Sometimes life appears to run according to plan; sometimes everything seems to go awry. Sometimes you get what you want; sometimes it’s out of reach. When life is going your way, it is usually easy to feel optimistic about the future, to trust and expect good. And when life is hard or challenging, the natural tendency is to default to negative thinking, to distrust and expect more bad.
What do you do? How do you react when life throws you a curve ball? Do you face the challenge with courage and conviction, or doubt and trepidation?
How you perceive a given stress or “curve ball” is influenced by multiple factors, including past experiences, the extent and gravity of the real challenge you are facing, and the current life infrastructure that supports you in maintaining your health, sanity and sense of connection to others, to the larger world and to yourself. A past filled with negative experiences, for instance, will eventually lead you to anticipate more bad outcomes in the future. The reverse is true for positive experiences. Actually losing your job is different than possibly losing your job. If your infrastructure is broken, if you are lacking sleep for instance, you are more likely to perceive your world as less manageable than if you were fully rested.
Think about these questions:
- During hard times then, do you trust that you and the world you live in have what it takes to manage through?
- Do you believe anything is possible?
- Or is your outlook more pessimistic and negative?
As you contemplate your answer, you may notice that your ability to trust or expect good has either grown stronger or weaker, let’s say in the past ten years. You would not be alone if it is the latter as contemporary life has been marked by a growing and justified loss of trust.
Once upon a time, when a husband and wife took wedding vows, they weren’t preceded by a prenuptial agreement that spelled out what would happen when and if the couple broke those vows. Once upon a time, nuclear families formed the seat of our lives, providing the security we needed to go out into the world – now many families are broken and scattered. Once upon a time we believed in doctors, that they cared and wanted what was best for us, not for their wallets—now suing your doctor is a norm. Once upon a time, corporations made commitments to their employees that included pension plans and gold watches, now downsizing and laying off employees with the most seniority has become the norm. Educational communities, religious institutions, police forces all over the country are awash in scandals and controversy.
With accruing negative experiences, a frightening reality of a polluted environment and economic crisis, and a crumbling infrastructure that lacks social support, community and self care practice, the bottom line is that you have every reason to distrust and to expect bad. .
Too much distrust is debilitating and unhealthy. It isn’t good for your mind, your body, and your ability to think, create, socialize or succeed in life. Distrust is often appropriate and necessary, but too much of it causes your stress system to over-work, negatively affecting every system of your body and your brain. It leads to inflexibility and rigidity, both in mind and body, negatively affecting how you perceive and what you expect in the future. The more you struggle, the more your anxiety may run rampant, with feelings of depression, hyper-vigilance, anger and frustration. The immune system weakens, lessening physical and emotional vitality, increasing vulnerability to health problems and decreasing the ability to think and act wisely.
The opposite occurs when you trust, or expect good. You ride the negative part of the cycle with confidence. You maintain your calm and handle challenges with grace and ease. You stay healthier, hurt less and get better faster. When you believe that anything is possible, you have better ability to handle uncertainty with agility. In addition, research shows that individuals who are more optimistic are actually healthier in mind and body.
Trusting wisely is different from trusting blindly. Too much trust could make you delusional or trust a thief with your money. When you believe anything is possible, it is not because you are hallucinating, but because you are able to assess your past, your current situation and your available resources. You have a knowing and stillness within yourself that allows you to have a lens or perception of the world that come what may, you will have what you need to mitigate uncertainty.
In the end, it is not what or who you trust, but how you trust. It is the years of accumulated experiences, the ability to look at situations clearly for what they are without emotional drama, and having a solid infrastructure that supports you with resources you may need. Inner knowing guides your automatic and unconscious responses to your world. And when you have this trust, your body responds in kind—your blood pressure stays stable, your muscles relaxed and your immune system strong.
So think about it and make your list. Perhaps you can answer these questions.
- What and who do you trust and don’t trust and why?
- How strong do you believe your internal resources to handle sickness or life adversity (health, thinking power, ability to stay rational, etc)?
- How strong do you believe your external resources are to support you during hardship (money, friends, community, job, lifestyle habits)?
You may see simply by examining these questions what it takes to build an inner trust that you can handle anything and that even, anything can be possible for you to attain or get through, despite hardship. You may be able to see what you already possess and what you may want to build.
As you follow along in this blog, I will be giving you tips on building your power to believe in possible, even when it seems impossible.