Anxiety secretly loves you (and the truth about the future).
Imagine you’re going to a party. Just as you step through the door you are grabbed by Mary. She wants to tell you all about it, all the problems, all the things to worry about. She gets on to politics or the latest thing to concern oneself about in the news and she’s having a field day, bending your ear. Moving on, she drops a critical comment about the clothes you’re wearing, or perhaps tells you who to talk to, who not to.
Finally you politely extricate yourself from Mary, and you make your way to the vol-au-vents where Lisa is having a relaxed chat with a mutual friend. She compliments you on your attire and then directs your attention to the beautiful garden. As you take in the weeping willow, you start to feel calmer, connected, you’re having fun, you sigh and relax in.
Our mind is like this party. There is the room and inside the room are all these characters, with their distinct voices. Sometimes we get totally hijacked by Mary. And bless her, she does have your best interests at heart. She wants to keep you safe by giving you all the facts and figures. She wants to get you prepared for every eventuality. She wants to keep you from social embarrassment by warning you of your clothing choices. Strangely all of this comes from a place of love. Like an over zealous mother she wants to keep you safe. But she goes about it in such a way it is overwhelming, repetitive and at times darn well attacking. Our own petty tyrant.
The party of our mind has many, many voices though and we can choose to move away and re-focus. Our negativity bias makes us hard-wired to listen to all the bad stuff so we can plan for the worst-case scenarios. But a calmer, happier way is to seek out what makes us feel calm and content. And that could just be one slow conscious breath.
Unaware of this habit we can get kind of addicted to the bad news. We feel good because we “know” (ever enjoyed that moment of “oh you haven’t heard? Let me tell you…”) And it’s for good reason. Imagine being a cave dweller out on a hunt. It was useful to imagine which way the wilderbeest would run and then plan for the options; left, right or straight on. Imagination helped us plan for the unknown future and have a stratgey. We still have this mechanism, but it is often in over-load trying to second, third, fourth guess the future.
But wait - what future?
If you stop and sit here right now- you’ll be aware you are in the present, the now. When weren’t you in the now? This morning’s breakfast was in the now. When you went to bed last night it was also the now….. we are always in the now. The future is just an idea.
We spend a lot of time- this precious and perfect now, worrying about a future that never comes.
Ever imagined what it would be like to go on that 2 week holiday to India?
The sights, the sounds, the smells…. Perhaps you imagine eating a curry somewhere, with a wonderful view. Perhaps you imagine lying on the beach, getting a massage, visiting a temple….and then you actually have the holiday. There are aspects of it like the imagined India, but you forgot about the boring bits, when you went to the loo, waited for a bus that never came, feeling frustrated the sand was too hot, the pool was too cold, couldn’t decide what to do next, was weary of actually being on holiday and all the other million billion moments that make up our lives.
To fully imagine a 2 week holiday in India, we’d have to actually go on holiday to India for 2 weeks. So trying to imagine the future is mainly a nonsense- it’s so incomplete.
Planning your meal and buying ingredients for it- yes. Imagining the next week, month or year- no. Life is too complex and no-one, but no-one can predict the future. The future is only a dream, an idea, made up of thoughts. Thoughts that come and go.
So now there is no actual future, except our imagined one- why not focus on it being a good one? It’s just as likely and it feels a whole lot better than worrying.