to ensure our safety. Essentially, according to Freud, we are wired to worry!
So for those of you who are part of the 11.5% of the population who struggle with anxiety, according to the 2014 Survey on Living with a Chronic Diseases in Canada, this may come as a relief. “See I knew it! I was born this way!” For others, whose level of impairment may not be as severe to warrant a diagnosis, it can provide an explanation for the distress you feel periodically. “I worry to ensure my (and everyone else’s J) safety!” So it is no wonder that the adults who wrote those nursery rhymes and tales for tiny tots, were attempting to infuse infants with prose in preparation for the adult world. One never knows when the big bad wolf will come and get you!!
This is interesting to me. From the beginning, we are cultivating a culture of fear and ultimately insecurity. And then we wonder why there are so many issues in relationships. Freud goes on to describe the defense mechanisms that people use to cope and which often complicate relationships, such as denial (“nope, this is not happening to me”) or projection (“did you notice how much weight so and so has put on”, meanwhile that is the person’s worry) or rationalization a.k.a. the excuse factory (“if the people in front of me weren’t so slow, I would not have been late”). These attitudes and behaviours bring temporary relief, but they never seem to work in the long run.
Every day, we seem to be constantly keeping our personal lives in check to make sure we stay on that balance beam and not fall off. And it can be exhausting! That fits with Hans Seyle’s description of the stress response: we begin with an alarm reaction (“woah!”), then we build resistance (“I got this!”) and then we can only do this for so long until we do become exhausted (no quote needed – you all get it). This is a tough way to live, and if we are wired to be anxious, what hope is there for us?
Well, I’m an observer of people, everywhere I go. Whether that’s Walmart, a classroom, waiting in the Nexus lane, or sitting in a church pew. People are perpetually longing for peace. For some, they feel like they are ever seeking and never finding. For many, they are waiting for the pain to be over, for change to come, for a life that isn’t marred with seemingly constant disappointments and failures. They are looking for that utopia, which on earth, quite frankly will never exist. Life is hard…and that is not a bad thing.
Instead, of being held captive by anxiety or making several attempts to flee from it, a person should run towards it and embrace it. Sounds scary? It’s supposed to. You see, anxiety is future based and it’s all about control. For those who struggle, their mind races to the worst possible scenario, or what ‘could’ happen, and so their attitudes and behaviours are meant to restore control. The problem for the anxious person is that they know their actions are only a temporary solution. For the anxious person that is not good enough. They want assurance that everything will be ok, all the time. The very fact that a person knows this is not possible, then perpetuates the cycle as the person waits in earnest for the next ball to drop and the next….
When you realize that life IS about getting through the moment, you will be much better off. If you face that fear head on (the diagnosis, the exam, the difficult conversation) it will be hard. The only thing you can control is your thoughts, feelings and behaviours in that moment. You cannot control the outcome. You cannot control other people. The future is not yours to determine. In that moment you have a will and you have a choice. The problem is most people wait, delay in hope that things will resolve on their own, and the anxiety only gets worse.
When you were a newborn, you didn’t wait. You cried to get your needs met. It was about survival. You did not lie there hoping someone would know what you needed. You cried because you had an instinctive fear that you would die if you were not feed, clothed, or held. One moment in fear. The next moment in comfort. One moment in fear. The next moment in comfort. And so the journey began.
Each step along the way we need to combat the fears, not surrender to them. With each successful resolution, the armour gets stronger. Hardships, trials, combating fears...they all prepare us for what’s ahead. If we got through this pain, we can get through the next. The fact that relief is not permanent is a given on this Earth. Our hope therefore rests in the belief that we will have the strength to bear whatever comes our way. That fear will not overtake us, instead, in that moment we can cry out and push through.
So think of life like a nursery rhyme:
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and brown his crown
And Jill came tumbling after.
Up Jack got and home did trot,
As fast as he could caper;
And went to bed and bound his head
With vinegar and brown paper.
Ready to face and not fear the next hill!
The song for this week is: by Bodhi Jones "The Sky is Falling"