How to Deal with Your Worst Moments

What to do when life feels nightmarish

The Nightmare by John Henry Fuseli, 1781 (wikimedia.org)
From an untimely fart to an untimely death, a worst moment ranges from humiliating to devastating.

What makes a “worst moment”?

We’ve all had them. Young or old, a worst moment takes center stage in your life, while it’s happening. If you’re lucky, they are humorous to look back on. If you’re not, they leave an indelible scar.

Worst moments occur across all categories and in every aspect of life: relationships, work, career, military service, government worker, schoolteacher, student, random events, health, sports, vacations, play, concerts, and more. No one and nowhere is exempt from a worst moment.

Worst moments are painful. Pain comes in three varieties:

  • physical (intense sensations or numbness)
  • emotional (loss, helplessness, despair, shame)
  • psychological (fear, hate, guilt, disconnectedness, disorientation)

You want to crawl into a hole. Curl up in fetal position. Remain under the covers indefinitely. You may feel you can never face certain people again. There could be a burning desire for revenge. Dreams may be shattered. The future seems bleak or even devoid of all meaning.

Futurizing

Much more common than a catastrophic “worst moment” is the dread of a worst moment. I call this “futurizing.”

Futurizing is the human tendency to imagine terrible future outcomes to current predicaments. Most of the time, catastrophic predictions are unrealistic or far worse than what actually occurs. Even when fatalistic futurizing is accurate (which is unusual), it is never helpful during your worst moment. And since the future never actually arrives (it is always in the future) it’s best to catch yourself futurizing quickly and choose to experience what is happening right now. Recognizing your symptoms will help you stay present and deal with the current assault of your nervous system.

Symptoms of “worst moments”

When pain is unbearable, most people either pass out or check out.

Passing out is a state of literally losing consciousness and blacking out.

Checking out is a way of eluding the worst by temporarily breaking connection with others, in some of the following ways:

  • psychological deafness, i.e., literally not hearing people while they are talking to you, which is common
  • having a brief psychotic break; for instance, paranoia and hallucinations can be a temporary stress reaction
  • disorientation: feeling lightheaded, unfocused, confused
  • addiction: compulsively binge-ing in your favorite way (alcohol, drugs, food, sex, shopping, gambling, you name it)
  • anger; anger is fake power and you may grab at it when you are feeling weak, humiliated, disgraced, threatened, attacked and on the defensive

As you are willing to gain self-awareness, you will build a tolerance for recognizing these as symptoms, rather than giving in and acting out. It is possible for you to notice that you can’t hear what someone is saying even when the internal thunder in your ears is drowning them out.

It is also possible to notice that you’re thinking paranoid thoughts, that you’re seeing stars, that you feel lightheaded and it’s difficult to breathe, that your urge to indulge your addiction is skyrocketing, etc. You can notice and in the noticing there is a space to move through the unpleasant experience rather than avoid or attack it. But you have to be willing to look and learn.

What to do during “worst moments”

When you relentlessly worry and imagine upcoming pain, you’re futurizing. You’re not living — you’re holding your breath, walking on eggshells, and dreading what the future will bring even though it is not happening now. Dreading the future is actually a way of escaping the present.

Your dread of the future is not the future. It is your imagination. Dreading the future is self-torture. It is a punishing way of not facing the present. It takes maturity to remain in the moment, especially a worst moment. Your reward is discovering that anything you can breathe through can evaporate. A worst moment feels eternal, but, inevitably, it is relegated to the past, just like any other moment. No matter how excruciating a worst moment is, all it consists of are thoughts, sensations, feelings, and interpretations/judgments.

“The worst thing you’ll ever have to face in life is a thought, a sensation, a feeling, a sound, a smell, happening in THIS moment,” says spiritual teacher Jeff Foster.

The antidote to a worst moment is being in the present moment.

Here’s what to do. When everything in you wants to flee, remain in the extreme discomfort of what is happening. How?

  • Breathe in and out of the area of your body that is most intensely affected.
  • Relax your muscles, even if everything in you insists on tensing and clenching.
  • Make a conscious choice to remain present.
  • Pray. Prayer is personal. I choose to pray the way A Course in Miracles recommends (help me recognize what I already am), with some tips from Paramhansa Yogananda (demand that God respond as your loving Father) and Sri Mooji (replace me with You, God) thrown in for good measure.
  • It’s okay to take something, such as a Rescue Remedy lozenge, to help regulate your nervous system.

Choosing to remain in the present during a worst moment takes maturity and great presence of mind. Practicing daily prepares you for worst moments. When you consciously choose to remain present to thoughts and emotions in the present, worst moments dissolve into a series of sensations without interpretation. This liberates you from suffering.

When you actually take a look at your pain, rather than avoid it or try to deaden it, pain breaks out into thoughts, sensations, feelings, sounds, smells, tastes, sights, everything the brain, nervous system, and your five senses have to offer.

Let’s do a reality check. Is your pain unbearable right now? If it was, you couldn’t be reading this essay. Pain may be present, but if it were unbearable, you would pass out or check out.

Moment by moment, pain, be it physical, emotional, or psychological, is not only bearable, but potentially the moment when your perception shifts and you realize what seemed to be “the worst” is actually an opening into relief. The way to dislodge pain is to attend to it rather than avoid or displace it.

Worst moments dissolve into “what is” when you’re willing to be present to feelings, thoughts, sensations, interpretations and judgment as each arises. Life is a huge jigsaw puzzle and each of us only has a few pieces of the puzzle. Suspending your certainty about what is tragic opens up a vast realm of inner peace. This peace may disturb your traditional ideas about how you should feel or react, but be glad for that. True inner peace requires a lack of judgment, childlike wonder, and a sense of humor.

A beautiful mystery

No matter what happens, if you breathe through the event in the present, time will stand still and a beautiful mystery will reveal itself. You need not understand it. Just let it embrace you.

“For beyond the past and future … stands [the holy instant] in shimmering readiness for your acceptance.” ~A Course in Miracles

There’s an opening, a holy instant, where time dissolves into timelessness. The “you” you take yourself to be melts away. Here lies freedom. You don’t need to wait until you’re having a worst moment. The holy instant moment is available right now. Feel it?

There’s no time like the present to recognize what you really are. Turn your attention to Truth. You don’t have to know how. You don’t have to do anything except be willing to release your belief in loss and littleness, and recognize the magnitude of your true nature. Nightmares dissolve in the light of truth.

A Course in Miracles offers a beautiful and powerful prayer, “This holy instant would I give to You. Be You in charge. For I would follow You, certain that Your direction gives me peace.” Try it for yourself and discover what Marianne Williamson knows:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”


Receive Amy’s blessings and support in dissolving worst moments and embracing holy instants. Visit https://amytorres.love


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