Another IPS (Inner Peace Symptom): a disinclination to encourage catastrophic thinking and worrying. [Worst-case scenarios rarely happen. Allowing yourself to get caught up in mind-loops about them just makes you dizzy and paralyzes you.]
THE HUMAN DIFFERENCE
I am reading a book, BODY INTELLIGENCE: Harness Your Body’s Energies for Your Best Life by the renowned body energy expert and holistic psychologist, Dr. Joseph Cardillo, PhD. A fascinating read.
It starts from the premise that “you are energy, your world is energy, and everything in your world is energy.” It goes on from there.
In it, the good doctor combines Western science, technology, psychology, holistic medicine and ancient wisdoms as well as years of experiences and stories to teach you how to tap into your own inherent human energy. He presents helpful suggestions and strategies that enable you to access this energy and help you live your best life.
One interesting concept Cardillo points out is this: Unlike other animals, humans have the gift of visualization. Lucky us.
We humans can imagine events that haven’t happened and we can actually see them in our mind’s eye. We can build whole worlds in our heads that don’t exist and plop ourselves right inside them. We can make up epic stories about what can happen to us in these worlds we make up.
The reason you can do this, Cardillo explains, is because of your brain’s attention network which relies on information you’ve stored in your memory as well as all the millions of bits of external information that’s available to you and how you gather this information together.
We humans are all so good at doing this that we can trigger very real emotional and physical reactions in ourselves. Consider this. In the middle of a strong visualization you can have all kinds of feelings and thoughts about the imagined scenario. You just naturally consider all kinds of possibilities – some good, others bad.
Because we are such integrated creatures and since our minds affect our bodies as much as our bodies affect our minds, visualization can be a blessing or a curse.
You can ride so high on a tide of bliss that you lose your way, like a balloonist tossed around in high winds. (Bliss feels really, really good. Mostly, though, you can’t steer well when your head’s all spacey like that.)
Ideally, if you are able to ride out the less-idyllic aspects of your visualization, you can use the swift kick in the behind that’s the gift that the uneasiness and queasiness we call “worry” carries to sharpen your focus on the situation you’re imagining, to enhance your comprehension of its nuances and ramifications, and to effectively execute actions to overcome assorted real-life challenges that you are likely to face on your way to your envisioned goal.
Alternatively, you might be overwhelmed and drown in the anxieties that arise as a result of your visualization of all of the possible disasters, catastrophes and other worst-case scenarios that your mind can conjure. This last can cause serious damage to your body and your mind.
THE DOWNSIDE OF WORRYING
Anxiety, which is a natural consequence of worry, triggers your body’s flight-fight response. This causes your body’s sympathetic nervous system to release stress hormones such as cortisol, which can boost blood sugar levels and triglycerides (blood fats) that can be used by the body for fuel.
Physical reactions (in alphabetical order) could include:
- Difficulty swallowing
- Dry mouth
- Fast heartbeat
- Inability to concentrate
- Muscle aches
- Muscle tension
- Nervous energy
- Rapid breathing
- Shortness of breath
- Trembling and twitching
Studies have shown that if the excessive fuel in your blood caused by chronic anxiety and all that outpouring of stress hormones is not used for physical activities, there can be severe consequences. Muscle tension, premature coronary artery disease, and heart attacks are possible. Your digestive system gets wonky and your immune system gets compromised.
Not only that, but short-term memory loss is not uncommon. If the excessive worrying and high anxiety continues, they can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts.
Catastrophic thinking, worrying, and anxiety is not a good alternative.
BACK-TO-THE PRESENT METHOD
This You-Tube video, “Three Steps to Overcoming Worry” was published in 2014 by depression counselor Doug Bloch who is, himself, prone to anxiety, worry and depression.
Again, here are Bloch’s Big Three:
- Reel in your mind to the here-and-now, where you are safe.
- Acknowledge that your catastrophic thoughts are not real.
- Positive self-talk or action that allows you to focus on the outside world rather than hanging out in your interior spaces help break the hold of a persistent worry.
FIGHT WORRY WITH KNOWLEDGE
Another way to deal with the tendency to catastrophize and worry is to develop mastery.
Joshua Slocum was a solo sailor who set out to sea from Massachusetts in a stubby oyster sloop just shy of 37 feet on April 24, 1895. He said he was going to circumnavigate the planet by himself in this small sailboat. Everybody thought he was insane.
In his book about his adventure, SAILING ALONE AROUND THE WORLD, Joshua said, “To know the laws that govern the winds, and to know that you know that you know them, will give an easy mind on your voyage round the world; otherwise you may tremble at the appearance of every cloud.”
The young man giving a review about a book called THE WORST CASE SCENARIO SURVIVAL HANDBOOK in this You-Tube video published by 190 granary in 2009 obviously agrees that the best strategy is to figure out what you’re going to do ahead of time.
The book was written by Joshua Pivens and David Borgenicht.
Everybody has a number of concerns that are important but not in-your-face-urgent. They’re the stuff you know you need to address at some point when you’ve got some breathing room.
The problem is Urgent has a tendency to overshadow Important – things like de-cluttering your life, developing a saner budget or diet, putting together a will, getting your important files and papers organized or upgrading your education — get buried under more mundane things like “What’s for dinner?” and “What are we going to do about _____________ (fill in the blank with some cliffhanger dilemma).”
Martial artist Jim Brault, author of several books about martial arts mindset including A PATH OF MASTERY: Lessons on Wing Chun and Life from Sifu Francis Fong, suggests constructing a To-Worry List.
Brault says the reasoning behind constructing a To-Do List is that once you write the thing down on your list, you know you will be coming back to it and you will be addressing it so you don’t have to think about it until it’s time to do the thing.
The To-Worry List is a list of stuff you know you want or need to attend to. These are things that you know you want to address.
They are important, but they don’t have to be done right away. They’re the things that nudge and poke at you every once in a while or lie there waiting for you to notice them again and again and again.
The To-Worry List, he says, is a promise to yourself that you really are going to look at each issue again. Write them down. Let them sit. Revisit the list and put in some time considering different approaches.
Make decisions as you figure out what you want to do as the next step to move each one forward. Do one step and finish that step. Keep on coming back, making decisions, do another step.
Do that often enough and your mind will begin to believe that it can let go of the worry the issue evokes.
A WORRY-FREE LIFE
My favorite take on this whole thing is this YouTube video, “The 5-Letter Secret to a Worry-Free Life” posted by Goalcast in 2017.
The video features His Grace Gaur Gopal Das, a former software engineer who became a monk, a student of the Vedas and a disciple of Radhanath Swami.
Here’s a poem.
What we talkin’ here?
Who is being done to?
And who be doin’ the doin’…
Or the not-doin’.
Are we talking structural constraints?
Are we talking mile-high walls
And fences with concertina wire on top?
Are we talking moats?
Are we talking dead-ended cul-de-sacs
And mazes filled with man-traps
Built like cockroach motels?
Are we talking barred and shuttered windows?
Are we talking triple-padlocked gates?
Are we talking doors with twenty-seven assorted locks
Plus electronic surveillance connections
And flying spy-drones buzzing ’round?
Are we talking border guards and canine patrols –
Or maybe squads of trained jackals and baboons?
Are we talking shackles and chains?
Are we talking those restraining jackets and sticky stuff
They dress you in when you go mad because
There’s no place you can catch your breath
And no place you can stand up straight?
Are we talking economic privileges and sanctions…
A whole other can of nasty?
Are we talking societal mores and pronouncements
Set in ersatz-stone
That damn you ’cause you do
And damn you ’cause you don’t,
All of them promulgated by the fearful
Who hope to turn the Mystery into Disneyland –
Oh, of course,
“For our own protection….”
Trying really hard to shrink the infinite
Into comfortable little boxes
Available at Wal-Mart as a set of four for $5.99?
Are we talking mind-games?
Are we talking emotional push-buttons and whack’em down hammers
Wielded by little old blue-haired ladies in tennis shoes
And their stiff old Robber Baron honeys –
The Guardians of Propriety – in their bastions of status quo?
Are we talking poisoned slings and arrows
Shot by the stainless-steel cute crowd –
The ones with the amassed “buzz?”
Are we talking bitter, bile-laced flamethrowers
In the hands of the designated Victims of the World,
Who are on some perpetual whine or other
About how it is all Somebody Else’s fault
And how, now, THEY gotta pay?
Or maybe we’re talking ’bout
The prove-you-love-me moves,
The expectations and the if-then slides
From the ones in whose hands you have already placed
Your raw and bleeding heart.
I’m not a fan.
Does it show?
by Netta Kanoho
Header photo credit: “Maui” by Francois via Flickr [CC BY-NC 2.0]
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