Letters For My Sons

Tag: anxiety

Sieging the Fortress of Guilt

There are three kinds of people:

  1. Those who are lazy and have infrequent punctuations of activity that soon lapse,
  2. Those who are driven and have infrequent punctuations of inertia, usually through depression, sickness or injury caused by excessive action, and
  3. Those who are happy and partake of both activity and relaxation without guilt or self-loathing, as and when they feel like it

This last group is by far the smallest, incredibly rare in todays society.  This is because we are taught to feel guilty about our actions in some way from a young age.

We feel guilty about our action or inaction, and depending on our personality, react to that guilt with drive or laziness.

The goal is to destroy this guilt centre, and live life happily.

I’ve found three pillars that enable the destruction of this fucked-up guilt complex:

  1. Self-Appreciation
  2. Self Awareness
  3. Self-Driven Movement

Each one feeds the others, and they are all built up together.

Self Appreciation

Self appreciation requires that we cease judging ourselves.  We stop our guilt, and our self-loathing, and accept who we are in the moment. 

There is a difference between striving to become better so we can be more satisfied and happier, and being driven to not be so hopeless and weak.  In the first case you are already accepting of your current state and want to become better, in the latter you hate who you are and thus are trying to escape it. 

In the beginning most of us come from the latter state, and it’s why many of us start self-work in the first place.  We want to escape ourselves and our pain.  We want to become different.  It is only with time spent in self-appreciation that we finally see that pain and difficulty has made us who we truly are. And it is from this recognition that we can finally start to appreciate ourselves.

Self Awareness

Self awareness is important because it tells us both what we are feeling and what we are doing.  Am I feeling guilty?  Anxious?  Happy?  Ecstatic?  Why do I have this pain in my stomach?  Is it anxiety, or simply an upset tummy? 

We also become aware of what our body is doing in real time, and cease to be completely robotic: 

We find that we have a twitch in our right eyebrow when we are unhappy in a converstation. 

We find that a certain movement in our hips twinges our hip flexor because our abdomen is not engaged. 

We find that our thoughts turn sour when we have eaten certain foods or gone without exercise for a day or two. 

We are no longer slaves to our feelings, but are able to predict and  control them to some extent because we are more aware of what creates them.

Self-Driven Movement

Imagine almost any small child you know, and think of how mobile they are. Their whole bodies are moving, shaking, flicking, tapping. It can be annoying as an adult! They get taught to restrain themselves, to be quiet, to control their movements lest they break something or upset someone.

But movement is the nature of the body; it is the physical representation of the mind and spirit.

As adults we have controlled this movement. And that’s mostly ok! Control of our body is part of becoming an adult. What is problematic is that we no longer give ourselves the option of moving as and when we like. Our control is almost total, and that control is linked to feelings of guilt.

It’s remarkable how, even alone in the privacy of one’s own room, we control ourselves so strongly that we feel embarrassed to move, flail, thrutch and spasm. Noises are especially difficult to release, as children should be seen and not heard (at least 35 years ago that was the case), and this triggers big guilty feelings, and a feeling that we are doing something very wrong.

Some notes about self-driven movement:

Self-driven movement comes from within. 

There is no reason for it. It is not exercise.  It is not for fitness. 

My body is doing it “on its own”.

It twitches and spasms.  It shakes.  It moves all parts of my body in all manner of fashions, none of them pretty or cool in any way, all of them spastic and occasionally undulating.  But I’m not “doing” the movement. Instead I’m “allowing” my body to move, as it wants, when it wants.

What is surprising is how smart my body is.  It homes in on the parts that are tense.  It moves them and breaks them apart.  It keeps going past the point of mental pressure and continues until the muscles don’t need it any more.  Then it stops.

By allowing ourselves to do these things, to just release and let the body move, allows our character to push up against the fortress of our guilt. We start to siege it, and over time we reduce it to smoking ruins of rubble.

And we finally get the chance to experience joy.

COVID-19 – What the Hell am I Worried About?

I’ve been examining my mental state closely over the past six months.

First we had two months of the worst bushfires my area (and my country) had ever seen.  My semi-adrenalised state during that time never really normalised.  I was ready to stand and fight if need be, or run to the hills if it was all too much.  At one point there were three seperate and massive fires surrounding my village. The steady impact of the unknown, and the rise and fall of the intensity of the situation led to many sleepless nights.

Directly following the fires we had six weeks of torrential rain.  We received half our annual rainfall in two days at one point.  I’ve been building an earth house for several years now, and the rain washed away large swathes of earth render from the external walls.  I again lay awake at night in emergency mode, hoping like hell the water would not seep into the straw bales inside the render and rot them from the inside.  

And now we have the most interesting thing to happen to our culture and our species for eighty years, since the end of the Second World War.  A now-familiar anxiety sits uncomfortably in my stomach, noticeable when I am quiet.

What is most fascinating to me is WHY I feel this way. Why the hell am I anxious? It’s worth asking yourself the question.

For example, I am now sitting at my desk typing away, while the birds sing outside, my children sleep in bed, and my coffee cools in its cup.  The last three or four days have been completely normal for all intents and purposes.  We’ve done some shopping and found some shelves empty, and we haven’t interacted physically with any friends or colleagues, but besides that, it’s been pretty ordinary.

So why the anxiety?

I’m not concerned about catching COVID.  The statistics quite clearly show that I’m fit and healthy enough to not require medical intervention.  I believe my family is strong enough too.

I’m not concerned about giving it to any at-risk people in my community.  My parents-in-law are self-isolating, and so are many older people.  We are taking measures to protect those people by isolating ourselves as well.

I’m not concerned about the apocalypse.  I don’t believe it will get that bad that we are all fighting each other and the covid-zombies.

So where is this internal tummy-ache coming from?

After weeks of self-assessment I’ve realised: it’s the social unknown.  It’s trying to understand and normalise a local and global change to the way we operate. 

The goal of government is to keep things ordinary for it’s citizens so they can buy and sell and breed and sleep at night.  The government is unable to keep this outbreak ordinary.  And so we see social restlessness.  I wouldn’t call it upheaval.  There are no riots in the streets.  But things have changed, and we can’t see an end to it.

And that, in a nutshell, is the source.  No end in sight.  We do not understand the endgame, because we can’t see all the moving pieces.  It’s near impossible to strategise as an ordinary citizen as we have no visibility as to the aims and desires of our fellow nation states, and even our own government.

Humans don’t like wobbliness in our lives.  We strive for control.  We in the West have lived the last couple of decades in a highly controlled environment, and have begun to believe that this is the way life is. 

Sorry.  Wrong.  Life is highly dynamic, and we’re now seeing the cracks in our beautifully controlled snowglobe. 

One thing we can be absolutely sure of though: It will end. There can be no doubt. In some way, somehow, this will end, and the next chapter of our lives, of our species, of our planet, will begin.

Can my belly get used to the unknown?  Let’s give it a go.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén