Serenity might seem elusive in the hum-drum of life. Working harder to meet and greet, smile through gritted teeth while battling to do our best, pay the mortgage, get dinner on the table, and tangle with tension. Tranquillity is tangible and is most certainly attainable. But what is it and why is it important?
Serenity is considered both a feeling and a state of being calm, cool and collected under any circumstance. More than that, it is a choice and principled practice of peace and self-love, and a powerful weapon against anxiety, fear, panic and tension. It is important because on a mental level it aids us in cutting through the clutter and quieting the mental chatter, on a physical level to manage unhealthy habits and, on a spiritual level to find inner acceptance. It makes for kinder inter and intra relationships.
Most person-centred therapists consider Anxiety the biggest adversary to Serenity. Whether the root cause of that anxiety is panic, stress, past and present trauma, side effects from pharmaceutical medications or even the habitual use of illicit drugs, it’s worth noting that Anxiety itself is addictive. Knowledge is power. Let’s work to help serenity surface.
Anxiety is highly treatable. And you are not alone. Anxiety currently affects about 1 in 13 people This is according to the Global Burden of Disease Study. The studies are the world's most comprehensive reviews of research on major depression and anxiety.
Understanding our opponent
According to most Behavioural Therapists, our brains decide which current experiences to commit to long term memory and associate emotions to these memories. These memories cloak our current reality. It is how we learn. Our past experiences were a mix of positive, neutral and negative which affects how we feel now. Some were memorable, some were forgettable. This creates what we call a Belief System and a World View - it’s how we process, perceive and make sense of the world around us and what is happening to us. It also tells us how we should feel about something based on our past experiences. Our world view is peppered with colourful life experiences that have all impacted on how we experience and process our current situations.
Many talk therapy clients infer that the primary issue has to do with control and the constant need for control over outcome which leads to Anxiety. This often has to do with past experiences.
Symptoms are mild or quite prevalent as evidenced by Post Traumatic Stress Disorders or perhaps Situational Disorders. These often exist concurrently and are referred to as Comorbid. These are classified generally as Anxiety Disorders. We have all had traumatic experiences in our lives that need to be identified and gently confronted. These lead to panic when swept under the carpet. Serenity where are you?
When tension is prevalent it leads to a physiological reaction such as an increase in activity by the Amygdalae and eventually, an overproduction in Adrenaline which is physically addictive creating a downward spiral to a state of Anxiety. Now, instead of being mildly stressed when the situation requires, we would be more so.
As a behavioural therapist, I believe that it runs a little deeper. I believe that it has to do with two things, a mix of learned behaviour (the knee-jerk stuff - neural pathways - our World Views) from past experiences and physical exertion on a certain part of our Limbic System or aggravation of the Amygdalae.
We cerebrally and mentally understand:
- That we are not the puppet masters and that there is something greater than us at work who calls the shots.
- We understand that all of the experiences in our formative years, while we were maturing, were out of your control.
- We understand that our allergic reaction to certain medications, for example, is out of our control.
- We understand that our family hurts are out of our control.
- We understand that how we REACT to all of these things is in our control and needs to be dealt with.
- However, we are still battling to deal with it. And that’s ok. It’s part of the beautiful human condition called learning, self-discovery and the gift of life.
This feeling that we lack SERENITY as well as other symptoms are markers of Anxiety Disorder in my experience and is quite manageable. It is nothing to be alarmed about. We need to ensure that we avoid Obsessive Addictive behaviour.
Our primary struggle to finding Serenity is with Anxiety. This is different from panic. Where panic is the feeling we experience when we are presented with a very real threat, anxiety is the underlying “what if this happens” feeling we experience although no immediate threat is present. Both Panic and Anxiety are rooted in the core emotion of Fear. Fear (and therefore panic and anxiety) is managed by the Limbic System. In particular, it is managed by the Amygdala. This is a concentration of nuclei in the brain and is the size and shape of an Almond. Food for thought.
Five useful practices to assist in the emergence of the Serenity Lotus Flower.
- First HALT: Ask yourself: Am I Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired? It’s quite ok to look at yourself and address your needs at a physical and mental level first. Address them.
- Forgive with your whole heart. Whether you need to forgive yourself or others. Do it. By holding onto darkness, our hands and hearts are unable to find the blessings. We understand that atonement is the currency of the poor of heart.
- Fibs are feeble. We tell fibs because we want to control the outcome. Always come from a higher a place of love and speak truthfully with kindness. Integrity is King.
- Freedom: Take a trip to Hawaii and find the practice of ‘ho’oponopono’. In essence, it says: I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.
- Find solace in the SERENITY PRAYER: Grant me the serenity to ACCEPT the things I cannot change, the COURAGE to change the things I can, And the WISDOM to know the difference.