"The Power of Your Thoughts."
So America seems to be falling apart. Cities are burning as rioters loot and destroy essential infrastructure. Also, the upcoming Presidential election has created a division in our politics, the likes of which has never been seen before. And all of this mayhem is happening while the country is dealing with a deadly pandemic. Can we pile on any more stress?
If you look around you, you'll see some people acting calm and taking it all in stride while others in the same situation are beside themselves with fear and anxiety. How can that possibly be? Two people may be exposed to the same events, but they could be experiencing those events quite differently. And the reason for this is the way each person is thinking about what is occurring. Thoughts, not external events, affect the way a person feels.
Have you lost your job? That's too bad, but the market will pick up, and with your talents, you will probably land a job better than the one you had before.
Have you lost your job? That's a catastrophe. The way the market is, you'll be lucky to get a crapy job in about two years.
Which person will be energized? And as a result, which person will have a better chance of capitalizing on any opportunities?
There is a popular book published in 1902 by British philosopher and author James Allen entitled "As a Man Thinketh," which speaks to the reality that thoughts create the person. Two lines in the book state, "Men do not attract what they want, but what they are" and "A man is literally what he thinks, his character being the complete sum of all his thoughts."
In Dr. Caroline Leaf's book, "Switch On Your Brain," she writes, "As we think, we change the physical nature of our brain. As we consciously direct our thinking, we can wire out toxic patterns of thinking and replace them with healthy thoughts." According to Mahatma Gandhi, "A man is but the product of his thoughts; what he thinks, he becomes."
And lastly, in Proverbs 23:7, "As someone thinks within himself, so he is."
So it becomes abundantly clear that thoughts, not externals, are what drives how we feel and who we are.
Hence, we still have to deal with the reality of our externals, but if our thoughts are positive, they will allow us to do so from a place of energy and confidence.
Are there any examples of how we can change our thoughts so we can live better lives? Are there ways to view our circumstances and ourselves so that we can turn our ideas into positive beliefs and avoid adverse behavior?
An excellent place to start are the words found in Matthew 6:25-27. "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them." The passage does not mean that we should have no concerns about tomorrow. The intention in Matthew is to adjust our priorities and what we focus on. Yes, food, clothes, and money are essential aspects of life, but we should understand that life is far more valuable than these things. Using this understanding in real life, we might be able to see that the anxieties and depression that stem from shortages in money and supplies do not have to be faced alone.
We help ourselves immensely by giving a voice to our fears and concerns. We may decide to openly speak out and take our petitions to God through prayer if we believe in God. If not, we may seek the understanding and help of friends, family, professionals, or trusted organizations. The main thing is to realize that we are not alone in our situation and that our physical needs are necessary but not the most important thing. Caring for our soul, our true or higher self, and the concern for others, is by far more important.
The following advice is taken from "The Way To Love." By Fr. Anthony De' Mello. "The present moment, no matter how painful, is never unbearable. What is unbearable is what you think is going to happen in five hours or five days, and those words you keep saying in your head, words like, "This is terrible, this is unbearable, how long is this going to last," and so on. Birds and flowers are blessed above humans in that they have no concept of the future, no words in their heads, and no anxiety about what their fellows think of them. That is why they are such perfect images of the kingdom. So do not be anxious about tomorrow; tomorrow will look after itself. Each day has troubles enough of its own. Set your mind on God's kingdom before everything else, and all the rest will come to you as well."
Show me anxious and depressed thoughts, and I'll show you anxious and depressed feelings. And sometimes those feelings take on a meaning all their own. As an example, we may be anxious about becoming ill with COVID-19, then we may become anxious about being anxious. So there is the first fear of COVID-19 and then the second fear of the anxiety itself.
It is understood that by educating ourselves with what we can do to lessen our chances of getting COVID-19 plus knowing the medical assistance available to us in the event we contract COVID-19, we diminish our fear of the disease. What is less understood in our society is the second fear; the fear of the anxiety (or depression) itself. Some people who learn to cope with the initial concerns are then frozen by the fears they have of anxiety and depression.
The groundbreaking work dealing with such fear by the late Australian psychiatrist Dr. Claire Weekes is simple but not easy. It is, however, an extremely effective way of breaking an anxiety or depression fear cycle.
Today, the shelves are stacked with books on how to defeat anxiety and depression. And a common instinct by many people when they are anxious or depressed is to get away from it. But they soon find that the faster they run away, the closer the anxiety and depression becomes.
Weekes taught just the opposite. Her lasting and proven method revolved around accepting the anxiety and depression. And she offered specific ways to do just that.
First, Weekes believed that fear was only skin deep, that the fear sensations were merely harmless electrical charges within the body that had limited power and durations. Second, she emphasized allowing the anxiety sensations and depressing thoughts to exist. She suggested calmly repeating the phrase "loosen and accept" as the anxiety and depression ran its course.
Loosen and accept were cornerstones of Weekes' plan, and it meant to float through anxiety and depression and to separate yourself from the anxiety.
I want to suggest that one powerful way to "loosen" oneself is to practice the method we spoke about in an earlier article, which is Deep Muscle Relaxation or DMR.
Acceptance does not mean putting up with it. And asking how long will this last. Acceptance means offering no resistance and acknowledging and embracing the anxiety and allowing it to stay as long as it wants.
In other words, you don't analyze, repress, or try to change it. You observe it as if outside of yourself as you would clouds rolling across the sky. And you let time pass.
More information on the methods of Dr. Claire Weekes can be found in her books.
Self Help For Your Nerves (1962)
Peace from Nervous Suffering (1972)
Simple Effective Treatment of Agoraphobia (1976)
More Help for Your Nerves (1984)
The Latest Help for Your Nerves (1989)
So with the reality of being bombarded every day with bad news about the riots, virus, and crime, it is crucial to understand that you have the ultimate control over your thoughts and ultimately how you feel.