TSHP389: Dealing with uncertainty

What’s Coming This Episode?

So, will lockdown end on December 2nd? Will we be able to have a normal Christmas? Is it okay to book a holiday for next year? Do I need to go out and stock the house with all the products that we might need if all the shops run out of everything? Will my job be safe after the furlough ends?…. The list of anxious questions goes on forever. The bottom line is that nothing is certain. We are in the land of uncertainty. My teacher once said to me…

…enlightenment is living with total uncertainty and being totally secure.

Now that is a thought. In reality all of the world alway is and always will be completely uncertain. None of us know what tomorrow will bring. We can not be sure of anything moment to moment. The human mind seeks positive and affirmative things as anchors to create security that in the end is an illusion. Sadly certainty seldom happens and this leads us to feelings of anxiety and in the extreme anxiety disorder. Uncertainty is always a form of anxiety. Anxiety is living an imagined future right now in the present moment. To be anxious is to not live in the present. Anxiety and uncertainty are bed fellows. Even the most focussed and determined of people can never be 100% sure of the outcome of life or their endeavours. Yet, we are not all anxious why is this?

Enjoy the show and take care, it’s The Self Help Podcast!

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Dealing With Uncertainty

So, will lockdown end on December 2nd? Will we be able to have a normal Christmas? Is it okay to book a holiday for next year? Do I need to go out and stock the house with all the products that we might need if all the shops run out of everything? Will my job be safe after the furlough ends?…. The list of anxious questions goes on forever. The bottom line is that nothing is certain. We are in the land of uncertainty. My teacher once said to me…

…enlightenment is living with total uncertainty and being totally secure.

Now that is a thought. In reality all of the world alway is and always will be completely uncertain. None of us know what tomorrow will bring. We can not be sure of anything moment to moment. The human mind seeks positive and affirmative things as anchors to create security that in the end is an illusion. Sadly certainty seldom happens and this leads us to feelings of anxiety and in the extreme anxiety disorder. Uncertainty is always a form of anxiety. Anxiety is living an imagined future right now in the present moment. To be anxious is to not live in the present. Anxiety and uncertainty are bed fellows. Even the most focussed and determined of people can never be 100% sure of the outcome of life or their endeavours. Yet, we are not all anxious why is this?

I recall reading a study of men being kept on death row somewhere in the USA. The research showed that while under the threat of execution the inmates would produce high levels of stress hormones and feel high levels of anxiety. However, once they had been given a death date, even if it was a while in advance, their production of stress hormone would drop. The conclusion of the study was that uncertainty creates stress and anxiety but knowledge, knowing what will be happening, even if it is awful, takes away the stress. It would seem that certainty, even is we are certain of difficult outcomes is less stressful that simply not knowing. And, guess what?, in lockdown and with Covid we simply do not know.

Whatever will be, will be – the path of acceptance
There is another way of approaching the future and that is in accepting that whatever will be, will be. There are things that we can change and things that we can not. It is helpful to know the difference. Though in knowing we need to let it go and live in the present.

Serenity

Is the state of calmness where there is peace and untroubled thoughts or feelings is what we call serenity.

According to Wikipedia the Serenity Prayer was authored by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr 1892–1971 The best-known form is:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

In the 1930s and 1940s the above prayer was adopted and popularised by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs. The original prayer requires some belief in a religious Godliness and looked more like this…

God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.

The Law of Allowing
In our, live in the present, work we use the law of allowing to avoid engaging in thankless tasks that will only wear us down or wear us out. Allowing the mad people to be mad without joining them or needing change them leads to serenity. When we can accept the world, and others, as they are the uncertainty, anxiety fall away.

This is not fatalistic
To be fatalistic assumes a lack of control. In the law of allowing to be the observer of events does not make use powerless or inactive. It is more that when we choose to engage we do so mindfully with a clarity of vision and purpose. We do not engage with headless chicken syndrome running around in panic and worrying about things that we cannot effect, or that we cannot effect ‘yet’. Though we may get all angry and vocal about it and demand that others see and understand our point of view.

Become a positive script writer
In mindful psychology we know that we are each writing our own experience before it happens, we are choosing how we respond to life. When we wake in the morning feeling bad about the day we write the bad script and then go and experience it. Afterwards we can congratulate ourselves on how right we were . ‘I knew today would be bad and just look I was completely right’. Perhaps, had we chosen a better script, the day could have been better.

We are not effected by events
We are effected by our response to events

We have choices and anxiety, to be anxious, is a choice. It may not feel like that at the outset and in extreme cases we may need medication to help us reset our system. Anxiety is never the way that we are, it is the way that we have learned to be, we can learn to be different, to not be anxious.

Thoughts become things

We don’t have problems we have opportunities
When we realise and embrace the amazing creativity of human consciousness and our ability to solve problems, whatever they are, anxiety and uncertainty does not exist. When I know that whatever happens I will be able to deal with it there is no fear. It is only when we loose that perspective that uncertainty and entirety take hold.

Catastrophisation
Often the things that we do become anxious about are neither here nor there. It is simply that by focussing on them they have got bigger. We can make a drama out of a crisis.

What you feed grows and what you starve dies

OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder, is the result of focussing exclusively on something and allowing it to grow so large that it takes over our entire perception so that now we cease to be present, in the moment, and live in fear, uncertainty and anxiety.

Our friends uncertainty and anxiety
Uncertainty and anxiety are our friends they have been with us through out our evolution. They have kept us safe in our quest to survive by not be eaten by predators or falling from trees. The awareness that comes with normal anxiety is good, not scaring and does not create uncertainty. When appropriate anxiety gives us the awareness that we need to stay safe. When we over focus and over think we develop anxiety disorder. This is not helpful and becomes a problem.

Meditate, be serene and be happy

Sean X

TSHP388: The Joy of Pets

What’s Coming This Episode?

Our fellow animals can play a big role in our lives, typically via two routes. The first is through the hugely positive impact they can have as pets or companions to us. The other is as food. What’s the role of pets in our lives and how do we combine that with a system of food production which can seem so cruel and unnecessary?

Enjoy the show and take care, it’s The Self Help Podcast!

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The Joy of Pets

I have always see animals as humans just with more legs and fur coats. Hence I have been veggie most of my life and move ever more towards veganism. I note, from those I am talking with, that the family pet, cat or dog, is the things that is keeping them sane. Either it represents company in the home or the excuse to get out and go for a walk, stretch your legs and get some exercise. Pets have become very important to us. 

Just before this lockdown I was dropping off a sourdough loaf to someone’s house and I got talking to her dog, as you do. The dog ‘Poppy’ is an older lab who was not looking that happy about things. She lay and was pawing at me to get my attention. Her intense eyes were locked onto mine and as I stroked her she moved her body so that my hand was on her tummy. Her owner said ‘That odd’, apparently Poppy does not like men, never makes eye contact and my hand was right over her cancer. It was as though Poppy had just seen me and thought ‘I’ll have a bit if that” and need some energy, healing or love which I was more than happy to give.

When we can see all being as equal to ourselves the universe has a opportunity to live in balance and harmony. Anyone who has had a dog or a cat will know how much they simply become just another member of the family. Their arrival is a joy and there departure has the same  sadness and bereavement of losing any other member of the family.

It reminded me of when I was running with my trainer Conrad. Up ahead of us was a medium sized brown dog. She saw us coming and stopped to allow us to catch up with her. As we passed Conrad and I both naturally greeted her and she fell into step running between us. She seemed a perfectly nice and happy person very comfortably joining in with us and it led to wonder what was it that was going in her mind. Did she feel that she had joined the pack? Was this the natural instinct of a pack animal off for the hunt. Perhaps she thought ‘two mad humans here running around, I wonder where they are going? I’ll go with them and see’, perhaps she thought, or didn’t, think of anything that I, as a human could conceive or understand.  

We often treat animals anthropomorphically, just as I did with the dog, and project our own feelings onto them and assume that we know what they are feeling or thinking. The worst thing that I ever hear is when a human projects a lack of feeling and emotion onto an animal. In an assumption that animal have no feelings at all. Fishermen tell me that when they stick a hook through the mouth of a fish, and pull them by the line from the water into the air, something that is suffocating for the fish, that the fish doesn’t feel a thing ‘because they are cold blooded’, interesting thinks I.

I find it strange that we divide up the animal kingdom into different emotional categories to suit our human selfishness. 

Nature

There Are those animals that live in the wild. These might include primates, the large cats, lizards, birds, elephants, rhinos, zebras and so on. We humans make documentaries about them and wonder at their life styles and antics, their social connections and disputes and their various mating rituals and habits.

Vermin

Vermin are those animals that we as humans have decided have no use for us, not even as objects in documentaries and certainly not to eat. Those that we decide should be removed from the planet. So we trap them poison them and kill them in any way that we can. For householders these include rats, mice, spiders, ants and so on. Non householders might include the coypu, mink, snakes, foxes, badgers, crows, magpies and so on.

Food

The animal group that we have defined as food varies from one country to the next and we can share our disgust at each other’s habits. When a country eats frogs, dogs, or horses Brits can become very angry or disgusted. A while ago horse meat was found in British mincemeat, cow meat, which upset a lot of British people. yet the French will happily take our horses for their dinner table while we will take their cows for ours. The staple meat diets of the western world has been cattle, sheep and pigs plus the occasional goat. We will eat chicken and ducks but we will be disgusted by those that eat song birds. We make the distinction between Kentucky Fried Chicken and Kentucky Fried Rat, though they would probably taste and feel very similar once the spices had been added to the coating. For some rabbits are simply four legged chicken while for others they are cuddly bunnies and venison may be seen as strong beef or the murder of Bambi.

Fashion

If you wear a leather pair of shoes or a leather belt you are wearing an animal for fashion. The reality is that there are many alternatives to leather but if you eat the meat I guess that you might as well wear the skin. However, this does not seem to hold true in the case of fur. Would a fur coat be more acceptable if we ate the meat as well as wearing the skin? The British army has spent generations wearing bear skin hats, the Busby, I doubt if they ate the meat. 

Pets

Pets are animals that we assume like to be with us. We use animals without really understanding what it is that they want or need. Before a horse allows a rider to sit on it’s back it has to be ‘broken’. This means that it’s will to resist, and simply be a horse, is stripped away from it until it will tolerate the rider and respond to being directed by a piece of metal in its mouth, often kicked in the sides and being beaten with whip. We put birds in cages to prevent them from doing what is natural for them, flying. We take the doggie-ness away from a dog until it believes that is a part of a human pack.

The symbiotic connections

We hear stories of the dolphin who appeared in the sea and held a human up in the water until help arrived or they had taken them to the shallows so that they could then stand. There are those moments when an animal and a human just connect, as I did with Poppy. Many dogs do have a symbiotic relationship with a human being. Their intuitive connection allows them to know and understand the humans feelings and to respond in a sensitive manner. This may also include bereavement at the loss or death of a human that they are close to. We see this as a wonderful example of how a dog can have deep feelings for a human. Perhaps we should realise that this is how dogs live in their normal situation and that the deep emotion that we see, and assume is for us, is really the emotional power that keeps the pack together. Just as dogs belong in packs horses belong in herds and were never designed to live on their own or with just a few other horses or human beings. 

Unless an animal comes to you willingly, just like the dog who chose to run with Conrad and me for a while, we are interfering in it’s naturalness to make it be what we want it to be.

I often see pets who are not experiencing joy, the joy of pets is all on the part of the human who ‘owns’ and ‘controls’ them. As I sit in my studio I often hear two dogs in the gardens around me. One is very unhappy and cries a lot at being abandoned by it’s human owners who have gone to work. The other howls in a desperate attempt to call to other dogs as though it is playing out some strange memory of the pack. As it howls other dogs, even distantly, respond and on the air they have a conversation that I will never understand but I keep hearing the plaintive cry of ‘tell me I am not alone’. Perhaps I should call this ‘Howling Dog Studios’.

If you have pets, eat meat or wear skins have a think about the joy of pets and other animals. Is the joy one sided? Is it all played out for the good of us human beings? Do the animals have feelings and if they do are we responding to them?

Food for thought!

Take care and be happy

Sean X

 

TSHP387: Let’s look on the bright side

What’s Coming This Episode?

The mayhem continues on Planet Earth but it doesn’t have to be bad news. Things could always be worse, right? A dose of positivity from Sean and Ed this week…

Enjoy the show and take care, it’s The Self Help Podcast!

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Let’s look on the bright side

As we go into another lockdown we have two choices as to how we deal with it. We can either put on our negative head and develop bad feelings or we can look on the bright side and decide that’s we are going to have a good time and and work out how best we can do that, so that ion the end we have the best time that we could possibly have.

Even in the worst of situations there is always a bright side, it is just that it may be a bit hard to find at the time. Retrospect is a powerful tool but looking back and seeing how far we have travelled can be a very powerful experience. It tells us what we have learned and how we have grown. The most negative of situations can be a powerful teacher if we have the eyes to see and the ears to listen, then we can grow. People say to me “well it’s couldn’t get any worse.” I think, ‘don’t say that. You have no idea how bad it could get’. It can be helpful to look at the current difficult situation as…

…well it’s not as bad as it could have been.

It is never as bad as it could have been. Most difficult situations develop from the thought or feeling that we are out of control or have no control over what is happening. The first step to getting better, or getting a handle on it, normally begins with taking some control. This means developing an awareness of the things that we can control and the things that we cannot. We cannot control the weather but we can control what we are wearing. We cannot control what other do but we can control how we respond.

Get into a positive vibe and energy. Be with people who are positive and won’t collude with your negative ideation. Most importantly listen to them and where possible take their advise. Being with others can raise you mood, give you purpose and ideas.

Listen to your mind. We all ruminate. When you are feeling bad about things you are negatively ruminating. It is time to get some positive thoughts and feeling going in your head. When I get down I play the…

…I’m so happy and grateful game.

I begin with the above phrase and then I add positive in, they usually rhyme so it might be…

…I’m fit and healthy, rich and wealthy

Then I play with it and often makes me laugh…

…I’m slim and sexy

Then I play the rhyming game. So what rhymes with sexy?

…I’m supple and flexi

The game raises my mood and takes me to a feeling of gratitude. Positive thoughts, feeling and gratitude all run together. It also reminds me of the importance of humour. You may not feel like laughing right now but watching a comedy show or movie can help.

Then it takes me the positive self talk. Once I play the game I begin to change the negative rumination into positive rumination. As I said we all ruminate. The choice is making it positive or negative. Once you become aware of your ruminating mind you can choose to go positive or negative. My option is to not give the negative head space. Any negative thoughts observe them, don’t fight them, let them go and return to some positive thoughts.

If you have problems getting started visit the site and download the morning focus meditation. It is just five minutes to get you head on the right way around and get the best that you can from your day.

Reinforcing the positive helps to build the positive. At the end of each day try the evening review meditation. This allows you to review the day and dump the negative stuff and reinforce the positive. If you really want to build your positive energy start a gratitude diary and record positive experiences from your day. If it is only 

‘today I am still breathing’, 

well, that is a start. You can build from here.

When we get too negatively self obsessed it can help to think about or help other people. There are always those worse off than us that could benefit from our help.

If you are at home with your family during lockdown think about what activities you can do together. It could be anything from decorating the house to cooking together, playing games, going for walks or runs. As the winter nights draw in a board game around the fire can be a lot of fun. 

It is often said, ‘the family that eats together stays together’, and there is truth in that statement. In there current situation we might find that the family who play together and laugh together are the ones who get through this in one piece. 

Listen to your mind and your thoughts and do your best to keep them positive. And remember my favourite phrase…

…if we all look after each other we will all be okay

Take care, stay safe and be happy

Sean x