What to do when things are outside your control? Brexit, Trump, etc.
CONTROLLING THE UNCONTROLLABLE? I don’t read the news. I get my news from people. I hear that the (UK) Prime Minister has made a pronouncement on Brexit and that this has caused a good deal of anxiety and possibly re-traumatised people in various ways. And Trump has been inaugurated... The reason I avoid the “news” is that it tries to tap into my personal emotions thereby making the issues personal to me – which they are not. The attempt to weave a flood of information into my own life narrative through exposure to sensational stories is a good way to sell more “news” but it doesn’t align with my aspiration to live a more peaceful, tolerant and compassionate life. What’s more, coming from a generational history of colonial rule (and the impact of two world wars), then gone through a violent independence war, the impact of a cold war and a brutal civil war, it’s hard to take political events too seriously.
WHY WE FEAR THE FUTURE Nathaniel Branden (a psychotherapist) has a short segment online on “why we fear the future”. He mentions how the old rules of life and work do not apply making us feel at a loss as to what to do; an emerging worldwide subconscious fear; and a perception that: “we’re in a time of escalating change without a clear picture of what it’s all evolving towards”… Of course, this could apply to any period in human history. Change has always existed. Imagine living in the time of the plague or Genghis Khan. We happen to live in a period in which we are the most materially comfortable that we ever have been. Yet we feel and behave as through our existence is constantly threatened. We’re permanently switched on and unable to relax fully, gripped by those “something is missing” and “something bad is about to happen” sensations. As psychologist Daniel Goleman describes, the fear/emotional response we experience to any particular event in Western societies tends to be out of proportion to the stimulus. Our survival instincts, designed to fight sabre tooth tiger attacks are triggered by someone jumping ahead in the queue, or moving our coffee mug in the office kitchen. Of course, there are real consequences to Brexit and of course you may need to make decisions to protect your livelihood, loved ones and wellbeing but is your life really at risk? Or just your life situation? Did you ever believe that your life situation was permanent?...Of course, not. SO WHAT CAN YOU DO TO FEEL MORE IN CONTROL? A past Wise Wednesday explored “How to deal with uncertainty like an entrepreneur” looking at your risk appetite as a determinant of your life experience and outcomes, particularly when going after your dreams. “Risk is an essential component of life as we know it. A life that is not open to uncontrollable elements in the world and therefore not subject to fear would be a divine life, not that of a human being”. Dale S. Wright. The Six Perfections. p. 164. So you don’t feel anxious because something is wrong, but because you are a human being. You are alive. Your existence is such a small probability event and yet it happened. Celebrate that. Your ability to keep cool and act in the face of risk is what makes you brave and resilient. Your perception of risk is subjective so you can play with that… The real question is: What is the lesson in the fear/anxiety? What message does it carry?
is it an old way of thinking that you need to let go of?; or
is it an action you need to take?
Creating space in your life and getting support to be with these questions can help you to get to the answers quicker; as well as strengthen your feeling of confidence and peace. CULTIVATING DEEPER INTELLIGENCE Research shows that we are used to functioning at a superficial level of consciousness that is mostly reactive and habitual. Delving deeper into our mental capacities opens up new abilities to understand a situation and our role within it, so as to make the best decision possible. A key capacity is the ability to steady the mind, using metacognition to manage the mental orchestra. Another is to steady the emotions. It is possible. Meditation in its various forms and the attendant reflective practices are part of our human heritage for that very reason. A daily practice of meditation and reflection will do more for your quality of life than probably anything else. THREE INSIGHTS TO HOOK INTO WHEN DEALING WITH THE UNCONTROLLABLE: It’s not about you: there is a wider, vaster picture that you are part of. Tapping into that wider perspective can often lead you to a deeper level of understanding and finding the best next step forward. Focus on what you want and stop reacting to what you don’t want: it can be difficult to stay focused on your vision for your life or work when you are reacting to an external event. Beware that your brain is designed to focus on the negative and magnify it, which will sap your energy fruitlessly. Come back to your original vision, anchor yourself to it and see if you can perceive the next step. Take action to help someone/something else: this is a great, rational shortcut to stop navel gazing. It switches your focus immediately and relieves feelings of tension. Just make sure you don’t use it as a constant distraction from your inner-experience. HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU ARE MAKING PROGRESS? You should start to feel better. Calmer, happier, wiser. You might even start looking forward to problems as they’re a chance to exercise your newfound faculties…! You should also sense yourself moving further into your deeper intelligence. Where do you spend most of your time on the (Michael Beckwith) scale of development below? How do you see problems/life occurring? See which statement below resonates most with you right now: Things happen:
to me (e.g. why is this problem happening to me/what will happen to me?)
by me (e.g. I will solve this problem)
through me (e.g. this problem is an opportunity in disguise. I am part of the problem and the solution)
as me (e.g. there is no problem, just a life situation that I am fortunate enough to experience). Eckhart Tolle is big on this last one.