Updated: Apr 22, 2022
Ever notice that when you use a lot of energy trying to avoid something, it usually happens?
I notice it when I'm anxious about being late. I'm so wrapped-up and focused on not being late, that I arrive late. Every. Single. Time.
How about this one?
. . . 'don't be like my mom' . . . 'ew I just did that like my mom' . . . 'I cannot end up like my mom' . . . surprise! Just like mom!
Or this one?
. . . 'I hope he doesn't cheat on me' . . . 'I'd die if he cheats on me' . . . 'I just couldn't bear it if he cheats' . . . surprise! He cheated.
I'm not saying there isn't value in imagining the worst case scenario. The Stoic Philosophyuses the worst case scenario as a tool to put systems in place and make intentional decisions ensuring the worst scenario doesn't happen. They also use it as a way to decide ahead of time how to respond to a potential circumstance, without emotionally-triggered reflex. This apocalyptic forethought is used as an intentional tool to achieve peace, not anxiety. And they most definitely don't focus a ton of attention on it . . .
For example, a seatbelt is something you wear to avoid a possible worst case scenario, but once you have it on, your mind is at rest, not in anxiety.
The forethought I'm talking about is different than stoicism. This kind of resistance to what we don't want is accompanied by plenty of anxiety and involves plenty of focused attention. It's usually experienced as a constant, always-present, underlying anxiety, often drives our unconscious perceptions, decisions, and reactions . . .
And most often creates the circumstance we're trying to avoid.
So if we usually end up getting what we focus on, why would we focus on what we don't want?
One of my favorite quotes goes like this . . .
“I will never attend an anti-war rally; if you have a peace rally, invite me.” (falsely attributed to Mother Theresa, but that's neither here nor there. Still a great quote.)
Martin Luther King Jr's most famous speech was titled, "I have a dream." In it, he painted such a vivid picture of the kind of America he wanted for his children and his children' s children that it left a lasting imprint on the hearts and minds of all Americans and their children's children.
The quote above makes me think about this "don't be a non-racist. Be an anti-racist" refrain I keep reading on social media . . .
The words we choose matter. They have a crucial impact on the results we create.
My point is this . . .
You get what you focus on.
Yes . . . when deciding what you want for your life it is important to identify what you don't want.
But it's not as powerful as 1.deciding what you DO want, 2. visualizing it, 3. focusing your mental energy on it, and 4. acting to create it.
Does this mean you become blind to the unwanted things that happen in the world? Blind to the uncomfortable truths?
It means you
1. honestly see reality.
2. You bravely accept it.
3. You courageously feel the resulting feelings without resisting the feelings.
(this 'feeling business' doesn't happen once, it must be done as many times as is necessary to be able to interact with reality on reality's terms. Once the feelings are felt, higher thought can be accessed. Problem solving can be effective for creating a change in circumstances. Real change can occur.)
4. Pivot your attention back to the results you want to create and are ACTIVELY working towards.
(This creation of a result can't stay in the mind. It must be done through actual doing. Many people try to create a different circumstance by denying the reality of the circumstance and by doing so they've created the result they want; therefore the matter is settled. But what they've actually done is created a fantasy in their mind that doesn't match reality. So they can't interact with reality in a meaningful way.)
Don't tell the world what you are against. Declare what you are for. Then put action behind it.
Your sister in creating more peace, more justice, more love, more inclusion, equal access,
P.S. Have you been giving a lot of your attention to things you want to avoid? Has your mind been convincing you to be hyper-vigilant to identify possible threats to your safety? To your self-concept? Is this the way you want to live? If you want help reducing anxiety and creating results you want, schedule a discovery session with me this week. It costs $0 and it will change your life. The hardest part is getting past your resistance to taking that first action. The rest is all good.