“My grandma said, ‘Nothing real can be threatened.’” — Beyonce, Lemonade
I can hold a lengthy process for my clients, but in my own life, I’m impatient. Always have been. As a Sagittarius-Dragon-INFJ-Enneagram 4, I’m a hardcore truth-seeker, wired for the long game. And I do love plumbing our individual and collective psychological depths—but at the same time, I’m acutely sensitive to the anxiety that comes from not having quick, pat answers. I was out of college for over a decade before I decided what to do with my life. I can listen to someone (or myself) speak for only so long before my mind’s snapping its fingers like, “Get to the point!” Frustrating, to say the least.
So when I hear something like “You will be OK,” I have to step back and take that in for a second. Too simple, right? Or is it? Is it dismissive? Liberating? Maddening? Well, whether it’s profound or profound bullshit, it’s a statement that has to know its moment.
I can’t speak for everyone of course, but I think now’s that moment. For a culture that’s shoulders-deep in the Age of Anxiety, try this on: You will be OK.
How do I know, you ask? I don’t! Are you kidding me? But I invite us to go ahead and choose to believe it anyway, because to not do so misses the forest for the trees. Bey’s grandma knows what she’s talking about. If nothing real—i.e, the truth—can indeed never be threatened, I’m only going to do so much worrying about it. And then, five minutes later, I’ll freak out all over again about my debt or my lack of relationships or my caseload stability or my overall self-worth, and continue to titrate my way through adulthood like we all do.
In certain segments of our field, anxiety is understood as a) an overestimation of the danger of a particular situation, and b) an underestimation of our ability to cope with it. (Raise your hand if you’ve already done this a bunch of times today.) A yoga teacher of mine likes to say that “there’s a difference between discomfort and danger.” Trauma and conditioning skew this lens for us, and so the way back to integrity is through the discomfort of facing our truth, of knowing ourselves, our opinions, and our limits.
Why’s it so hard to do this, to be with this vulnerability? My guess is that, for the impatient among us, the waiting game itself feels dangerous. Truth is a process, not an event. It can take time—an excruciatingly long time—to unpack and understand our feelings. The culture pressures us toward instant insights and 10-tip processes, but reality doesn’t work that way. We want to be honest, we want honesty from others, and we try and fail constantly. We’re all doing the best we can. Trial and error pretty much define adulthood (and growth)—so in the meantime, let’s take Tara Brach’s advice and incline toward radical acceptance.
So what does that mean? The kick I’m on right now is about checking my assumptions. Are all of my clients really going to decide they hate therapy and leave all at once next week? Probably not. Did I talk too much at that last party and totally alienate everyone? Unlikely, but maybe. Can I trust that folks will let me know if I did? Yes? Great! No? Well, what do I do then? Will I be shunned from my community and left to roam the planet in exile for the rest of my life? Doubt it. But if so, what are the best shoes for planet roaming? Can it be OK that I haven’t been in a relationship in eons? Yes? No? And so on. Even as I acknowledge and care for the parts of me that carry these fears (an essential task, to be sure), getting concrete about the what-ifs helps contain them.
Hardly a quick fix, this is an ongoing process of self-acceptance—even for the parts of us dying for that fix. And anyway, it’s safe to say that even if our anxieties keep repeating the same old scripts, we can trust that life will eventually bring some shit that stops us in our tracks and makes us flip them. Thankfully! I will be OK. You will be OK. Phew.