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Facing Our Worst Fears

Finding the Courage to Stay in the Moment

By Reid Wilson 


As I tell this story, you can ask yourself, "What's this have to do with the practice of therapy?" I'll answer, I promise--after the story.

It's Monday morning, and I've set aside several hours to work on this article before my next client comes. I've cleared my desk at my home office, turned off my e-mail, put a sign at the top of the stairs--"Serious Writing in Progress!"--and settled in for the duration. At my first break, I visit the bathroom to discover the toilet is plugged up. I flush to clear it and then . . . filthy brown toilet water is suddenly spilling over onto my white Berber carpet! I rush to turn off the intake faucet and it doesn't help! The water is literally pouring over the side onto my white Berber carpet! I reach for the plunger. Finally, after more mess splashes onto the rug, I get results. But now I'm faced with a monumental clean-up that'll take hours. No more writing! I'm angry, disgusted, anxious, frustrated, and feel somehow betrayed by fate--it's all so unfair! "Why now? Why me?" I grumble. "This is the last thing I need right now!"

But instead of letting myself stew in my own whine, this time, I take a step back and say quietly to myself something that's become my guiding maxim for such situations: "This is exactly what I need right now." Suddenly, all sound quiets in my mind. I'm calm and clear. I continue cleaning up efficiently, but without the mental suffering caused by all the background noise.

This is a trick I now draw on frequently. For all the riches of my life--family and friends who love me, health, satisfying work, a steady income--it never seems like enough. I tend to complain constantly and resist what's happening all the time. At any given moment, I'm complaining that this or that isn't as good, fast, satisfying, exciting, beautiful, or enlightening as it should be. Something is too cold, warm, salty, bright, dark, cheap, or old. I'm not strong, clever, wise, nice, diligent, or happy enough. In short, things are happening to me and feelings are rising in me that I don't want.

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