Fear and Worry are emotions that I have been spending quite a bit of time thinking about lately. These emotions have the potential to wreak havoc on our emotional well being. Is fear useful in any way? What about worry? And where do these emotions come from? If you guessed, “Your Thoughts,” you’d be right. But, before we seek to switch out our thoughts, it is so much more useful to understand them. Sometimes we get in a rush to switch out thoughts quickly, because being afraid or worried feels terrible. But, let’s just slow it all down for a minute, shall we?
The Future Exists in ONLY in Our Minds
What I have discovered is that fear and worry are mostly created when we think about the future. Something really crazy that I have realized is this: That the future doesn’t actually exist. It only exists in our mind. Ten different people could be in a room and we would all have a different idea about what the future will look like. Even the next half hour. Not only will the ideas about this future likely be different than the actual reality…. but, even once the half hour was over, we’d each have experienced the reality in a different way.
It’s just good to know that the future is in our mind, right?
When my brain tries to run off to the future, with worry and fear… I like to bring everything back to the present moment. Because, most times everything in the present moment is just fine.
I am a photographer. The analogy I like to think of is this: I use a few different types of lenses. One of the lenses I use the most often, has the ability to zoom in really close on an object and also, the ability to zoom out, to see more of the bigger picture.
Sometimes, our primitive brains go into overdrive, warning us of the dangers that may lie ahead. It tells us, “You should worry! This could be really scary!” When this happens I like to think of zooming in. Maybe I need to zoom in and focus my thoughts on the next six months, instead of my entire future. Or zoom in further and focus my thoughts on the next six weeks. Or the next six days. Or the next six hours. Or the next six minutes. I think you get the idea.
Once your thoughts become a little more manageable, and even intentional… then, I recommend zooming out to your the future you want to create for yourself.
But, in the meantime, during the time my brain likes to create bleak futures and worse case scenarios, I have to zoom in super tight. Sometimes to what is going on right this minute.
Last night, my son wanted to chat with me about the coronavirus. The future that he has created in his mind, is one of war and desolation. His brain was running away with thoughts of us being shipped off to another planet because our planet would no longer be inhabitable. His thoughts were creating a whole bunch of fear and worry!
It is so crazy that our brains hate the unknown so much that it would rather create a future that is painful and scary, than just not know what to expect.
But, as is usually the case for all of us, his brain had really latched on to this imagined future. Because of this, it would not have helped to debate the future his brain had already created. Even though these thoughts created a lot of fear, his lower was brain was only trying to warn him of possible danger. The more I would have tried to talk him out of his fear, the more his primitive brain would have dug it’s heels in. So, I just decided to help him zoom in.
I asked him, “Are you safe right now?”
I asked him, “Are you safe right now? Are we all here right now? Your blanket feels warm and your bed feels cozy. Your stomach is full. I’m here. Dad is right in the other room. Your sisters are safe, too. Right this second, everything is just fine.”
When my brain offers me doom and gloom, I don’t fight with it. (Remember, our brains want to be right, more than they want us to feel good). I just tell myself, “Maybe that’ll happen. But, if it does… we’ll TOTALLY be able to figure that out.”
The more you try to convince your lower brain to not worry, the more likely it will be to offer you evidence that you should. That’s it’s job.
Trust in Your Ability to Figure Things Out
Fear and worry are unavoidable. They are part of being a human, living in a human world.
But, they are not always useful. Typically fear and worry keep us stuck and spinning, unable to take action.
So, when your brain tries to run off to the future and that future is filled with worry and fear, don’t fight with it.
Just trust in your ability to TOTALLY figure out whatever you need to, when you need to.
And then, zoom in.