The Blog

Dispelling Concern

We react to stressful situations in two ways. Fight or flight. We deal with a problem face on and fight it: become warriors for our cause. Or we run because we're scared to look back at what is, or was...or what could have been or might be.

Sometimes two words that sound the same are spelt differently. These words are called homophones (if you're at all interested). Homophones can mean not just different things but completely opposite ones, and although they seem identical when spoken, can epitomise disparate states of mind, systems of belief...ideologies...lives...lifetimes.

There's a very good example of this. One with really meaningful meanings that really don't mean the same thing. At one end of the spectrum, where the pendulum of definition pauses momentarily in the extremities - a fleeting second in a world of significance - is meaning no. 1. No. 2, meanwhile, is suspended at the opposite end of the continuum, once the pendulum has let inertia take its hold and swung to the other end of its range.



We react to stressful situations in two ways. Fight or flight. We deal with a problem face on and fight it: become warriors for our cause. Or we run because we're scared to look back at what is, or was...or what could have been or might be. Because we are worrying and we don't know what else to do.

We become worriers when we react to potentially damaging external influences that enter into our spheres of consciousness like millions of shifting Venn diagrams. The problem is, as the Venn diagrams multiply and we learn more and more about our surroundings, we seem to worry more. In the Olden Days (not sure when exactly they were? Just ask any child, they'll know), news was local - it was microcosmic gossip and exclamation. Terrible things did happen, but they were usually far and away. It's easy to romanticise that our ignorance must have been bliss, but maybe it actually was. A little bit, anyway.

Nowadays (for further clarification of when exactly this is, feel free to ask that child again), whether we want to or not, we hear exclamations that have bounced off every corner of the globe, and become amplified by their odd trajectories. Everyone's responses to everyone's responses about everything are getting louder. Apparently, with this non-stop access to information comes knowledge and wisdom. But maybe we weren't meant to see close ups of despair, HD tears on repeat, and inexact post mortems of what 'exactly' happened. Each news bulletin becomes a bullet in our peace of mind. Knowledge is power but we end up feeling powerless. It feels like we learn more about what's going wrong and understand less about why.

The word 'worry' stems from word 'wurgen': to strangle. It has, apparently, been used since before the 12th century. We've been strangling ourselves - asphyxiating ourselves with anxiety - for a long time. Too long. Of course, not everyone worries, but most do at some point. CBT...hypnotherapy...laughter therapy...coffin therapy...rescue remedy...executive stress balls...nail biting solutions...the list is varied, endless and a testament to our unease.

It's possible that we would be a lot happier if we weren't exposed to 24-hour information about Out There, because Out There ends up being In Here: we have to process the shaded areas of the Venn diagrams. Constant 'breaking' news can end up breaking us. Maybe our brains are only designed to deal with what's in front of us: our eyes cannot, after all, see round corners. More and more, we live in a culture of fear. It controls us, or rather; it's used by others to control us, because scared people are more likely to do what they're told - the panicked are easier prey.

It doesn't have to be this way.

To be a warrior is to be strong. And despite their cadaverous connotations, historically, warriors have not always been savage war mongers. Medieval knights in England followed a code of chivalry and were revered for their honour. Working towards a paradigm of generosity, respect and virtue, they would rather die fighting than show weakness. This was their duty. Mail armour may not be as à la mode today, but we can still learn from Ye Olde (don't ask a kid about that one, the spelling will be too confusing) warriors. And not just them. We can learn from every warrior from every continent throughout history. Even female ones. Who'd have thought?! From Athena, to Oya, to the Amazons, to Onna-bugeisha, a rich tapestry of mythological and historical lady troopers has been woven for us into a family heirloom we should be proud of.

Today, being a warrior does not have to mean being violent. The opposite, in fact. The complete opposite. We can emulate their honour rather than the physical way they upheld it. Our wars must be subtle and considered, targeting exactly what makes us scared. We can become warriors against worry. Fight the flight. Turn a negative into a positive: times it by itself? (possibly the most confusing mathematical rule for a non-mathematician, but a fact nonetheless).

Everyone has different wars, different worries...different reasons to lie awake at night. Pick your battles wisely. If the news vexes you - turn it off. If certain types of news vex you - don't look at them. Discount the alarmist, over-simplified headlines, the ones that daily fail to make any sense at all: If you eat this, you will get cancer...If you don't eat this you will get cancer...If you wear tight clothes, you will get cancer...If you don't eat the right food to give you a perfect body that looks amazing in tight clothes, you will get cancer. Blank the stupid bullshit that preys on your insecurities. Don't fight the inevitable: focus on the issues you can control. You can't, for example, stop ageing but you can choose to fight how the media portrays it. It would be impossible to undo the damage we've done to the earth, but we can make sure we don't do any more. The culture of fear can be over turned.

This isn't about choosing ignorance, or putting you head in the sand (ostriches don't actually do this: they're making themselves look vulnerable so they can fight the enemy with the element of surprise on their side. Either that or they're swallowing pebbles, but let's gloss over that bit). To stop worrying does not mean to stop caring. It means caring in the right way; living for honour and virtue; looking after ourselves, and each other (Go Jerry!). Because if we all did this, there would be a lot less to worry about anyway. Be bold and be warriors, one and all. As Aristotle, who definitely knew a thing or two about a thing or two, once said "We make war that we may live in peace".

The pendulum can stop swinging.

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