I’ve been having a hard time lately. This new administration’s appointees, ranging from global warming denialists to dictator-friendly diplomats, has made me anxious about the near future.
Going to bed and waking up, I have been weighted with a sense of dread in the pit of my stomach.
This is not the way I like to live my life.
But for some reason, even after many attempts, I have been unable to completely let go of this heaviness.
What is up with that?
According to Andrew Huberman, Stanford professor of neurobiology, the brain is “mostly a stress-reactive machine. Its primary job is to keep us alive, which is why it’s so easy to flip people into fear all the time.” So, when facing an uncertain future, “there is a litany of cognitive distortions and emotional overreactions that we fall prey to.”
When we are in a constant state of fear or anxiety, the parts of our brain that are responsible for thinking and forming memories shut down. They actually shrink in size while the part of our brain that is responsible for fear gets bigger.
So the other night, while I was lying in bed, I went up into theta and asked, “What can I do to change this? I keep projecting my fear out into the world.”
A simple voice came back to me: “Project your hope instead.”
I instantly calmed down.
I could project my hope, and become involved in the solution instead of the problem. It was so simple and yet those four words transformed my mind and body.
Apparently, my reaction was backed up by neural science. According to Justin Moscarello, researcher at LeDoux Lab, Center for Neural Science, “It’s your belief about your agency that ultimately determines your emotional outcomes… Believing you don’t have control over your own life can lead to depression… while believing that you have a voice, and can influence a situation, can lead to positive feelings.”
We create stories that disempower us, out of our feelings of uncertainty. It is an effort to control what is beyond our grasp.
Yet, we also have the power to create a positive story and become a part of manifesting that outcome. Remembering we have that power renews our faith.
Author Samuel Smiles once said “Hope is like the sun, which, as we journey toward it, casts the shadow of our burden behind us.”
We will always encounter uncertainty in life; just remember it’s a fork in the road, rather than a dead end. Your choice.
Rolling Stone, “Why We’re LIving in the Age of Fear” by Neil Strauss, October 6, 2016.