Anxiety & Intuition
Plague Year Musings: You’re Probably Really Afraid Right Now.
This Could Be The Beginning of a Miracle.
Consider just for a moment, that there may be healing afoot.
At first it may seem entirely inappropriate to consider anything but the magnitude of terror and shock lockdown has triggered. But it may be simultaneously true that this crisis, like any crisis, is creating the perfect opportunity to crack open your willingness to really listen to your intuition. You may be able for the first time in your life to bypass the shock, step around the fear, and actually hear a different voice coming from the deepest parts of you.
Far too many of us live tolerating ridiculously high levels of anxiety to infect every waking moment, and usually we don’t notice how much it costs us to live this way. It has become so normal we may not realize the moment of no return. We stopped being able to choose to live another way. So we pay lip service to the idea of going with the flow or being in the moment until a crisis forces us to reckon with the reality that Huh. I don’t actually know what those platitudes actually mean.
Because let’s face it, being in the moment is a lot easier when the moments don’t suck.
I think it must be a design flaw, how much we humans despise uncertainty. The only constant in life is change, yet we invest vast amounts of our mental capacity into controlling our circumstances, relationships, finances, and emotions. As a result, we spend a lot of time afraid.
This global pandemic is preventing us from relying on the usual thought structures we’ve built that support the illusion that our lives and our emotions are controllable. But it also gives us a choice. Do we want real happiness and security? Do we want to be of service to others? Do we want to be kind, vulnerable, generous? Or do we only want those things in theory? These are the real sources of healing that generously seed peace and meaning into our hearts and lives. They are the foundation of a life lived intuitively, one that is directed towards helping find the highest good for the greatest number.
But if we don’t live out of those values consistently, or we only do when it seems convenient, then when things fall apart, we will be rudderless.
If you are experiencing poor sleep, irritability, the worsening of stress-related conditions in the body, an erosion of harmony in your relationships, then you are also participating in the illusion that if you just worry enough you can control outcomes. You have become a prisoner in a fortress built by a belief system that sees lack in everyone and everything around you, including yourself.
But you can’t demolish the fortress by smashing every single brick, every single day.
The first step to freeing up greater resources within yourself is to see that you have a choice about which thoughts govern you. Don’t believe everything you think, in other words. Thoughts are just thinking themselves. Be skeptical.
It doesn’t feel like much of a choice at first. We’ve become so habituated to fearful thoughts that we think it’s ridiculous to ignore them. Disengaging requires patience and practice.
So just focus on noticing them for the first bit. Once you get the hang of it and you understand the full magnitude of how much fear-based thinking passes through your mind like a really dour ticker tape, you will naturally begin to give it some side eye, or even better, ignore it altogether. Eventually reacting to it seems like a waste of energy. It will bore the crap out of you.
You are human and you have other feelings besides fear, which you may feel more widely and deeply when you’re not processing every single experience you have through a lens of anxiety.
One warning: fear is fed by your attention. In the beginning, if you ignore it, it will respond by becoming more dramatic in a bid to get you focused back on it. This phase is short-lived but intense. Keep going.
Let’s talk a little about freaking out. Panicking. Not being able to breathe in Trader Joe’s and driving home convinced you have Covid.
In a crisis like this, your feelings are going to be more intense, more often. You are also very likely going to pick up on the emotions of others and carry them around in your heart.
You’re going to have days where you do not feel like you are handling anything very well at all. Know this: You are a human among humans, and there is no one in our entire civilization who is not experiencing the challenge of this pandemic. You are doing so much better than you realize.
You may have noticed that fear-based thinking has an *awesome* (sarcasm alert) response feature, called the trigger. You probably already know this, but a trigger is an event (external) or thought (internal) that serves as an acceleration point for being very upset, a lá anxiety and panic.
When we’re triggered, we assign arbitrary value and validity to our thoughts just like we usually do, only faster. Our thoughts make the same argumentative loops with the same mostly predictable script, ending with the same disastrous conclusions. Before we know it’s happening, fear begets more fear, and soon the reality we experience is worse than what’s actually happening. If it seems like we’re all in a bad movie right now, believe me, the remake in our heads is worse, fueled with horrifying what-ifs which haven’t even happened yet. And probably won’t. It’s always worse in our minds.
It’s like “Shark Attack” from Jaws starts playing in the background of our lives several times a day.
The adrenaline required to fuel panic can be addictive, and you can likely risk filtering every experience you have this way, which is no way to live.
Fear shuts down your intuition. It absents us from our relationships. Our bodies respond as if we’re in danger. The distraction of panic can be so powerful it can create a host of psychosomatic health issues.
And if that isn’t bad enough, as the thought loops speed up, which they love to do, they’re not just disrupting any harmony and peace that naturally exists within us (surprisingly resiliently), they persuade us that this high level of obsessiveness is a good thing. We think we’ll be ok if we can just figure it out (“it” in this case being whatever has our attention.) We think tolerating this level of fear-based living is what is actually protecting our joy.
Don’t buy into it.
Here we are at Peak Uncertainty, in the middle of this global pandemic, in a kind of no man’s land between our pivotal election and the certification of its results, there is an opportunity. We might actually notice that we are ok. That no matter what, we are beginning to live moment-to-moment and discovering it’s a very wealthy way to live, emotionally. While we are here, pitched into the Not Knowing and not leaving anytime soon, we might find ourselves surprisingly calm and grounded, open to each moment as it unfolds, deeply present to—
Yeah, nope. Ok, maybe for a few minutes a day. God, wouldn’t it be nice if it were as easy as just saying a few flowery inspirational super groovy sentences? Most of us, with a lot of work, can get glimmers of this kind of peace. Usually though, we have a panic picnic that lasts all day. As hard as we try, we start spiraling down into the suffering that only obsessive, fear-based thinking can cause. It’s s t r e s s f u l.
It’s also addicting. Fear causes adrenaline rushes. If you want to be calmer and more zen-like when faced with uncertainty, you may have to give up trying to race into solutions. You might just have to be uncomfortable until your discomfort passes (Sorry).
Here’s my suggestion: remember that fear-based thinking is easiest to catch before it has a chance to take hold of you. Use good daily habits like watching your language for drama, negativity, and assumptions. Stay away from alarmist people and click-baity social media accounts. As soon as you notice anxiety has taken hold, that’s the time to practice self-care. With patience, you can actually find a way back to yourself pretty quickly.
And remember, your intuition went out ahead of you to prepare you for this hard time. You can trust it. But it doesn’t swoop in and do it while we’re panicking. Getting grounded means reconnecting to a part of yourself that already knows.
Also: remember, the things we worry about almost never come to pass. They are just projected scenarios we ruminate upon. Reality usually takes the middle road between what we hope and what we fear.
Follow the calm, even if that means you follow it a minute at a time. A breath at a time. Or, you know, right into a nap. Sometimes the way to fight is to surrender. Worrying is exhausting. So, rest up and wake up ready to let your intuition drive for a while.
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