Desperation and Anxiety as Positive Forces

Hello, and greetings to another moment in time on Fishing Without Bait, where we offer a mindful journey through life without definitive expectations.  And, we call it Fishing Without Bait.  Actually, Mike, what I’d like to hear are some comments from our listeners as to what their concept of “fishing without bait means,” what it means to them.  

Jim:    So, let me ask you this, Mike.  When I first developed the concept of Fishing Without Bait, tell me what your initial thoughts were.

Mike:    My initial thoughts were, “Well that’s a goofy concept.  That’s interesting.  Fishing.  Leave the bait at home.”  At first look at it, it looks like you missed a part of the puzzle there when it comes to fishing.  But, in retrospect, it’s like, no, we’re concentrating on what’s truly the important part of this.  

Jim:    Right.  So what we’re doing is expanding horizons, paying attention on purpose to what’s right in front of us and what is right around us.  Sometimes we’re so focused on the fish that we miss the birds flying across the sky.  Do we not?  Mike, last week – before we begin, I’d like to ask you where you’re at, Mike.

Mike:    I am right here, right now – in this studio with my friend Jim doing a podcast.

Jim:    And, as we have developed that concept, tell me, I’d like for you to share with our listeners what it means to you being right here, and it being right now.  

Mike:    To me, it means that I’m here.  I’m working.  I’m having a conversation with you.  And, everything else is outside my head.  

Jim:    And this is when life’s happening.

Mike:    Yes.  Right now.  We’re concentrating on having a good podcast, having a good discussion to relate to you people out there.  And, I’m not worried about when this is going up, how long it’s going to be when it goes up, or anything like that.  We’re just having the conversation.

Jim:    So, what we’re attempting to do is not get in the time traveling machine.

Mike:    Exactly.

Jim:    Beautiful.  Well, as you remember, Mike, last week what we talked about, our topic was mindfully breaking out of your comfort zone.  And, we spoke quite a bit about the comfort zone being something that you carry with you, often like a suit of armor.

Mike:    The biggest thing was the box and the balloon.  That’s what stuck in my head from last week – is the box and the balloon.  So, please look back if you didn’t listen to that episode.

Jim:    So, share with us, share with them if they’re just tuning in for the first time about the box and the balloon.

Mike:    Alright.  For me, I relate this to the studio.  I’ve talked about this in my comfort zone, and I’m doing some projects where we’re getting out of the studio and we’re doing some stuff the other places.  And, I hope to expand.  The box, my studio, is “Okay, there’s my comfort zone.”  Then, I’m a balloon, and I’m expanding with all this knowledge, and I’m doing work with you, and I’m doing work with these shows.  And, my balloon is expanding.  But, I’m hitting the walls down here.  I’m hitting these studio walls, and I need to get out of here and let myself get outside of that box that is the studio.  Is that, you know, we’re visualizing the box here.

Jim:    So, what we’re doing is confining and limiting your potential. And, the first thing the mindfulness journey takes us on is being aware that we are being limited.  Again, that’s what mindfulness is about.  It’s about paying attention on purpose.  We also talked a little bit about that the comfort zone is often self-constructed.  And, sometimes it keeps us in situations that, although comfortable and familiar, may not be as productive and beneficial if we stepped outside the box.  We talked a bit about the comfort, about comparing our minds to be like an animal in a zoo.  What did we talk about?  Can you refresh the listeners’ memories?

Mike:    Right.  We talked about the lion pacing.  Because the lion is well taken care of, well fed, but that’s not it’s instinct.  It needs to get out and grow and discover and hunt.  Because, that’s what it’s made to do.  And we’re not meant to just sit here and do whatever is in this box.  We’re meant to grow and expand.  Our minds are made that way, to grow and expand and learn new things.  And, if you’re stuck in that box and you’re not discovering new relationships, you’re letting that fear hold you down in that box.  Then, you’re not growing.

Jim:    And, as we discussed, what keeps us in our comfort zone – 99% of it is fear.  

Mike:    The big “f” word.

Jim:    And, as we discussed before from the 12-step world, fear is a corroding thread that goes through about every moment in our lives.  And, we talked about what courage is – it’s the ability to deal with fear.  However, sometimes what do we need to do to step out of that comfort zone?  What do we need to do with fear?  Sometimes, Mike, what we need is desperation.  Are all emotions bad or wrong?  

Mike:    No.  It’s really kind of how we respond to them, right?

Jim:    Absolutely.  And, can desperation be a gift, Mike?

Mike:    Yes.  

Jim:    Absolutely.  Could you share with any of the times where you’ve been desperate enough to make a bold move?

Mike:    I think I can relate to this, and I think many people can relate to this.  The common example I see are the people that, again we talked about getting stuck in a job, right?  And, the desperation of losing a job and being made to get out of your comfort zone is sometimes the greatest gift somebody gets because they say, “If that didn’t happen I would have been stuck there, and I wouldn’t have grown into that next thing.”  

Jim:    Absolutely.  And, as we discuss often, mindfulness was not invented by the Buddha or the Jesus.  It was here long before then.  This is what year, Mike?  What year is it?

Mike:    2015.

Jim:    In 1908, Mike, there were two gentlemen by the name of Robert Yerkes and John Dodson who discussed something called optimal anxiety.  It’s a point where anxiety and desperation become a driving force to push outside of the comfort zone.  Not to be reckless, or let’s say stupid, about what we do, but finding that area of optimal anxiety when we are desperate enough and anxious enough to move.  So, when someone’s anxious, is that always a bad thing?  

Mike:    Anxiety has such a bad connotation to it, that that’s interesting.  That’s very interesting.  I guess it’s kind of, that anxiety becomes a motivation, right?  

Jim:    It can be.

Mike:    At that point it becomes a force for good.  And, what is anxiety but just, I don’t want to say bottled-up fear.  

Jim:    Yes.  It’s worry.  Worry and fear.  

Mike:    It is worry, and it is fear.  I think, this is kind of a deeper thing, but anxiety was a thing that kept us running from the lion that’s not in the cage back in the day.  Right?

Jim:    Yes.

Mike:    And, now, our fear is more community based, socially based.  

Jim:    It’s being mindfully aware of your anxiety and desperation.  What do most of us do with anxiety?  How do we try to mask it?  

Mike:    Turn it inside.

Jim:    We turn it inside.  We take alcohol, drugs, whatever defense mechanisms or distractions.

Mike:    Because we think we’re not allowed to let that out, right?

Jim:    We’re conditioned.  In our society we’re conditioned.  Our Western Civilization is an individualistic-based society where unless you can solve a problem on your own self will then you’re viewed as being weak or less-than.  When we talk about someone being mindful, perhaps we talk about someone who is not impulsive.  The idea is, “How do we begin to step outside this comfort zone?”  You just made a move, a bold move.  Tell me some of the driving force behind that.

Mike:    I’m just realizing I’m bumping my head against that box, really.  It’s just like, “I’ve got to do something.”  I feel like this isn’t growing the way I want it to, and to have with this move access to greater resources, greater people – having a community.  I’ve been doing things here, myself, in a box for so long, it’s like, “Okay, we need to stretch out a bit more and take the things we’re working on to a next level.”

Jim:    So, you stepped back and you became mindfully aware of the box.

Mike:    Right.  You take a step back and just look at your surroundings and say, “Okay, why isn’t this working the way I want it to work?  Why isn’t that working the way I want it to work?”  And, then say, “Okay, is this situation over here going to give the ability for those aspects where I’m failing – not failing, but just not expanding at the rate that I want to.”  

Jim:    Yes.  So, what you did is you, rather than fear the anxiety – fear the desperation, you became mindfully aware of it and used it as a driving force.  

Mike:    Exactly.

Jim:    So, what did we ask people to do sometimes, Mike?  We ask them to step out of their own comfort zone.  And, that doesn’t have to be anything loud, to walk down the street in a clown costume.  

Mike:    Though that would be fun.  I’m not against that idea.  Send us videos if you do that.

Jim:    Yes, please do.  I’d love to see that.  I graduated from clown college myself.  However, doing the simple things that a person would never dream of doing.  Let’s say, going into a restaurant and simply asking for a glass of water.  Or, going into the library and simply asking a librarian for help – asking them to order a book from another library for you.  Many, many people don’t do that, Mike.  Call a friend.  Call a friend that you haven’t talked to in a very long time.  Call up and make an appointment, and then call up 20 minutes later and cancel it.  It’s not going to hurt anybody, and that’s definitely taking something out of your comfort zone.  I would guess that when you go to a particular place each week that you go in a set route.  You take a route there that you normally travel.

Mike:    I don’t, actually.

Jim:    Good for you.  Tell us about that.

Mike:    Okay, you know I go out to a certain place that’s about an hour drive away from here.  And, I have about three ways – the majority of it is one path, right?  But, that last little bit is where it gets tricky.  And, I have about three different ways I can go.  And, it’s like, “Do I want lights?”  It’s that decision, “Do I want these lights to determine how long it takes for me to get there?  Or do I want me and negotiating these back roads to determine how long it takes me to get there?”  It’s just on my feeling.  And, that’s gone through, “This is tough.  What happens if we take a right here?”  GPS helps, don’t get me wrong.  I still have GPS as a back-up.  It’s kind of enabling me in that expansion.  I think it’s one of the great things about Pittsburgh roads is, “There is no one way to get someplace.”  

Jim:    Sure.  

Mike:    And, it’s not always the wrong way.  Unless there’s construction and traffic.  Then, it can be very, very wrong.

Jim:    So, the travelling the one way to the grocery store, or to visit a friend.  All it is is a metaphor for your life – that we do the same thing.  When we become human doings rather than human beings becoming mindfully unaware.

Mike:    And, it’s fun to say, “Hmm.  Let’s see if we try things this way this week.”  And, see where we go.

Jim:    Here’s what I’m going to challenge.  I’m going to challenge everyone out there.  And, I’m going to challenge you, Mike.  The next time you’re in an elevator.  I’d like you to strike up a conversation with someone.  For those listening, I’d like you to strike up a conversation.  Just say, “Hello. How are you? What’s going on in your world today?”  Strike up a conversation with a stranger.

Mike:    You’re attacking my introvert ways.

Jim:    I’m asking you to step outside your comfort zone.  I’m asking you, when you go to a cashier to show some personal interest in a person.  Compliment what they have on.  If they have a pin or particular item of jewelry, ask them about it.  Ask them where they got it.  

Mike:    Even if it’s something unfamiliar to you.  I think, “Oh, you have a video game t-shirt on.”  It’s like, “Oh, I’ve got some place to start with.”  But, you’re saying, whatever catches your attention.

Jim:    It’s stepping out of that comfort zone.  When you go to the grocery store the next time.  If there’s an item that’s not there, ask if they have it in the back.  Or, I’m going to challenge everyone out there.  Let’s say you’re in the produce section, ask if they have fresher lettuce.  As if they have fresher oranges.  Ask.  Step out of that comfort zone a bit.  Wear your shoes without laces sometime.  Or, for those really adventurous, wear two different socks and see who notices.

Mike:    I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I do that often when I go to work on Monday with you.

Jim:    I appreciate that.  So, those are just some of the ways that I’m asking people to step outside their comfort zone a little bit.  And, for those of you who are perhaps in school, or for those of you who perhaps have been contemplating a career move, a move in a relationship, in their life – to harness the anxiety.  Harness that desperation and use it as a driving force, Mike.  And, the whole key to this is to be mindfully aware of emotions.  Be mindfully and non-judgmentally aware of where you’re at in your life.  A little self-evaluation mixed with some optimal anxiety and desperation can make a fine stew.  And, until next time, Mike, I’m hoping everyone continues on their mindfulness journey.  

Please check out our website at where you can listen to the show, comment on our discussions and find out where you can subscribe to our podcast.  Fishing Without Bait is a production of Namaste Holistic Counseling, P.C.