Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What are you so afraid of?

Several weeks ago, in my yoga study, I was given the assignment to journal and reflect on the connection between love and fear.  Our homework began with the task of taking note of the what we are afraid of as well as the things that we love.  We were reminded that our feelings of fear and love come in many forms:  our fear may be experienced as fright, anxiety, apprehension, or insecurity, while love may be expressed as demonstrations of emotional investment, passion, fondness, or true love itself.  After mindfully noting such emotions, we were instructed to analyze our feelings to decipher what exactly our attachment is, with the intention of detaching just a bit, and thus gaining a new perspective on life or a deeper understanding ourselves. 

This assignment is based on the theory that fear and love are the only basic emotions that we feel, and everything else stems from them:  greed stems from a fear of lacking, anger from a fear of perceived threat, humor stems from a love of the lighthearted, joy stems from a fulfilled love of some sort, and so on.  And while you may or may not agree with this theorizing, my homework showed me that there is a definite connection between love and fear.  That every single day we experience some kind of love.  Likewise, each and every day we encounter something that we fear.    

…If you take a moment to think about what that means for you personally, you will likely discover that there is a connection for you as well.  And as you see fear as an attachment to something you love, you may also find that fear itself is not be so scary after all.  Of course, there are plenty frightening things that may or may exist, that may or may not happen to us in our lives, but fear itself is nothing more than a feeling.  It is just one of many emotions that we may feel at any given time.  It is natural, it is okay, and it is useful.  Fear is always looking out for our best interest.  It demands our attention, warning us of potential threats, and it guides us toward safety and security. 

However, because fear is just an emotion, and it is just like the rest of them, it is up to us to be aware of our feelings, prioritize them, and act on those that best serve our higher purpose, even in the face of fear so that we do not become its prisoner.   So when we feel frightened, what might we do?  It seems to me that before we do anything, we should slow down and acknowledge our fear.  Really examine it.  Take note of it has to say, and ask ourselves if that is worth listening to or if we are better off ignoring it.  And then, we can make one of two choices.  We can choose to do what fear tells us to do, at the risk of doing nothing.  Or, we can remember the words of Franklin Roosevelt, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself,” and call upon our courage and act anyway.


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda

As the old adage goes, “You can’t make a square peg fit in a round hole.”  Most of us know exactly what this saying means:  You cannot force something (or most often, someone) to be something that it is not.  We cannot make a square peg  fit any better into a round hole by thinking that the hole should be square or wanting the peg to be round.  Instead, we are much better suited to focus on and tend to what actually is, rather than wasting our precious resources fretting about the way things should or should not be.  And while most of us would agree with this reasoning, it is certainly easier said than done. 

When we are honest with ourselves and examine how we view the world, the majority of us would have to admit that we have a relatively clear idea of how things should be.  Whether we are talking about ourselves, other people, the ways of the world, or something different entirely, it seems that we all have some kind of definition of what should and should not be happening.  We have our ideals, our beliefs, and our way of making sense of the world, and it reasonably follows that we would like to live in a world that supports our views.    

And I think this is quite natural.  As humans, it is natural to have personal preferences and aversions.  It is even natural to want things to be “our way”.  To see the world through our very own eyes.  To have a few expectations here and there.  To have a compass of sorts, that helps guide us toward betterment, as we see fit.

And while this may be entirely natural, and even beneficial, it is not always in our best interest.  For when we become attached to our ideals and fixate on the way that things should be in favor of how things really are, we become frustrated and upset.  We might even pass unfair judgments based on our biased perspectives and unmet expectations.  As we cling to how things should be, we project them onto the world at large.  And when that happens, we react to what we think should exist, rather than acknowledging what actually does.  And this, of course, sets us up for further disappointment. 

However, when are able to detach from these “should bes” and take the world as it is, in a more objective light, we are better able to accept and respond to life as it truly is.  Instead of being obscured by ideals, we understand the facts.  Rather than focusing on what is missing, or what we would like to find, we deal with what is actually present.  And this is empowering, because it helps us clarify and illuminate what is within our power to change, and what is not.  And that is what allows us to integrate our ideals with our reality, live in the here and now, and interact with life as fully as possible. 


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

When Worst Comes to Worst

This week’s column is about a term that I like to refer to as “horrible-izing”.  If you are not familiar with the idea of horrible-izing, it can be defined as one’s tendency to focus on the worst of things.   For example, a person may be engaging in the act of horrible-izing if they overemphasize the negative side of life  Likewise, those that horrible-ize are those that ruminate, worry about worst possible outcomes, the dreaded “what ifs”, and tend to view undesirable situations as the “end of the world”. 

If we are honest with ourselves, most of us must admit that we horrible-ize from time to time, particularly when we are feeling anxious about an upcoming situation or a troublesome circumstance that we have encountered.  We fall into the trap of thinking about how badly things might go, how awful it would be for us if these events actually occurred, and we forget to take it one step further and consider what we might actually do  should these things really take place.  We might even get so wrapped up in our anxiety that we begin to worry that our life will be forever altered in some catastrophic way. 

If you would, take a moment to think about something in your life that is upsetting, anxiety-provoking, or unsettling.  Perhaps you are facing a transition in a relationship and you are unsure of how to move forward.  Perhaps you have committed yourself to something that is a significant undertaking.  Perhaps you have recently encountered a situation in life that you are unsure of how to handle.  Or, perhaps, you tend to experience smaller triggers on a more regular basis and you have become accustomed to feeling reactive, tightly wound, or shaken up. Or, perhaps something entirely different has come to mind

Regardless of what you thought of, I would like you to think about how you think about those things.  Take a minute or two and horrible-ize.  Think about the worst of the worst, no matter what that may be. 

Then, take note of what came to mind.  I am willing to bet that you stopped short at the worst case scenario and you went no further.  If that is the case, I would like to challenge you to change your thinking.  Rather than focusing on the bad things that could happen and stopping there, take one step beyond and imagine how you might live through and overcome such an obstacle.  Instead of obsessing about the possibility of something bad happening, ask yourself how probable it is that your worries come true.  Ask yourself if this is something that you could live through, and if so, how would life look?  Would it be that bad? 

Finally, compare these two thought processes and decide for yourself which one you would rather invest your energies in to.  Take into account that “what we think about, we bring about”, and remember that your thoughts and your perspective on life will always be your choice.