You could say that my texts aren’t as much about fear but more about control. Of course, the more fearful, the more you play on being safe and feeling secure. But what if we could learn to let go harmful thoughts?
The more I felt the ground beneath my feet slipping away, the more I tried to hold on to things I thought I could control. Not a fantastic job or a lovely house but my well chosen routines! Those, I can at least control myself without blaming politicians who mess around with pensions, bullshitjobs, real estate and social security. Let’s all read Atomic Habits but James Clear and follow our own path!¹
I gained a lot of comfort from unlearning old nasty habits and keeping up with new habits. I was able to be more consistent and constructive. If i push through long enough, I will be so rich I can buy that house with a suitcase full of cash and live above society!
Siersack- money grasping society 1-0!
But to mention that the fear under my skin was gone? Not really.
Siersack- Society of Fear: 0-1
It’s time to talk about letting go and keeping those new, good habits as a safe space for when the day’s issues are hitting hard again. Eat well, move your ass, be friendly, repeat.
The real tipping point occurred when I bought an online course from a life coach and learned to let go of worrying thoughts. Even people who meditate a lot get this stream of thoughts popping up: What if I can’t write a second book? What if people finally realize I am an imposter? What if people in Belgium forget about me? What if someone gets food poisoning from my dishes? What if I don’t post on Instagram for a whole week? What if I am not productive enough? What if Davy gets tired of my weirdo behaviour? And why is that bitch in front of me driving so slow?! She probably hates me!
Thoughts are not reality
It went on like this until that life coach said that we live in our thoughts and that our thoughts are not reality. That phrase hit me hard. We are afraid of our own thoughts, which is pathetic for human behaviour in 2021 because the Stoïcs already knew this 2000 years ago (We suffer more in our imagination than in reality, Seneca) and didn’t even have internet.
If we live in our thoughts, we don’t live in real life.
In real life, I still have a lot of friends, I have a husband who comforts me when I can’t get out of bed in the morning, people love my food, and nobody gives a damn about how I manage my Instagram account. Understanding this is deep. It’s material for five-year-olds and required reading for Navy Seals and MI5 spies to perform well in a hostile environment! This is mindfulness we stole from the ninjas and got offered in a curriculum for 200 euro (199 euro) through Instagram!
We live in our own thoughts, we don’t live in real life.
Understanding it is one thing; practising is another. Only months later, I could grasp how it feels to let go of those thoughts: During summer, I got drained and restless, I wanted to spend some time alone, but three days later, friends would arrive. Those kinds of situations make me anxious and feel bad about myself. But in reality, the sun was shining, Davy didn’t have to work, we drove to the coast and did precisely nothing. Life was beautiful! For three days, I could approach my thoughts like that. Something was shifting. And what happened at the end of the third day? My friends cancelled their trip because of covid. I was grateful for the ninja knowledge from that life coach. Or was it Mark Twain: “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
Conclusion: By focusing on reality, fear could no longer hold me back. It became easier to manage difficult, but just decisions because the here and now weren’t as scary; In this moment, I am safe and loved.
That is why grounding exercises are helpful during a panic attack: what do you smell now? What do you see? Breath in. You are safe now.
The scientific community completely embraced meditation and breathing work; they have a lot of statistics to prove that mindfulness works better than medicine in the long run, that breathing work keeps the heart and blood vessels healthy and improves focus and stress management.
Yup, we already knew this 2000 years ago without those sad statistics. Bessel van der Kolk from the book The Body keeps the Score suspects that those techniques got created in that time to heal from trauma. Can you imagine that: Breathe in all that is beautiful and feels good, breathe out what no longer serves you. Observe your thoughts and let them go. People were more connected with their own nature back then, and the world would have been a better place if 2000 years ago we’d embraced that nature.
I only started last year by letting go of thoughts that no longer serve me and breathing work, and it’s a world of difference. That counts for something.