MOMF’ing Past Anxiety
My family and I recently traveled to Washington DC, and my youngest son said to me, “Mom, I need to sit by you. I’m having a funny feeling.” I know well what that “funny feeling” is. He is afraid to fly.
“A funny feeling” is a great way to describe anxiety. It can be anything from general unease to outright worry. Anxiety may be tied to something you fucked up — lying, not paying a bill, skipping work, or it may seemingly be related to nothing. In these cases, you have a feeling that something is off or not right, but you have no idea why. I believe that some anxiety is secondary to the fact that we tell ourselves that we can control events and happenings, and deep inside, we are aware that just isn’t true. Shit happens all the time. Nothing we can do about it but roll with it. At least that way, there is a chance you will discover new things — not trying to control every potential outcome.
When my son had a funny feeling about flying, he assumed that it meant something bad would happen. This is a core problem with anxiety — when you think the feeling means something more than it does. Here is how you MOMF past it.
The funny feeling is the alarm going off in your brain telling you that there is trouble. However, you need to take a look around to see if there is actual trouble. I looked around the plane. No smoke. No one else on the plane looked upset. In fact, the fucker next to me was asleep with his mouth open and his arm hanging over onto me. No reason to panic. When there is no evidence to support your anxious thoughts, you need to say to yourself, okay, mother fucker, the alarm in your brain is malfunctioning again. There is no emergency.
At the same time, you may not be able to shut off the alarm in your brain. You just have to not react to it and wait for it to reset or run its course. Here are a couple of stories to drive home the point:
The Buddhists have the metaphor of the second arrow. When you are struck by an arrow, it hurts like hell. It’s bad. However, when we bitch and moan and go on and on about how terrible it is, how unfair it is, and how miserable we are, it is like we are stabbing ourselves with the second arrow. Don’t be that fucker. One arrow is enough. See it. Figure out how to fix it and MOMF.
Jon Kabat-Zinn tells a story about how they catch monkeys in India in his book, “Full Catastrophe Living.” The story goes that they take a coconut and cut two holes in the back, pass a wire through, and secure it to the base of a tree. They cut an opening in the front of the coconut that will allow a monkey to put its hand in but not wide enough to get the fist out. They put a banana inside the coconut and hide. The monkey comes along, puts its hand inside the coconut, grabs the banana, but cannot get its hand out of the coconut. Kabat-Zinn makes the point that all of the monkey has to do in order to be free is to let go of the banana. Fucker, in order to be free of your paralyzing anxiety, just let go. Give in to the idea that what will be will be. You’ll deal with it. However, getting jacked up about the possibilities that haven’t yet happened isn’t helping. It’s actually hurting. You got one hand stuck in the coconut, and you’re stabbing yourself with the arrow in your other hand. By this time, you are not just anxious, but you’re acting like a crazy fucker.
I told my son the G-rated version. Then, I said, “Look, we would not take this plane if we thought it would crash. Right? We chose this method of travel because it saves time. It is our choice. If the plane does crash, there isn’t anything we can do about it. Why make yourself miserable over something you cannot control and that may not even happen?” I told my son, “Move on My Friend” (which is what a responsible adult would say to a child). He said, “Mom, you are so crazy.” I said, “I know. Can you believe people pay me for this?”