Julie Answers: Why can I never seem to find a sense of mental calm and stability?
Larry’s question: Whenever I feel like things are moving in the right direction, it becomes off-putting for me. My mind cannot relax and I think my way into problems that don’t exist. All I want is for my mind to stop racing all the time.
I agree that it is beyond frustrating to have to do battle with your own mind. In a simpler world, when things were going well, we would be able to relax and enjoy it. And yet, in this world we live in, the struggle you face is all too common.
I will talk a little about the reasons for that — trying to make sense of the question, “Why, oh WHY does the human mind act this way?” And then I will talk about some ideas for overcoming it.
In terms of anxiety, our thoughts are largely habitual, and this is a perfect example. You might have had experiences in your past — they could be anywhere from early in your childhood to much later — where everything was going well, and then something happened to disrupt that. These past experiences could have been major or very minor from your perspective now; what matters is how you perceived them at the time.
When something like that happens, a person might develop an association between “all is well and I’m happy,” and “wow; everything is falling apart and I didn’t expect that.” It is sometimes called “waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
Our brains have some strange ways of trying to “help” us, and some of them can lead to way more problems than they solve. Let’s go with the theory that you were blindsided by something at some point. Your brain might have said something like, “Wow, I’m never going to let THAT happen again! I’m going to be prepared next time!”
All this would happen without you being consciously aware of it, of course. But some part of you might have absorbed the lesson, “Don’t be too happy or it could all fall apart,” and that part of your mind has maybe been scanning the horizon for danger or trouble every time things seem to be going “too well.”
The greater problem is that these thinking patterns are self-reinforcing, regardless of where, when, or how the underlying fear originated. I have worked with many…