FEAR AND ANXIETY

Here is a selection of items from my main pages of ideas, stories and questions that relate to issues around fear and anxiety. I hope you find them of help and support.

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Disappointment takes adequate planning

When we invest too much of the future with our detailed plans and expectations we reduce the chance of being surprised by joy. When we take things as they come we just have our reactions, good or bad, to the events of the moment, not the burden of our past investment. If you suffer before you need to, you suffer more than you need to.

We do not see things as they are; we see them as we are

Everything we experience is through our own unique set of filters, from the big things like love and beauty to the more mundane like the quality of a cup of coffee, black or white etc. Some important understanding arises from this :-

Our communications are at best approximate.

Others do not see the world as we do and never will.

Ideas about right and wrong are usually matters of personal judgement.

Everything is part of the journey

This site is called "The Dance of Life" In a dance your aim is not to get to a particular point on the dance floor but to enjoy the experience of dancing.

Objectives are important but the process is just as important. If you think everything is going to be fine when you have "arrived" you are setting yourself up to be disappointed. While you are alive there is always another part of the journey. 

"There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way." (Wayne Dyer)

You can't stop a bird from landing on your head, but you can stop it from building a nest

I have had counselling clients who get annoyed with themselves when a negative or critical thought comes into their head. In fact sometimes they get so cross they invest the thought with enough energy for it to stay around for quite a while.

There are disciplines that can help control thoughts that arise in us but for most of daily life it is sufficient just not to give them more space. We have a choice, not to dwell on negative things. If action is needed we can act, otherwise we can fill our minds with what is positive and life enhancing.

Experience is not what happens to you

It's how you react to it.

If it were not so then everyone would experience the same event in the same way and we know that does not happen. So do we have a choice in our reactions to events? All I can say is our lives work better if we act as if we do.

Turning towards difficulty

It's a very human trait to turn away from our problems, to seek to avoid tricky situations. For some people confrontation is a real challenge while for others not treating everything as a confrontation can be more difficult.

What would your life be like if you decided to turn towards situations you found hard to deal with, even welcome them as an opportunity to learn. In the short term your life might become more difficult but in the long term you could find your resources strengthened and your sense of freedom greatly increased.

Don't try to be perfect

Two good reasons:-

1. If you get there it leaves you nowhere to go next.

2. You will make those around you feel inadequate.

A mental challenge

Try to go for three days without holding a negative thought for more than five seconds, if one comes along just let it go or replace it with something positive. If you fail, the time starts again and you keep going until you have completed your three days.
The worst that can happen is that you become more aware of your thinking, the best could be a permanent change in your focus.

Keeping a journal

This is one of the most powerful methods of personal exploration I know, not writing a diary of events but a journal of thoughts and feelings. If you can spend no more than 15 mins a day just writing you will soon become amazed by where your journal is taking you.

Most activity is a choice

We are the ones who make our lives more complicated than they need to be. There are, of course, some things we need to do but a lot of our activity is a choice. It's fine to take things on, to feel stretched, it's also fine to turn things down and to say no when that best serves us.

Silence is as important as noise

Music consists of sounds and silences. Without the gaps there wouldn't be a tune. Yet the life we live nowadays so often consists of constant noise, the noise of activity, television, relationships, our thoughts.

To make more sense of life, to hear the song we are here to sing, we need to create silence, a quiet time of reflection, an occasional oasis of calm where we can review where we have been, where we are now and where we are going.

It is claimed that much of man's unhappiness arises from his inability to sit in a room on his own. Silence just means being at one with ourselves and to some it can feel rather threatening. But staying with the silence say for five minutes, perhaps starting right now, can help develop the skill. Let your quiet times become a regular part of your daily life.

The Sunday Tube Train

I was taking the tube one Sunday morning and reading my newspaper. At the first stop three young children and their father joined our carriage but the children were so badly behaved I found it impossible to read or enjoy the journey. A little cross I asked their father if he could control his children better. He replied "Oh, I am sorry you were disturbed, you see we have come from the hospital where their mother, my wife has just died" (Stephen Covey)

Covey writes about his immediate mood change, from irritation to "How can I help?"

We never know the stories of others, why they act the way they do but we could try assuming people have a reason which, if we knew it, would change our reactions to them from negative to positive.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" (Plato)

The Farmer and the Horse

A farmer has a horse which is admired by all. One day it escapes and her friends express their sorrow.  "Things happen." is the reply and within a few days the horse returns leading more horses, the friends express their pleasure "Things happen." says the farmer and a few days later her son breaks his leg trying to tame one of the new horses. Again "Things happen." and a few days after that when the recruiting army comes to the village her son is spared enlistment because of the injury...and so it goes on.

We may never know the true meaning of an event, good or bad, until long after it has happened. Looking back some of our greatest problems have given us our best learning and what we thought was good news may have turned out to have been a mixed blessing. "And this too shall pass"

Living in the present

A man is captured by enemies and thrown into prison. That night he is unable to sleep because he fears that the next day he will be interrogated, tortured, and executed. Then the words of his teacher come to him, "Tomorrow is not real. It is an illusion. The only reality is now." Heeding these words he becomes peaceful and falls asleep.

My first reaction, nice idea, completely impractical. But then I start to think about the small steps I can make to living in the here and now rather than agonising over the past or worrying about the future. I don't think I will ever get to the position of the person in the story but I can do better than I am doing.

The travelling monks

Two travelling monks reached a river where they met a young woman. Wary of the current, she asked if they could carry her across. One of the monks hesitated, but the other quickly picked her up, carried her across the water, and put her down on the other bank. She thanked him and departed. As the monks continued on their way, the one was brooding and preoccupied. Unable to hold his silence, he spoke out. "Brother, our spiritual training teaches us to avoid any contact with women, but you picked that one up on your shoulders and carried her!"
"Brother," the second monk replied, "I set her down on the other side, while you are still carrying her."

You probably know this story, its a very old one and much told. The trouble with familiar things is that we react to the familiarity and tend to miss the learning. If we could stop holding on to negative thoughts and feelings we could transform our lives and perhaps the world.

God and the devil

God and the devil are walking down a street when God suddenly bends down to pick something up.

"What's that?" asks the devil?"

It's The Truth" replies God.

"Let me have it," says the devil "I'll organise it for you"

Keep your guard when dealing with organisations, however well intended. They can develop a life and an energy of their own, sometimes regardless of the attitudes of their members.

Don't do it then

A woman goes to see the Doctor, lifts up her right arm and says, "Every time I do that it hurts". The Doctor replies "So don't do it then" (Tommy Cooper)

Old joke, bad medical advice, but consider the following:-

Every time I drink too much I feel terrible the next morning:-
So don't do it then.

Whenever I think about my divorce I get very upset and cry:-
So don't do it then.

Each time we talk about your mother it ends up in a row:-
So don't do it then.

Fill in our own examples. Not all of life's problems can be solved this way but some can, it can be that simple, sometimes.

The mustard seed

A woman comes to the Buddha pleading with him to revive her dead child. "If you bring me a mustard seed from any household which has not known death your child will live again" he promises. She searches for days but to no avail and on her return says "I understand now. Death visits every household and eventually each of us."

It's a story of both sadness and reality and as we read it we should realise that if we don't have a good reason for grieving we should be rejoicing.

A month to live

The woman drove home from the hospital in a daze. "You probably have only one month to live." the new Doctor had told her after reviewing her test results. 

As her mind cleared on the long journey she started to plan the month ahead. She thought of  the letters and e-mails she needed to write, the calls she wanted to make, apologies for past mistakes, statements of love to those close to her. She realised there were experiences she had always postponed having which she could still cram into this month. Above all she wanted to spend her last weeks feeling fully alive.

She arrived home, keen to start doing the things she had thought about. The phone was ringing as she opened the door and she took the call. It was from the hospital, there had been a terrible mix up. Her tests were clear, there was no problem.

Would she still take the action she had planned on her journey home?

How can I learn from or enjoy this?

Our experience of a situation, however difficult, is largely determined by our perception and is therefore something over which we have a degree of control.

This is a question which challenges us to find the best in everything and everybody. It can lead to quite unexpected answers.

What would I say if I did know?

This is a question you can ask of yourself, or others, when the first reply is "I don't know."
For example, often these questions lead to a "I don't know reply"

"Do I want to do this?"
"Am I in love?"
"Is this the right action for me?"

Asking the question "What would I say if I did know?" can sometimes reveal some deeper feelings and understanding. The worst that can happen is a reply "I still don't know"

How could I see this differently?

Perspective changes experience! Problems viewed when we have slept well can feel very different from when we are tired. We have choice over how we see things and it pays to look at situations from a number of different perspectives, even if, at first, we have to play 'make believe.'

Could I look forward to looking back on all this?

This is one for the problem times in life, when we feel the world is closing in and the future looks bleak. The truth is most things pass, most things look and feel different over time. Look back on a problem that filled your life some time ago and see where you are in relation to it now, it may give a different perspective to your current situation.

So if you believe things may well be better in the future, why wait? Look forward to looking back.

Who could help me with this? (1)

So often people are reluctant to ask others for help, they use phrases like; "I don't want to take up their time" or "They already have enough to do".

The same people, if asked to help someone else use phrases such as; "I'm so pleased they asked" or "Glad I could be of assistance"

Why not treat yourself as well as you would treat others?

Who could help me with this? (2)

A fun idea. If you could summon up anyone, living or dead, real or fictional, to help you, who would it be and what help would they offer? Note what insights arise, recognise these are really your ideas and see what these new ideas might lead to.

What do you want? : How can I help?

The first question is about clarity, both for ourselves and for others. Once we are clear on what we want, our chances of getting it are greatly increased and yet sometimes it is so hard to be specific. We are usually more clear on what we don't want or find we just want to feel differently about something or somebody. It is good to recognise this is about our internal state and that therefore it makes more sense to seek internal change than to look outside for things to be different. (see Stories No 16)

The second question is a great one to ask others. It makes no suggestions, offers no solutions but simply states our willingness to be there and be of assistance. It is not an offer to be made lightly and sometimes the fact that we offered is enough in itself.

How would ... deal with this?

Our imagination is a wonderful gift and with it we can summon anyone we want to help us. 
It takes a little practice to get fluent at this, here is what to do:-

Sit quietly for a few minutes and then create a picture of yourself in a favorite location.

Imagine being joined by the person from whom you want help and advice.

Tell them, quietly in your mind, what your situation is and ask for their thoughts.

Then sit still until your imagination lets them speak and listen to what they have to say.

They can be real or fictional, experts or friends, family or famous, even from another planet.

It's OK to have fun with this.

Who can put you down?

Well, almost anyone, its a hazard of being human. People who think badly of themselves inside often try to boost their fragile egos by trying to put others down. It's good to remember when it happens, that it says far more about the person doing it than it does about you.

There's a difference between being put down and feeling put down, in the words of Eleanor Roosevelt,
"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent"

Who or what is on your "LTS" list?

Since our time here is limited it's worth having a "Life's too short" list of things and people we can best do without.

Here are some thought starters:-
Life's too short to do things that don't make you feel good.
Life's too short to be in places you don't feel comfortable in.
Life's too short to be with people whose company you don't enjoy.

Why not use these ideas to draw up a list of things and people you really don't have time for, and then act on it.

Who's in charge if you're not?

It's so easy to blame others, parents, partners, big business, unions, government, but the result of this blame is that they are the ones in charge of your life.
However powerless you may feel it seems best to act as if you are in charge, at least it increases your chances of getting what you want.

What assumptions am I making about this?

We usually need make a lot of assumptions in order to feel upset about something. It seems as if there is a part of human nature which is programed to take things personally but it's not our best guide to what is going on. We assume other people have the same reasons for acting as we think we would have if we acted in the same way. Perhaps the most important thing to remember when challenging the assumptions on the basis of which we react is this "It's hardly ever about you" So here's a question to ask when someone or something pushes your buttons, "If I assume it's not about me then what could it be about?" The answers could save you a lot of suffering.

Affirmations

Affirmations are positive statements you repeat to yourself on a regular basis, a strange idea to some people. But, consider the statements you do say to yourself during an average day, how many are positive, "I'm doing well at this" and how many negative "I've screwed up again".

Now if most of yours are positive I suggest you skip this item, it's not for you. But if most diminish you, if you verbally repeat negative phrases from childhood, if your thoughts run you down all the time this is a chance to take action to counter these influences.

Here is the theory behind it:-
Your experience is influenced by your thinking.
Change your thinking and you change you experience.
Affirmations help you to change your thinking.

So chose a statement, perhaps from the list below, and resolve to say it, with feeling and preferably out loud, twenty times a day as two sessions each of ten times. Give each repetition as much emphasis as possible, make yourself sound believable. If it hasn't made a difference a month from now, try something else, but you won't because it will.

I love and accept myself and this allows me to grow.
I have the right to feel the way I do, and I can chose to feel differently.
I have the qualities I need to deal with any problems I face.

My experience of cancer

Back in 2007 I was diagnosed with cancer from which I am pleased to say I have now recovered. I learnt a lot from the experience, from my reaction to chemotherapy and from my major surgery. Here are some of the notes I wrote.

Everything passes

The good times, the bad times, nothing, including life, lasts forever. There is challenge and comfort in that thought, probably in equal measure.

There is only here and now

If I don't appreciate the present, the kindness of friends, the support of my loved ones and yes, even my chemotherapy which is here to shrink my tumour, then I miss out on a part of my life that will never come again and each moment is too precious not to fully experience it.

There is a big difference between meaning and learning

I don't think my cancer has any purpose, I didn't cause it, and it's just something that turned up. But it has the ability to teach me a lot and I'm going to get the best learning I can from it.

Experiencing what happens is more important that what happens

Realising this has been something of a relief. I've always had objectives, a long 'to do' list and currently my only objective is this 'Whatever happens, get the best from it.

When you are going through hell, walk quickly

I'm learning through techniques of distraction, humour, reaching out to others, to speed up the passage of the difficult times and through increased awareness to enjoy to the full the times of pain free relaxation. Does this conflict with what I wrote about the 'here and now'? Yes, in part and I've also learnt that there is no one description that works for every aspect of life. I love the inconsistencies and seeming contradictions.

Don't wait for the evening to appreciate the day

This speaks for itself but I do want to add a John Lennon quote, the truth of which I realise more every day,
'Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans.'

An unlikely story

The business executive was deep in debt and could see no way out, creditors were closing in on him. He sat on the park bench, head in hands, wondering if anything could save his company from bankruptcy.

Suddenly an old man appeared before him. "I can see that something is troubling you," he said. After listening to the executive's woes, the old man said, "I believe I can help you." He asked the man his name and wrote out a check. He pushed it into his hand, and said, "Take this money. Meet me here exactly one year from today, and you can pay me back at that time." Then he turned and disappeared as quickly as he had come.

The business executive saw in his hand a check for $500,000, signed by John D. Rockefeller, then one of the richest men in the world! "I can erase my money worries in an instant!" he thought. But instead, he decided to put the uncashed check in his safe. Just knowing it was there might give him the strength to work out a way to save his business.

With renewed optimism, he negotiated better deals and extended terms of payment. He closed several big sales. Within a few months, he was out of debt and making money once again.

Exactly one year later, he returned to the park with the uncashed check. At the agreed-upon time, the old man appeared. But just as the executive was about to hand back the check and share his success story, a nurse came running up and grabbed the old man. "I'm so glad I caught him!" she cried. "I hope he hasn't been bothering you. He's always escaping from the rest home and telling people he's John D. Rockefeller." And she led the old man away by the arm.

The astonished executive just stood there, stunned. All year long he'd been wheeling and dealing, buying and selling, convinced he had half a million dollars behind him. Suddenly, he realized that it wasn't the money, real or imagined, that had turned his life around. It was his newfound self-confidence that gave him the power to achieve anything he went after.

As nice as this story is, I doubt if it is actually true. However, like a lot of fables, it makes a great common sense point about career and life success. If you believe in yourself and your success, you are likely to find ways to make that belief come true. Think about it.

© 2017 David Mills