Finding peace within the turbulence

Guest blog by Jesse Lott

While many of us have likely settled (begrudgingly, for many) into some kind of rhythm within the past few months of this guano-crazy year, there remain many who still find themselves in heightened states of nervousness, anxiety, and fear.

I mean, with COVID-19 and a couple of hundred thousand-plus perished, record unemployment, lockdowns, kids withheld from schooling and their peers, rising substance use, suicide, and domestic violence, protests and rioting across the country, and a contentious presidential election, it’s actually quite expected and understandable that people may struggle to find a sense of peace within all of it. Fortunately, when we offer ourselves a little validation and shift our relationship with our experiences, peace of mind has a much better chance of finding us.

When I meet with a patient and they tell me about their anxiety, their worry for the state of things, their concern for the safety of their family and themselves, their physical and mental health, their finances, and their children’s educations, I offer a genuine, “Of course you are.” Of course you’re scared. Of course you’re worried. Of course you’re…angry. How else are you supposed to feel given the circumstances? What else are you supposed to believe given so much uncertainty? Anger and fear are natural and to be expected. This is that simple validation, or an acknowledgment that something exists in reality that I mentioned earlier, and is such an important step in finding our own peace.

And what exactly is “anxiety” anyway? Anxiety is simply the modern word for fear. And fear, and the rest of our emotions, come with the human experience. And it is important to consider how we regard our feelings, how we relate with them. We need to remember that fear serves a remarkably important function: it keeps us safe. You and I wouldn’t be here without it. Our ancestors would have been eaten by that large toothy animal if fear didn’t keep them at distance. It helps reinforce caution when driving on the freeway and to spring into action when our kids reach for something sharp.

So, another important step to finding peace within the turbulence is to shift our relationship with our own emotions. We can regard them not as something to be gotten rid of or eliminated or without any utility. We can ask, with genuine curiosity, “what function is it serving me? What can I learn from it? How can I make use of this experience?” We shift from resisting the experience to embracing it, and from adversarial with our fear to partners with it. Doing so fundamentally alters its effect on – and place in – our lives.

Finally, after more than 15 years of clinical practice, I can comfortably say that fear and anxiety are not to be pushed aside, ignored, or stripped away. They are to be embraced, respected, and well understood for their purpose and function. Similar to our firearms, if we are not mindful of proper use and responsible handling, our emotions and moods can become dangerous to ourselves and others.

As gun owners, as much as we exercise care and maintenance of our firearms, we need to stay on top of the care and maintenance of our emotional well-being.