Anxiety takes us into the future, depression takes us into the past. I don’t remember who wrote that (nor could Google help me, sorry), but it’s an excellent description of the two emotions. So many times, because of anxiety, we end up materializing a problem out of our imagination, find reasons to assure ourselves it’s a foregone conclusion and then spend hours, days, even months finding a solution to the fabricated problem, a problem that is likely never going to materialize anyway. There is a parable I heard years ago that helps many of our clients remember to stay in the present; to remember that we do not, in fact, know ANYTHING that is going to happen.
The Parable of the Taoist Farmer
Written by Dennis Adsit
There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied.
The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbors exclaimed.
“Maybe,” replied the old man.
The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy for what they called his “misfortune.”
“Maybe,” answered the farmer.
The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son's leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out.
“Maybe,” said the farmer.
Remember this parable when you believe something to be absolute! When worry takes your mind into the future, telling you how “awful” your job lay-off or some other event is going to prove for your future, your family, or yourself, that MAYBE something else might be. Maybe.
Post script from Practice Manager, Jennifer Simon:
I found the quote! It's by Chinese Philosopher and father of Taoism, Lau Tzu.
"If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present."