What You Resist Persists
I have been thinking about this quote quite often lately. The general idea is that the more you wish something hadn’t happened, or worry about something in the future, the more it occupies your mind.
I suppose from a purely neurological point of view, by constantly thinking of something, you are constantly creating new connections in your brain, solidifying the memory/thought even further. For example, a man has an interview and something goes wrong - it doesn’t matter what - the point is that after that interview he keeps thinking about it, wishing it would have gone differently, thinking up scenarios to have made it better. Unfortunately, since he kept thinking about that interview it is highly likely that at his next interview he will be worried that the same thing will happen again! Until he lets go and accepts what happened, it will keep bugging him.
Derren Brown did an interesting experiment: to make a tightrope walker second guess himself by saying:
“Focus on not wobbling and not falling off. Just make sure you don’t wobble and fall off”
Obviously the tightrope walker then focused on these thoughts. He focused on not wobbling, on not falling. The only issue is that the tightrope walker’s subconscious was more powerful and could only take him one way: off.
For anxiety sufferers, the more they think about the anxiety that is invading their minds, the worse they are. They are resisting the anxiety because it feels horrible. Perhaps they’re even scared.
So what should be done? Embrace it. Don’t resist the anxiety, harness it. Learn from it. Channel it.
There is also a really interesting TED Talk by Kelly McGonigal. Kelly talks about stress and how it is your body’s way of energising itself. The pounding heart? Preparing you for action. The increased breathing rate? Getting more oxygen to your brain so you can perform better.
In fact, the very idea of turning those negative thoughts about stress into positive ones causes a differing effect in your body. Blood vessels stayed relaxed. The heart may still be pounding, but as Kelly says, it’s a far healthier cardiovascular profile.
What’s interesting about this is that by no longer resisting stress, you are no longer being harmed by it either.
I have always had a very active mind. I am constantly thinking, analysing, planning… worrying. Sometimes it is very difficult to keep that ol’ brain quiet. Meditation is one thing that has helped. Another is simply letting go.