Challenges can bring out the best and the worst in us. Negative thoughts can quickly flood into the brain after less positive experiences. When we’re caught up in our daily routine negative thoughts can seem part of the normal flow of the brain. They’re frustrating but routine provides activities to distract us from the negativity. There appears to be something more acute about this experience after moving from home shores to live in a distant land. The mind is more fragile when living in unfamiliar surroundings and knowing that familiarity isn’t going to return any time soon. Deep searching questions can attack the mind, calling into question foundational pillars, which can appear to be an all-consuming experience.
I noticed something when sharing a less comfortable moment with my wife. Turns out she was having a difficult moment too and it was clear to me that she was being attacked by her age-old insecurities. New country, new city, new life, but same insecurities. And then it struck me like a blow to the head. I was experiencing exactly the same thing! I was projecting my personal insecurities onto the uncertainties I was experiencing. Same shit, different day.
The realisation reminded me of a story of Mingyur Rinpoche who suffered from extreme bouts of panic in his youth. He spent time in the cool mountains hoping it would alleviate the anxiety, but his anxiety followed him there. He sat next to the flowing waters of the river, and his anxiety was there too. He went into the calming desert, and yet his anxiety followed him. Eventually he realised that the anxiety wasn’t going away. He stopped running, stopped fighting and stopped denying. He observed the anxiety, he became curious about what it felt like. Finally, he became friends with his anxiety.
Our insecurities and weaknesses could follow us for the rest our days. But the sooner we become friends with our insecurities, the quicker we remove their power over us and are able to turn them into strengths.
There is a very fine line between positive and negative thoughts. The negative is the contraction in thinking and the dwelling on the past. It would have been different if I’d done x, if I’d been more like y, if I had more z. In reality, the past doesn’t matter one iota. All that matters is our response to the past, in the present, and it’s implications for the future. Emotional attacks of negative thoughts are a wonderful positive because we have the opportunity to improve. The insecurity is the teacher, if we can just learn to listen to it constructively.
Rather that dwell on should-have, could-have, would-have, realise that you’re levelling up, doing something worthwhile and choose to seize the opportunity to do it better next time. So…Next time I feel the PANG of that childhood insecurity, which is ridiculously still within me in adulthood, I’ll smile from ear to ear. Hello friend, what do you have to teach me today?