I have problems with anxiety. Sometimes even the silliest thing will become a massive, overwhelming problem that fills me with a sense of dread. It could be something as simple as a friend spontaneously calling me to see if I want to hang out. Maybe a school calls me early in the morning wanting me to sub. Actually ANY time the phone rings it gives me a pang of anxiety, as does any loud buzzing noise.
Now none of this is new–I’ve known for a long time that I have anxiety problems, among other things. But only recently have I realized just how deeply anxiety is entwined into my life. And not just anxiety, but other negative emotions and mental constructs that I’ve managed to pick up over the last quarter century of life. But that’s all they are–emotions and mental constructs. Real, but not as real as they seem. While the suffering they cause is very real, they themselves are like illusions; existing, but not as they seem to. It reminds me of watching the show Ghost Hunters on SyFy (fun show by the way). Usually the guys go in skeptical, attempting to debunk claims of paranormal activity by finding a pragmatic cause for the phenomena their clients describe–leaky pipes, air flow problems, and other such things that could sound like a ghoul going bump in the night. More often than not, they find some sort of common explanation for the so-called paranormal activity. The phenomena are very real, but the cause is not what the clients thought it was. They are simply mistaken, in many cases.
It is the same with our mental life. We deceive ourselves, seeing a ghastly ghost where there’s only a billowing curtain. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I know that in my life I’ve spent a lot of time wrestling with ghosts. I think a lot of people do. They’re the ghosts of our own faulty perceptions of ourselves and the world around us. And we’re so busy wrestling with them that we don’t really live.
So breath deep and don’t shy away from that scary spirit clanking chains and moaning through the halls of your mind. A closer look might just show a billowing curtain and a bit of faulty plumbing.