Welcome back everyone! For the last couple of weeks, we have examined how to turn your everyday experience toward peace and joy—essentially by using prayer as a form of meditation to release stress and anxiety. But today, I’d like to expand on this concept with something a bit more targeted. If there’s a specific issue in your life where you would like to replace fear and nerves with passion and excitement, this could be just the thing.
I was 14 the first time I remember using this method myself—although of course I didn’t fully understand what I was doing at the time. As a younger man, I was deeply in love with athletics and competing, and with tennis in particular. At one point, I was set to play a singles match against the number-one high school player in Nashville. I’m not normally the type to get nervous before a game, but I was scared of this guy. But at some point in the weeks leading up to the match, I realized that it was kind of silly to be afraid. After all, everyone knew this guy was the best in Nashville, and no one even knew my name. I didn’t really have anything to lose, and I really didn’t want to go in a jumble of nerves. I mean, I lived for this sort of thing! I should feel excited! Over the next few days, I made a conscious effort through prayer and meditation (although that wasn’t how I thought of it at the time) to change my outlook to one of passion and excitement. And to my own surprise, it really worked!
Now, let’s take a look at what’s going on here from a psychological perspective. The fear response is, of course, one of our most basic survival mechanisms, and it is driven by memory. Touch a hot pan as a child, and you’ll never do it again. The trouble arises from faulty associations. The fear response is only supposed to protect us from bodily harm or death. Win or lose, my tennis match was not a matter of mortal danger, so why was I afraid of it? For the same reason behind most of the unnecessary fear in all our lives: because of a lie in my memories.
Our memory is a sort of gigantic filing system, like a computer, and each memory has certain instinctive, emotional “tags” associated with it. If I told you to think about some of the happiest, or most painful, or most frustrating moments of your life, some memories will no doubt come to mind before you’ve even finished reading this sentence. That’s because your unconscious has flagged those memories as important—and for the sake of self-preservation, pain and fear memories are watched most closely of all. Unfortunately, the unconscious is so sensitive to these things that it is prone to over-diagnose. Hence, why I was feeling fear and anxiety over something that was not only totally nonthreatening from a survival perspective, but was actually a good thing.
In my case, I’d say that the lie in my memories was tied to my self-worth. I was teased as a child for being a bit overweight, and through high school and college I overcompensated with fitness and athletics, so that’s probably why I felt that I “needed” to win—because deep down, I associated my ability as an athlete with my worth as a person. Thegood news is that you can change those labels to something more truthful using the same basic method we’ve been discussing for the past few weeks. In my case, praying to God is an important part of the meditation, but you could also direct that same “prayer” to your own subconscious mind, and ask that the context of your internal memories be changed to something more truthful.
Have a blessed, wonderful day!