It will absolutely visit us all.., eventually if not today.
I recently asked a question of a CEO Business Support Group that I am a part of that unsettled them. I asked them, in all sincerity, the following question:
“How do you, personally, deal with dread and worry in the middle of the night?”
In my work (and of course, my life), I constantly help other people shift their perspectives on how to deal with the condition of dread in life. Why? Because life is intrinsically change, which intrinsically involves growth, which intrinsically requires giving up the “old” in favor of the “new”. In other words, the natural flow of life, business and relationships automatically – (due to its innate nature) – requires us as humans to be able to navigate an ever-changing landscape of circumstances, relationships, health, etc., and this ongoing change is going to be, sooner or later, uncomfortable.
Our response to that discomfort determines our state of mind, emotions and activities thereafter, so it is a critical skill to acquire to be able to manage the dark realities in life. (The “light” realities seem to take care of themselves, because they are usually pleasant and reaffirming).
So, back to the question I asked the Group, “How do you, personally, deal with dread and worry in the middle of the night?”
At first, the other executives in the room misconstrued my question as an invitation to receive “Coaching”. They wanted (out of the goodness of their own hearts, to be sure) to “fix” me. I requested that they not do that – I wasn’t there to be “fixed”. What I was interested in was their individual methods for dealing with their own states of uncertainty, fear, dread, depression, etc..
The responses then became fascinating, as well as terribly helpful to me.
Everyone had great things to share. Many were Faith based (pray, turn it over to God, etc.), and others took a more pragmatic approach (talk to a friend, get drunk, whatever). But the one that most impacted me was from a great individual in the room who gave us a simple formula… and that formula was so powerful that I wrote it down on a piece of paper on my desk in my office, and then added a little bit to it.
So, for however it may help you, here is the amended formula for dealing with adversity in the dead of night when you feel particularly vulnerable to some event or circumstance in life:
- Get Going!
What do these mean and how might they help dissuade the dark states of mind from overpowering us in our moments of doubt?
This is a surprisingly cathartic word. It evokes so many varied responses in people; from reverence to anger. I suspect that it isn’t the word itself (duh), but rather the scripted connotations we have about the word that determines our response. So, let me share my perspective on how the word might be a critical starting point for dealing with the dark emotions in life.
God is however you define it. I prefer to define it as the Macro-Intelligence that designed the Universe and is a guiding force for good. I believe that Mankind (and Womankind, of course) are unique in our knowledge to being able to understand a higher order of relationship with this force of Divinity, which may be actually experienced through prayer, meditation, church, fellowship, miracles, etc..
Why is this the start of the formula? Because to surrender our illusion of control over to a Higher Power is the starting point, (not only for Alcoholics Anonymous), but for each of us when situations or circumstance go beyond our limits of influence upon a situation. It is purely rational to understand that our power to control is limited, and a relationship and belief in something bigger than us (that is benevolent) is a huge tool to begin shifting our dark thinking.
[For me; I find a walk in nature, silencing the Mind and opening my Heart, and serving others are critical access points to Divinity]
I recently reviewed an article on Psychology where the expert explained that it is literally impossible to practice depression, fear or anxiety simultaneously with gratitude. In other words, if we remember to review all the things we have to be grateful for (health, family, food, shelter, etc.), we can’t be busy undermining our happiness at the same time. Thus, Gratitude is a powerful second tool in the toolkit to deal with dark states.
[For me; just remember the 98% of my life that I have to be grateful for automatically delivers me from a darkly ruminating set of internal tapes]
Studies show that people experiencing shame, guilt or depression tend to withdraw into inactivity. And let’s face it, sitting in a dark basement sipping whiskey while depressed is not highly likely to change the circumstances or situation that invites that depression. Accordingly, one of the very best psycho-physiological tools we can engage is to simple get into action! Do anything! It doesn’t have to even serve a particular purpose that addresses the situation that is causing distress – (water the flowers, take a walk, work on a business plan, help someone else with something they are struggling with, etc.). Actions also tend to accelerate change, and usually in a good direction! In other words, while we don’t have “control” as much as we might like to think we do, we do have “influence”, and we must override our tendency to withdraw in favor of shifting our state by getting into action.
[For me; I find activities that make a difference in lifting others up is particularly powerful as a prime activity]
Since we are going to be engaging in activities anyway, why not make them fruitful in the service of some outcome we want? And, wouldn’t a “road map” be helpful to design where, when and how our activities may increase the likelihood of the outcomes we desire? Accordingly, purposeful and designed actions as a part of a systematic approach to activities gives those activities more power… as well as a delicious distraction from dark thinking.
[For me; these projects can be simple and not long term, but just guided activities that allow me to experience progress in some domain of my life]
And last, but certainly not least, is the requirement of patience. We tend to want immediate resolution to our pain and accordingly expect quick response to our activities. But God often has a different scale of time than we do, and it is critical to allow the time for things to modify and allow us release from our current fears, anxieties, etc.. Thus, patience is like sending out a signal, an impulse, a request to the Universe, and allowing for that request to be processed, blended into countless other outcomes already in the process of manifesting, and then becoming a part of Reality. Also, it is important to remember that this phase may not turn out exactly as we think we want it to, but it invariably has some great value to us in the future. Let me ask you, how many things have happened to you in life that seemed, at the time, like tragedies, only to turn out as blessings in the future?
I can certainly say that not just most, but literally all of those situations turned out to be good for me… ultimately. And often with different results than I thought I wanted in the first place!
[For me; this is often the toughest one to practice, and thus the most likely lesson I need to learn to remember “this too, shall pass”]
So, why did I write this newsletter?
- I want you to consider this set of tools for the next time you face dread and need a powerful response to it that helps you out of it quicker;
- My family and I are dealing with just such a situation as described right now, and I wanted to remember these tools during a challenging time in our lives.
May your path be blessed, somehow, by having read and put into practice these principles.
You will know when that time is.
“Every Human Being must answer one critical question in life for themselves:
Is the Universe a benevolent place or malevolent place?”
– Albert Einstein –
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