So much has been written and expressed, particularly recently and with the pandemic, about lockdowns, anxiety about mental health, confusion about what resilience really is, just hanging in there, coping and surviving, that it occurred to me that, with the focus being on that language of difficulty, we may have created the very challenge we are wanting to move away from.
If what I have learnt or understand about the brain is true about reacting to uncertainty as though it were a threat, then that energy flows where attention goes. It (the unconscious brain) doesn’t know the difference between fantasy and reality therefore we are creating a mental map that is not necessarily supporting our desire for wellbeing, health and a vitality that allows us to engage fully with ourselves and others.
It’s a little like the story of Chicken Little who gets hit on the head with an acorn and is convinced and convincing others that the sky is falling in. There’s plenty of evidence that, once we have a belief or bias, that we will go looking to confirm what we’ve chosen to believe not to deny it. That’s another thing about the brain, it’s lazy and negatively biased. It doesn’t want to do any more work than it needs to so it will find the most efficient path to something (eg a decision or belief), even though it could be wrong.
This creates a dilemma, and a language that is one of confirmation rather than curiosity and, until we get to that point, we will keep creating our anxiety, fear and instability anchored in our own uncertainty rather than in our awareness and integration as part of the environment around us. It’s as though we see ourselves as other or somehow separated from where we are rather than as a part or piece of it. That’s a big challenge.
What to do?
There are lots of options, philosophically, physically, emotionally and spiritually for some, all important in their place however what I hear from people are the tremors of anxiety that uncertainty brings and until we manage that we are unable to access the higher thinking needed to respond to the deeper questions.
If you talk with the survivors of the bushfires that ravaged regional Australia, those who lived through the devastation of the floods after Cyclone Debbie that impacted from north Queensland down the coast and across to NZ, the destruction from the Christchurch earthquakes and now with the conversation continually focused on COVID, what people were and are seeking, in fact needing to find, is certainty.
In the current climate certainty is not going to be found outside ourselves. There’s way too much noise going on and that drives confusion. Where you’ve got confusion, you get conflict (internal and external as we are seeing currently) and where there is conflict we have uncertainty, indecision and wasted emotional energy.
I am living this like you are and as I have become very conscious of the impact of my own thinking, I’ve become much more focused on what I can control, monitoring my emotional responses, checking in with my reactions and letting go. It’s a practice. I reframe my thinking, change the labels that come up, laugh at myself, and regulate the dynamic environment that is me with love and gentle inquiry.
If you want to know more, check out Dr. Eric Maisel and his work on dynamic regulation, Kirism and creative coaching. It’s definitely insightful.