Growing Mounds of Trouble Accumulating and destroying our lives BY: Troy Murphy |July 2017
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We time travel (in the mind), landing in the future, identifying hazards, and then returning to the present. Time travelling motivates action. The active mind can gleam necessary insights and make productive preparations. Some label this process “worry.” Even suggesting preparation detracts from the moment—the glorious now. Ignorance has its blessings, engendering blind bliss; careless spending, relationship destroying, and career stagnating bliss. Future preparation requires considering obstacles. This isn’t always pleasant; thinking of upcoming trouble creates anxiety. But we need preparation. Research supports this; people who evaluate possible obstacles improve their chances of success. If we realistically identify possible bumps, barriers and distractions, we are more likely to successfully navigate them. Foresight prepares us for action.
This contradicts the decree: Don’t worry, be happy.
We can worry, just not the immobilizing kind. If worries paralyze present action, we must adjust, seeking help if needed. We worry enough to mobilize action, preparing for a realistic future mixed with joys and sorrows, successes and failures, fortunes and hardships.
It is true; concern for the future often disrupts present pleasure. We enjoy uplifting thoughts of easy futures. We all wish for futures adorned with unlimited money, untroubled relationships, and delightful children. But too much daydreaming of ideals short-circuits necessary present work to improve the circumstances. We must envision what we desire in the future to motivate, as long as those dreams our based in reality, and if we can formulate a realistic plan for achievement, the dreams may materialize into reality. The path to our dreams may go astray along any of these junctions—unrealistic dreams, errant plans, or unwillingness to work. We get stuck in the dream, enjoying visions of the future, never moving forward to the less enjoyable phases of change.
We never can plan for every possible outcome. Our plans are incomplete. Life is too complex. We must courageous move forward with some uncertainty.
Too much worry of insufficient resources—money, time or skill—overwhelms. The anxiety of possible failure alerts us to take action. But when we are uncertain of the proper response, the fear compounds and we seek escape. The discomfort must be soothed.
"We enjoy uplifting thoughts of easy futures. We all wish for futures adorned with unlimited money, untroubled relationships, and delightful children. But too much daydreaming of ideals short-circuits necessary present work to improve the circumstances."
Modern survival demands financial resources. A staple of stability is budgeting income with known expenses. We face the reality of our financial stability, glaring at the numbers, we either achieve security or painful realization of insufficiency. The lack instigates anxiety. The biological alarm system warning to seek changes—more money or fewer expenses. Reality! The numbers don’t lie. But for some, another path is taken to avoid the unpleasant reality of insufficiency: avoidance. By not budgeting, the future pressure of the future shortcomings is avoided—temporarily. But addressing the shortfall, by designing a working plan to make changes, keeps the problems in focus, challenging our present peace, we immerse ourselves in the anxiety; a trade-off with significant consequences. When we easily succumb to emotional overwhelm this is a challenge.
Compulsive shoppers, the ones most prone to budget shortfalls, often respond to the anxiety of collapsing finances by shopping, furthering the impending doom, but effectively relieving present anxiety. Drugs, alcohol, television, and thoughtless surfing of the internet all misdirect efforts, soothing discomforting emotions in the present but ignoring the future. We throw unpaid bills in a drawer, avoid necessary discussions in a deteriorating relationship, and forget the login password to review under-funded retirement accounts. Avoidance relieves tension; but by burying our heads in the sand, the pile of bills, the uncompleted projects and the divide at home accumulates, leaving us further and further behind. Previously manageable task, effectively addressed with measured amount of anxiety, explode, demanding greater efforts to rectify. Our lives become chaotic without constant maintenance and preparation; household chores pile up, bills accumulate and grievances surpass our ability to forgive.
Our emotions are biological; our responses to the complexities of modern survival are learned. A misdirected response to soothe emotions fails to solve the problem. Misdirected action postpones anxiety while the impending disaster continues to approach. Blind bliss now is exchanged for a larger collapse later.
We avoid many pending disasters by identifying problems early and designing a workable plan. Sometimes the pending troubles darken hopes, looming on the foreseeable future, and we have no effective avenues of escape, moving forward is scary. When life becomes overwhelming, we must confront by taking one small step at a time. Planning and doing defy fear, bolster courage, and diminish anxiety. By facing the anxiety, we effectively address the core causes of the emotion.
When overwhelmed, slow down, take a deep breath and then identify something that needs doing and get to the work of doing it. Being engaged in a portion of the answer frees the mind from some of the anxiety, while solving a portion of the underlying issue, something an escape to the local tavern, or shopping mall fails to achieve.
The anxiety of the future will always be with us. Putting our hands over our eyes fails to dismiss the reality a few steps ahead. Start doing. Put ten dollars in savings, pay off one bill, make one phone call, or take one college course. A small step won’t immediately change your life but it will begin the change.