There sure are a lot of things to be afraid of in the world right now. Part of that seems related to these being turbulent times, but part of it is probably because we are connected to so many things and people and places. How many pieces of news can you really digest in a day, even if it is all good news? How many pieces of news can you digest if most of them are bad? Certainly the worrisome and scary events in the world seem to get the most press so that sometimes it can feel like everything is collapsing. That makes it hard to find places to safely orient ourselves.
Orienting is a really important part of maintaining our own well-being. Some of our anchors for orientation lie outside ourselves, some are inside, and some anchoring activities are about reinforcing the boundary in between. As a very young child, inside and outside anchors are hardly distinguishable–when I am around the ones who truly care and tend to my well-being (mother, father, grandparents, other loved ones) I feel good inside. My world is good and it is all one. But in little steps we become more independent (age 2-3, 6-7, 9, 12, 14, 18½, 21… ), realizing we are actually our own person. That's a lonely experience in some ways; it empowers us to be less dependent on the outside but simultaneously requires that we strengthen and find more inner anchors. We are no longer “one” with our parents, our family, the things and people that early on seemed so secure and unshakable. We also work to find new outer anchors–interests, vocations, friends, colleagues, causes–that help us find joy and meaning and connection. We spend a lot of time swinging back and forth while trying to find the right balance between orienting our worthiness and safety within these external factors. If they do not provide us with the desired security, we can be left feeling so abandoned that we then shift to relying on inward anchors, aiming for total self-sufficiency. But being only inwardly directed leaves us isolated from the outside world. Much of life is a dance somewhere in the middle.
Consciously acknowledging our need for inner and outer anchors, and the challenge of moving between them, helps. Creating conscious differentiation of inside and outside allows us to better orient. Here are a few ideas:
- Finding Inner Anchors: we each have ways that we self-soothe and find reassurance. When the outer world brings chaos, we have inner possibilities for calm. Sometimes we need to remind ourselves what they are. A good way is to ask, “What are the things I really love?” If everything in the outside world changed and you were allowed to just be honest, what are the things you love most? Those are important treasures. They are anchors for our inside orientation and they can carry us. We each have special gifts and connections that we alone carry. Love and honor them. Acknowledge them.
- Trusting Outer Anchors: “What are the things that I need help with, that are too big for me to know the right answer to by myself?” Admitting that there are such things allows us to surrender to the outside, and that opening can lead to unexpected advice from a trusted friend, a counselor, a specialist, or a higher power. We can't carry everything in the world, so some of it we have to give away. This can be prayer, or remembering how to breathe out, or devoting time to finding something so beautiful that it makes you feel reverence (music, art, nature, a newborn baby). These help renew our faith in the world.
- Reinforcing the Boundary in Between: touch something. Literally, touch something. Touch is such a special sense because while it might feel like we are sensing the outside, we are also really sensing ourselves. Touching things helps us ground and orient back in ourselves. The author Temple Grandin writes about the power of strong touch in soothing autistic behaviors–this is no accident. Physical touch reinforces emotional and social experiences of healthy boundary. Picking, rubbing, finger-nail biting, even “cutting” are all ways that we, perhaps unconsciously, work to find our boundary and heighten the sensation of self (even if it must be accomplished through pain). Dry skin brushing, skin scrubs with salt, joint compressions, massage, digging a garden, or walking a pilgrimage can all be very helpful ways to feel ourselves in ourselves. Healthy physical reinforcements of boundary can help us feel socially and spiritually more safe in the world.*
And sometimes it’s ok to take a break and stop listening to the news. And if the right opportunity comes, be open to serve as an outer anchor for someone else.
*An anthroposophic remedy really works to try to provide a gift, an “anchor” to help us (physically, emotionally, spiritually) find our right orientation too.