My local newspaper recently asked me to write something that could perhaps reflect some peace amongst all the current public angst that is occurring. What with the COVID-19 and the state of political affairs, we are being pushed to be with ourselves in a way that is very new to so many of us. So I wrote down this conversation, which for me is at the heart of all the angst in the world.
A Coaching Session
Bob (not his real name) – What do I do with the angst I feel about the really scary situation in our country and the world? I’m exhausted, wrung out, it all feels so hopeless and I feel like the situation will never get better!
Rosie â€“ What would you like to have in place of the angst?
Bob â€“ Um. I don’t know! Well, I want the political situation to change, and I want this virus to go away so I don’t experience this angst, this anxiety or this hopelessness anymore.
Rosie â€“ I get it! And, that doesn’t answer my question. What would you like in place of the angst?
Bob â€“ Um. I don’t know! If the virus goes away and the political environment changes, then I’ll change; so I want it to change. Aren’t those things the source of my angst?
Rosie â€“ No. Your response to all of that is sourced from within you. Politics and the virus just tickle/trigger you into angst. But my question is still on the table, Bob. If those things didn’t trigger you at all, what would you experience?
Bob â€“ Why is it so important for me to know what I’d feel if I didn’t feel angst?
Rosie â€“ It’s important because, so many times people want change, but they don’t know what they want the change to be. They only know what they don’t want. Generally speaking, Bob, you won’t get what you want if you don’t know what you want. So figuring out what you want is really important to having what you want. Does that make sense?
Bob â€“ Gosh! I’ve never given that much thought before. Yes, that does make sense. Well, I guess I’d be calm. I’d feel less fidgety. I’d breathe easier. I’d be more relaxed.
Rosie â€“ Great! So what you want is to experience more calmness in your life. You want to be more relaxed and breathe easier. Did I get that right?
Bob â€“ Yes! That’s right!
Rosie â€“ So Bob, if you were calmer, more relaxed, and able to breathe easier, what would you have then?
Bob â€“ Peace! I’d experience more peace in my life. Huh! I never thought about it that way. What I really want is peace.
Rosie â€“ Excellent Bob! Thanks for sticking with me on this. This is important stuff. So, peace is really what you want.
Bob â€“ Yes.
Rosie â€“ And, you don’t have peace because the virus and the political situation is what it is. And, that triggers you into feeling angst.
Bob â€“ Yes. Angst, frustration and fear. I feel a lot of anxiety, powerlessness and hopelessness. Like I’m out of control.
Rosie â€“ So the source of your angst is an underlying sense of powerlessness and hopelessness – being out of control?
Bob â€“ YES!
Rosie â€“ So, Bob. This is a big question: How do you be with powerlessness, hopelessness and being out of control?
Bob â€“ Man, Rosie. You ask a lot of questions. Well, what I do is I worry and I obsess about how terrible things are in the world. I drink, eat, play video games – I distract myself from my angst and from feeling powerless.
Rosie â€“ That makes perfect sense, Bob. That’s what most people do. They worry and obsess, maybe get angry and scared, and do whatever they can to distract themselves from feeling the hopelessness and powerlessness that’s inside. No one wants to admit powerlessness, though it is the beginning of the end of angst. When we admit the truth of how we really feel, we experience empowerment, and at the same time we feel our true feelings. It’s pretty scary stuff.
Bob â€“ Doesn’t admitting that I’m powerless mean that I’m a victim? I don’t want to admit that! Then I’m gonna feel really depressed!
Rosie â€“ Nope! Admitting powerlessness doesn’t mean you are a victim. It just means that in this moment, in this human circumstance, you don’t have control or power to make things different in the world. It is a universal conundrum among human beings â€“ to be powerless over a situation and not want to admit it. And, even if it did mean that you were a victim, the source of that too is that you are powerless over your circumstances.
Bob â€“ Well, for me, admitting that I’m powerless means that life sucks and it will never get better. I feel as though the world is going to Hell.
Rosie â€“ Yep! That’s what it feels like for a lot of people. It’s such an uncomfortable experience. And most of us just want that feeling to go away. So, we do what we can do to ignore and distract ourselves from those feelings and from all the thoughts that are, in essence, the source of our angst.
Truth is, Bob. The world has been doing what it’s doing for millions of years. There have been only short periods of time when there wasn’t some atrocity occurring on the planet. It’s just doing, and we humans just keep doing what we do over and over again. And most of us perceive it all as just plain sucky! We, you, have an opportunity to shift your thoughts so that you have a lot more peace in your life and a lot less angst.
Bob â€“ So you are saying that the source of my angst is the thoughts that are going on in my head?
Rosie â€“ Yes.
Bob â€“ But, it’s what’s in the world! It’s in the news, it’s everywhere, that the world is getting worse everyday! How am I supposed to stop thinking thoughts about that when it’s TRUE?!
Rosie â€“ That’s a great question, Bob. First of all, it only means that wherever the world is going, you are powerless to have it go anyplace else. That you aren’t in control, and that you are powerless to make it any different. In this moment, I want you to hear the truth in what I’m saying. You are powerless in this moment to make a difference in the world.
Bob â€“ That doesn’t make me feel any better, Rosie. You are supposed to help me get out of my angst not get deeper into it.
Rosie â€“ I totally get it, Bob. But if you aren’t able to acknowledge the absolute truth of how it feels to be you with angst and hopelessness, we can’t get you to the next step. No one wants to openly feel and admit that they feel what they feel. It’s crazy, because you are feeling what you feel. Admitting it â€“ why not?
Bob â€“ I get it Rosie. I just don’t like it!
Rosie â€“ Bob, I totally get that too! I never like admitting what I feel. But if I don’t, I can’t change what I ignore. Does that make sense â€“ that you can’t change what you ignore?
Bob â€“ I get it, Rosie. And, I don’t like it!
Rosie â€“ So, now, the next step is for you to be with the Big Fat Be-With: That you are powerless and helpless to make the world different from what it is!
Bob â€“ I don’t want to be with that!
Rosie â€“ I get it Bob. You don’t want to be with the Big Fat Be-With – that you are powerless in this moment with the way things are. So, you are at a choice point. You can choose that, or you can choose to continue to do what you are doing already, feeling the angst and ignoring and distracting yourself with food, beverages and video games.
Bob â€“ What’s the point in that?
Rosie â€“ Great question, Bob. The point is that you can empower yourself to choose to do what you’ve been doing and have the results be what they’ve always been. You can choose that because you don’t want to be with what you don’t want to be with.
The other point is that you, Bob, are in a dilemma! You have some choices, and you don’t want to choose. What would you have to be with if you chose either way?
Bob â€“ JEESH! These questions are really bugging me! Okay! If I have to choose, either way, I’d have to be with how really sad and bad I feel for failing to make a difference, feeling hopeless, angry and insane!
Rosie â€“ So, whether you choose to admit powerlessness, or keep on with the angst and the struggle, you’ll have to be with failure to make things different in the world.
Bob â€“ YES.
Rosie â€“ That’s big!
Bob â€“ YES!
Rosie â€“ So you have an answer to your question – how to deal with the angst. And, you have some choices that you don’t want to choose, you have some truths that you don’t want to accept. And, Bob, you also have access to peace, if you want.
Bob â€“ YES!
Rosie â€“ Beautiful! So now what?
Bob â€“ I don’t know what to do?
Rosie â€“ YEP! And, you don’t have to do anything. The world will keep on doing what it has done, people will keep on doing what people do, and you will keep on doing what you do until you decide you want something different – enough to actually do something different.
Bob â€“ YEP! I don’t like it, but I get it! I’m at choice to keep on keepin’ on with worrying and being righteous, and powerless, focused on how bad the world is getting. Or I can start to truly admit the degree to which I’m powerless over people, places and things. And, I can give up thinking that I need to change the world. I only need to change me. I’m not ready to do that yet. Maybe someday!
Rosie â€“ I totally get it. Take all the time you want. You, like the world, will unfold as you do! There’s no hurry!
Bob â€“ So, Rosie, is there anything you can suggest I do?
Rosie â€“ I can suggest a lot of things Bob. If you don’t want to feel the angst, turn off the TV, stop listening to the news and stop focusing on what’s wrong in the world. This will help a lot! It’s not mandatory that you watch the news. If its stressful for you, then do something that alleviates the stress â€“ aside from eat, drink and game. Start looking at what’s good in the world. Notice the beauty around you. Walk in nature more often. Take time to be with the people you love.
The final thing I suggest is to notice when you are in a state of peace. Notice what it is that brings about that peace â€“ the thoughts you are thinking, the choices you make, the people you are with, the activities you are engaged in. When we notice when we are in our happy place, we actually become more at choice in making that happen more and more frequently. Easy â€“ right?
Bob â€“ That makes sense. I don’t know how good I’ll be at doing any of what you suggest, but at least I have some thoughts about this. I feel a little better. Maybe I’ll come and talk with you again after I’ve digested some of this for a while. Thanks Rosie!
Rosie â€“ You are so welcome, Bob. Anytime you are ready, I’ll be here for you!