I’m a future-living person. What I mean is that I tend to project all my concerns and feelings and desires and fears on to some non-existent point in time in the future. What if I can’t get a job (in the future)? What if I become diagnosed with some horribly painful, dreadful disease (in the future)? What if some calamity of epic proportion befalls me (in the future)?
I get stuck in this loop of fearing the future. It’s not a constant feeling, thank the FSM! However, when I’m in an anxiety spiral it’s hard to stay out of the future and I become plagued with fear of the unknown. If only I had a TARDIS!
But this is exactly the nature of anxiety. Anxiety is not a feeling you get about the present. You are not anxious about what is happening now. You are anxious about what could happen, what should happen, what would happen. It’s all about the future. And if you’re someone who is really good at ruminating on all possible scenarios of events because you like to have a plan and you love control (my old friend, Control), when you enter the anxiety spiral, it can make you feel down right out of control. Oh the Catch-22 of it all!
My psychologist Dr. S is a practitioner in many forms of therapeutic modalities but we’ve been working on techniques that have a very Eastern philosophic tone. I’m talking about mindfulness, being present in the moment of now, and a way of giving present moments meaning that as Dr. S calls the Is-Ness.
The Is-ness is really about how one assigns meaning to current circumstances, but in order to be able to recognize the Is-ness, one must be in the current moment. Mindfulness and Is-Ness are partners.
Here’s an example of Is-ness. A few therapy sessions ago, I told Dr. S that I was having a “good morning.” A good morning for me was one where I didn’t immediately wake up with the internal trembling of panic. It was a morning where I felt more in control of my anxiety and physical feelings. A “bad morning” would be the opposite of that.
The tricky thing when assigning words like “good” or “bad” to a present moment is that it can keep you from being in that moment. You’ll start looking to avoid the bad moments in search of the good moments instead of just being in the present moment. So enters the Is-ness. The moments do not have to be good or bad. They can be “is” – simply a present moment of existence. Something to recognize without judgment.
In my practice of mindfulness I’m redefining my moments simply as “is” rather than good or bad. That doesn’t mean that I don’t feel. Some moments feel painful or scary or sad. Some moments feel exhilarating or peaceful or joyous. But they’re not good or bad moments. They’re simply points of Is-ness.