In the journey of having a fulfilling life the practice of acceptance is paramount. I have been reading the Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts at the recommendation of a good friend. In it he says “by holding his breath, he looses. By letting it go he finds it”. Watts goes on to describe a seemingly contradictory concept and the process of acceptance.
In a parallel process I struggled through this post. I struggled with this post because it reflects an important aspect of how I understand the human experience and the process through which I help individuals through their experience, but I was fearful I could not adequately discuss this weighty concept in a blog post that would do it justice. So I sat in a place of anxious inaction in which I thought about the post, thought about the concept, spoke about the concept with others, but did not write about it!
Watts suggests, by way of eastern philosophy, that anxiety is a natural part of the human experience. We are often drowning in the illusion that the future is predictable and fully under our control. We begin to get anxious around things we fear will or will not happen. We begin to even get anxious about this anxiety and make attempts to distance ourself from the feeling or “hold our breath”.
…THIS ILLUSION THAT OUR FUTURE IS FULLY PREDICTABLE AND UNDER OUR CONTROL, IT MAKES THINGS WORSE.
The paradoxical consequence is that when we attempt to avoid the anxiety that arises by this illusion that our future is fully predictable and under our control, it makes things worse. Now, one is feeling anxious, attempting to avoid/deny this feeling of anxiety, but it lingers in the back of one’s throat causing all sorts of distractions and discomfort- we “loose our breath”.
Instead, we should make attempts to move closer to accepting that anxiety is a natural part of our human condition. We cannot know fully what will happen, how that person will feel when you tell them that thing, if you’ll get that job, or how well you will express pivotal concepts that are the cornerstone of your conceptualization of the human experience on a blog post! – so of course you will feel anxiety, but this feeling should be one that is expected. Our anxiety is what reminds us that a fully predictable future that is completely under your control is an illusion. We can do our best to prepare, but variables will come to pass that we will not control, we may not know these variables until they come to pass, and that is ok. You acknowledge this, experience the anxiety that comes with it, and you proceed- “by letting go you find your breath”.
Adaobi Anyeji, Phd
The Blue Clinic
Specializing in the treatment of sadness, depression, worrying, anxiety
Los Angeles based Private Psychology Practice
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