Our reptilian brain doesn’t speak the language of logic.
It’s a lower life form that exists solely to foster survival. The amygdala knows nothing of perspective and reason, it just detects threats.
And so, when we find ourselves tumbling down a fantastic realm of fear, that claustrophobic, hurried state where worry agitates the peace right out of us, the best thing we can do is call that fear by its name.
Buddhists call this inviting the demon to tea. We tell our fear that we see it, serve it as an honored guest, and let it stay for a while until it departs on its own.
It’s a beautiful practice for seeing the truth and holding it with kindness, rather than trying to drive it away.
One night I had the classic academic anxiety nightmare, involving me speed walking through my old neighborhood, running late for my very first day at a new job teaching seventh grade. Class started in less than an hour, the middle school building felt like a lifetime away, and some old lady was meandering slowly in front of me, as if to taunt me for being late.
Meanwhile, my lesson plan wasn’t even prepared, the teenagers were going to eat me alive, and the principal was probably going to fire me for tardiness.
But while my heartbeat continued to race, several facts of reality slowly started to unfold in my dream.
First, most middle school classes start at seven, but it was already nearly eight o’clock.
Second, there was no memory of any kind of job interview, offer letter or new teacher orientation from the school.
Third, I’ve never even been certified as a teacher.
Finally, my actual job is working as a writer at a marketing startup.
Wait a minute, this isn’t real. None of this is real. You know what this is. It’s just fear trying to make you scared of failing and being exposed and getting found out for the fraud that you really are. But that’s all bullshit. Because you’re a confident, competent professional who’s spent years deepening his ability to trust himself. You are worthy and everything is okay.
Suddenly, everything in my dream slowed down. My heartbeat, the pace of my speed walking, the passage of time, even the movement of the people around me.
This is what happens when you call the demon by its name.
It sits down for tea, stays for a while, and then departs on its own. Because it realizes that it no longer has authority over you.
Next time you’re feeling precariously balanced on your sanity ledge, try seeing the truth and holding it with kindness.
Introduce a little logic and perspective to give yourself a pep talk down off your ledge of anxiety.
LET ME ASK YA THIS…
When was the last time you became the nonjudgmental witness of your fears?