Being Here: Depression, Anxiety, Stress and All (Part I)
The only reality we have is this living moment. The only possibility we ever have to make a different choice, to alter a course of action, or to change our mind, resides in “this” moment. Yes, we can plan on doing something tomorrow, but both that decision to wait and the action itself when it occurs will be choices made in present tense, “now” moments.
Oddly, it seems to me for most people the significance of “this” moment, pales in comparison to how important we consider our past and future to be, and our absorption in the “world out there”. This certainly seems to be true given how much time we spend in reviewing yesterday, planning for tomorrow, and looking at screens in front of us. Indeed for most people, the very notion of “being aware of this” moment seems to have almost no meaning, and subsequently almost no value. This is a shame.
In order to grasp the profound implications of this, it is important to first understand an interesting quality of the human mind.
Let me begin by noting that most people are only nominally tuned into the thoughts they are having at any given point in time, their current emotional and body level feeling states, running memories, decision making processes, and most of the impulses which drive the actions in which they are engaged. As such, they are not conscious of most of the essential experiences one could describe as being “me”.
The fact of the matter is that almost everything we do is done with very little awareness. A very large percentage of our day is spent on automatic pilot, and only in very particular circumstances do we actually “wake up” and pay attention to what we’re doing.
And yet, for the most part, none of this is a problem.
Our essentially non-conscious self system functions like this because we have already practiced and learned how to behave and respond to our life during our many years of growing up. As one example, having learned to talk a long time ago I don’t have to start relearning every day. The same goes for driving my car, shopping, interacting with others, and on and on.
But what happens if I have to do something different than what I’ve learned to do? What if my ways of being in the world aren’t working for me and I have to utilize more adaptive and productive behaviours? Somehow I have to be able to override the purely habitual and automatic quality of those learned responses which are not working for me, and modify or adapt them to become proper and effective responses.
But here’s the rub; I cannot change something if I am not aware of what I am doing. If I have any hope of being able to change or over-ride my cognitive and emotional responses and reaction patterns, I have to be aware of them in the moment of their activation.
But if I am am right in my previous assertion that most people spend too much time not being present to “this” moment, then herein lies the problem.
If my previous life lessons were inadequate in some way, it will be the automatic behaviours that flow from those lessons that will lead to my constant bumping and scraping up against this life, and inevitably creating varying levels of distress for myself, and for others. Given that my choices and actions didn’t work the first time, it’s unlikely they will succeed the second.
When my normal ways of solving my life problems don’t work despite repeated attempts, it creates a very interesting scenario, almost always accompanied by some anxiety. Eventually, if enough efforts fail and my situation worsens I can even get depressed.
The series of articles on Mindfulness look at this position I am expressing in more detail. I invite you to read them and see if they help answer any doubts or or questions you have about what I am saying. and my approach with such issues.