The Kingdom Is Not Near, It’s Here. Widows. Pharisees. Tax Collectors.
Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Luke 17:10 (NIV)
I was surprised to learn one of the most effective strategies in calming a turbulent child was distraction. It makes sense – a crying baby will usually respond to soothing measures when an unknown agitator is present – I suppose I just thought there would be more to it than that. Therapists often employ the same methodology, although they use the slightly more clinical term of “redirection.”
My strategy for dealing with anxiety is similar. I put something stupid as close to my face as possible until my brain registers it as far more interesting than my nervousness. You would not believe how many panic attacks I have stopped in my tracks by simply turning to the person next to me and saying, “Talk to me about anything. Literally anything.”
It works but only ever so much. Like Tylenol, its efficacy wanes over time until it does not work at all. All the pretty colors in the world cannot distract you forever, because really, distraction is only a temporary solution and no one ever meant it to me more. You wave a Gameboy in front of the eyes of a toddler getting a shot, because the pain is a one-time deal. Batten down the hatches, because you only need to survive once. But make that shot a daily occurrence and the dread will return. Soon, the Gameboy, in its seemingly endless entertainment, will work until it doesn’t, and then you will have to find something else.
Netflix. Until you have watched everything.
Conversation. Until there is nothing to talk about.
You could avoid. No more shots. No more airplanes. No more public spaces. And with situation specific phobias – maybe that will solve your problem.
But it does not solve your problem, because yours is generalized in day-to-day experience.
So, take the opposite route – dig in. Deal with it in the moment with all the intellectuality you can muster. Process feelings. Come up with tangible solutions. Maybe even revisit some of those distractions from a different perspective. Eventually, the problem will not be a problem anymore.
Unless it is. Unless it clings to you like it has somehow woven itself into your skin, burrowed deep and never letting go. What then? What if the air scares you? You can’t stop breathing, can you?
And so it’s faith. Against all logic and distraction, in the face of all the thought and consideration, you make a conscious choice to ignore the good science and the knowledge. It’s not scary, you think, even though it is. I’m taken care of, you think, even if you don’t feel it. I won’t die, you think, even though you will.
And that might just do the trick.