Have A Little Faith — In Yourself

“Always remember you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”         –Christopher Robin

Today in yoga class our dharma talk was on the subject of faith.  “Like some of you, I had a visceral reaction when I heard that was the topic of the month at the studio,” the instructor said.  “But then I thought, faith isn’t just religion.  It’s also faith in ourselves.”

This led to a discussion of times when it was hard to have faith on ourselves, or faith that things would work out well, and our fear created suffering, particularly because it wasn’t justified.  Later in class it struck me that sometimes this lack of faith in ourselves also can interfere with our enjoyment of the present moment.

I don’t want to jinx myself, but things are going really well in my life right now.  Better than they have in a long time.  And the fact that I felt compelled to start that sentence with “I don’t want to jinx myself” is indicative of a problem that many of us have.  When things are going well, I’m often waiting for the other shoe to drop.

You may be thinking, hey, that’s how life is.  Things go well, they go not so well.  Life is cyclical and there are always ups and downs.  And yes, you’re correct to think that.  But for those of us with anxiety, it’s sometimes hard to enjoy the ups because we’re so focused on the downs we know are coming.

It’s a question of faith.  Faith that we can handle the downs, the same way we handled the ups.  Faith that if we are in the down,  eventually things will look up.  Faith that life isn’t just a zero sum game where every good thing has an equal bad thing to cancel it out, but instead there can be more of your life on the “good” side of the ledger.

Being alert to potential bad events is hard-wired into all of us to some extent, but this constant dread that something bad is going to cancel out the good is also a typical byproduct of past trauma.  Past events create the anxiety that bad things are coming, because they always do.

So how can we start to break out of this pattern?  I was curious about that myself.  Here are some suggestions to help you (and me) enjoy the good times and not fear for the future:

  • Recognize your negative thoughts:  Sometimes we manifest what we are thinking.  If we think something bad is coming, it might, but if we think something good is coming, it might.  Re-frame your thoughts to be more positive and less fatalistic.
  • Acknowledge that your vigilance has kept you safe:  If your fear and dread of the future is based in past trauma, being on guard has likely helped you survive past events.  Thank yourself for taking care of you.
  • Use mantras:  Repeat words that make you feel strong and safe. Visualize them. Believe them.
  • Breathe:  Changes in breath are often the first sign of stress.  Focus on keeping your breathing easy.  When you have a negative thought, make sure you are breathing.  Then breathe out forcefully or make your exhale longer than your inhale.
  • Embrace the fact that you deserve good things:  Tell yourself you deserve to have good things happen, and that you deserve to enjoy the good times.

Things are going very well for me right now.  I’m going to have faith that they will continue to go well, and I’m going to have faith that when life throws me a curve ball,  I’ll still be able to hit it out of the park.

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