Story of James
I heard a recent story of James who was a teacher at school. Before becoming a school teacher James had career difficulties which really affected his confidence. His newly ingrained belief of “it’s hard to get a job” causes him to constantly have negative thoughts about his career. It has spread out to other areas of his life and his general wellbeing is affected by this newly formed belief. Any criticism he receives feels like an internal war – and he doesn’t take it very well.
For instance, at his new teaching job James was greeted by a secretary standing at the door waiting his arrival. He nervously contemplated what she was about to say. The first thing she said was that she needed to see him in her office right away. This sparked a reaction in James and his mind was immediately setting off alarms – “Have I done something wrong? Will I be getting fired? I really need to keep this Job.” Contrary to James thinking it turned out to be that one of the teachers were running late and he needed to fill in for her. No big deal – but the experience of negative events still affected James even though they were only mental fictions.
The Human Condition
Much like James many people have to deal with this mental fiction. In fact everybody always has a pre-formed story of how something will go – an expectation so that they can prepare themselves for it. But is feeling nervous and distraught a great way to look at an expectation?
Being sensitive negatively to the events in life have a much greater effect on your inner wellbeing then most realize. Rather than living in a life of peace they are constantly in a state of anxiety, nervousness and concern. The mind comes up with hundreds of scenarios on how things can go wrong.
Some can and may argue that this is a survival mechanism to help cope with future dangers – but in this day and age of less looking out for wild predators but more about social interactions, it seems rather counter-intuitive to put yourself in a negative state before dealing with a situation. Being in a low emotional state does more harm than good. It is much easier to deal with an unknown situation if you look at it through a positive filter – of all the things that can go right. Your reticular activation system begins to notice the things that are more positive – and you relate to life in a calmer fashion and things will actually go better for you.
The night before a major job interview rather than thinking of all the mistakes you can make; the things you might say incorrectly or your credentials aren’t good enough or there’s too much competition etc. try to visualize yourself impressing the interview and walking out the door confidently with a new job. Think through the emotions of how it would feel like to have that job, how happy the interviewer was and really try to experience that event in head. Then when you do go for the job interview you will actually feel more confident, calm and relaxed.
If you find it hard to stop your mind from coming up with all these negative scenarios it may help to start doing some inner peace and mindfulness techniques. Meditate at least 20 minutes per day, and you will see the significant improvement in the way you deal with life. Meditation is fundamentally an exercise training method for your mind. When certain things happen to you, your mind creates a certain response whether it is happiness, frustration, anger etc. The way your mind has been inculcated is the path of least resistance and the path it wants to take, and will take unless you know how to mitigate it. Meditation teaches you how to step away from the natural responses of the mind and makes it easier to override the process. So start practicing meditation or a regular basis.
Live In the Present Moment
Being in the present moment and having an absolute trust in that everything will turn out okay in the end is another great way to handle anxious thoughts. Bringing your attentive awareness to the present moment and be aware of it. Feel your inner body, put your awareness on the senses of touch, smell, hearing and sight.
Have no judgment of things but simply feel them for what they are. This way you train your mind to leave out unnecessary judgment of every event and situation. Being in the moment and meditation are essentially the same things. Your consciousness leaves thought and enters being.