While watching “My 600 Pound Life” the other night I suddenly had the thought, “How can two major but contradictory problems exist simultaneously: obesity, and starvation?” This thought was occasioned by watching a patient who had the gastric by-pass surgery, had gone home, didn’t adhere to the diet but instead followed her own instincts and as a result had to be rushed back to the hospital where it was discovered that although she was still 500+ pounds she was actually malnourished and starving to death! Thinking about the presence of contradictory problems made me immediately reflect upon the issue of the presence of anxiety even when we excitedly push forward into the unknown… be it a new job, a move to a new city, or launching into a new piece of artwork. Not knowing how it will all work out can cause us to naturally become anxious. In the end, will it have been worth the effort to embrace that anxiety? Like Calvin of “Calvin and Hobbes”… many of us fear the monster under the bed!Part of our difficulty in dealing with the presence of anxiety comes about from what our current culture has to say about it… and that is: if it is present, its presence indicates that something is wrong, so you should run! As a result of this philosophy we abandon relationships when we begin to feel either upset or confined, we abandon our new diet when we are tired of feeling hungry, we abandon our monthly budget and buy that monster television when we are tired of the constraints of adult life. The problem with thinking this way is that we never get good at what we run from! The thrill of abandoning that diet turns into the guilt of additional pounds packed on! The relief of escaping the demands of someone morph into a painful confused yearning for them! That gigantic TV becomes a hulking daily reminder in the living room of the bills with which we are currently unable to keep up!
The temptation to run from what makes us anxious is a normal one. In fact, that reaction is probably what kept our ancestors alive in order for us to eventually come into being! Nonetheless, unless our physical well-being is endangered, there ARE options to the presence of anxiety other than automatic flight, one of which is to stay with what makes us anxious! By not running from the boogieman we can learn various things: that we survived our fear, and that we were able to gradually come to understand, to some degree, the mystery that had so terrified us. By staying with “The Unknown” it may well turn out to not be the Armageddon that we had feared, but rather a doorway through which to pass to further unexpected possibilities!
And now that I have spent a whole morning writing all of this… with trepidation I must go back into the front room and face that snarling blank canvas!
Take THAT, you Monster!!!