So where does anxiety, worry and fear come from? Let’s put forward the thesis that – seemingly paradoxically – they originate in both the past and, at the same time… the future.
From the past, because each of us carries our own baggage of “negative” experiences, which at one time caused us feelings of pain and suffering. Or we have learned about such situations from others, and we do not want to experience them ourselves.
And that’s when the feelings of anxiety, worry or fear can arise, because we do not want to experience pain and suffering again, in the future. Therefore, we try to avoid such situations. We often use proven stereotypes and schemes that have worked in the past for us or for other people.
Here, however, there is a significant unknown – namely, with the passage of time, we ourselves change, and also our surroundings change*. Life prescriptions, which once worked quite well, do not necessarily work in the future. The river of life flows constantly, the world changes …
Looking from a slightly different perspective, anxiety, worry and fear are related to our expectations of the future. We would like to arrange our lives according to our expectations, find fulfillment in it, achieve constant harmony and happiness. This applies to us, but we also project our expectations on our loved ones and the environment in which we operate. Often, at all costs, we want to maintain our “comfort zone” in which we feel comfortable, safe.
Life, however, forces us to interact with our surroundings. The simplest, but perhaps the most significant, example of this is the process of breathing – to live, we must inhale the air from our surroundings.
Our interaction with the environment quite often does not meet our expectations. The shop assistant is not always polite, even though we try to be nice to her and we wait patiently in the queue. The bus driver closed the door in front of us and drove away when we were almost there. At work, the boss sets new requirements and tasks, and does not give us a break. And after returning home, it turns out that the neighbour on the other side of the wall watches the Champions League match on TV at full volume.
Such examples can be multiplied indefinitely. In a small dose, they cause frustration and anger in us. When they start to repeat, this can build up the anxiety, worry and fear that, with the coming of a new day, we will again be confronted with our surroundings. And where is the place for our comfort zone then?
A common element of all these situations is OUR expectations towards the environment. We believe that our relatives, our friends, our co-workers, in general everyone with whom we deal, should act in such a way as to please US, and meet our expectations and requirements. If not – we perceive them as our smaller or bigger enemies, who do not allow us to achieve our comfort zone. If we feel that we can overcome the ‘enemy’ and forcefully bring peace, OUR peace, this is what we do. If, on the other hand, the perceived enemy is definitely stronger (for instance, the boss at work), we retreat and begin to experience … anxiety, worry and fear … towards a stronger enemy, towards something uncontrollable by us.
Is this attitude of life not self-centered, selfish? It certainly is. We believe that WE are not to blame, but others are, because they do not meet OUR expectations.
Do we have a chance to loosen this Gordian knot a little? The reason for our stress and dissatisfaction is that we do not see things (and ourselves) as they are, here and now. What do we know about people in our environment who we are just meeting? Often, nothing. And maybe they are experiencing some trauma at that moment in their lives…
If we tried to look at everything and everyone without OUR expectations, without comparison; to accept with kindness everyone as he or she is in the here and now, then perhaps we would be able to experience peace and rest much more often and for longer periods – a state without anxiety, without worry, without fear … and thus our comfort zone would be significantly widened… and deepened.
And maybe then we would discover that what is here and now is exactly what should be here and now.