Which one would you choose:
Killing your mother or letting your father's death go unavenged?
These were the choices given to Orestes in the Aeschylus trilogy. After coming home decades after exile, he was thrust with an emotionally distressful question.
You see, Orestes' mother set up the murder of his father.
And for things to be set right in their kingdom, Orestes had to avenge his father.
This meant killing his mom and her accomplices.
From this moment of realization to the moment of avenging his father, Orestes was wreaked with many conflicting emotions. And at times, including right before attempting to kill his mother, he was never comfortable with any decision.
Throughout the trilogy, Orestes had to face one painful decision after another. All of them with severe consequences.
Although we don't have the same dilemma as Orestes, we, too, have to face painful decisions in our lives. And they usually boil down to choosing your pain.
This sounds odd, choosing pain.
All our lives, we were conditioned to avoid pain and seek to feel good. Well, to live a good life, you have to experience pain. Same with choosing a poor life.
Life is painful, no matter what.
Yet, the pain you choose determines what kind of life you experience.
And it boils down to either choosing Anxiety or Depression. One helps you live an authentic and zestful life, and the other allows you to live an unfulfilled life.
This brings me to my following statement:
To live a good life, you need to choose anxiety over depression.
The thing with anxiety is that it comes out when you choose to move forward into the unknown in life.
Like when you,
Ask that girl out.
Stand up to a toxic coworker.
Try out a new hobby.
Whenever you step into the unknown, you will be riddled with anxiety. You'll be wondering if you have what it takes. And the agony of uncertainty will feel overwhelming.
Yet, despite this excruciating experience, at the end of it, you see yourself having survived and realizing that the incident was not that bad.
Regardless of the result of your progression in the unknown, one thing stays consistent: being proud that you were courageous enough.
Now imagine this:
If you chose anxiety all your life. You would have a lot more unique experiences and stories from your life. Some results will be excellent or unsatisfactory, but you are still experiencing life. All those experiences will only enhance you more as an individual.
Let's switch gears to choosing depression.
In this case, you opted to not move forward into the unknown and deal with the pain of depression.
Like when you
Choose not to ask that girl out, wondering what if?
Choose not to stand up to your toxic coworkers, wondering what if?
Choose not to try out the new hobby, wondering what if?
And the worst part of choosing not to move into the unknown is that you will be in the same position as before. This time, you'll only be pained with regrets.
The legendary Pook once wrote that it is better to be rejected than to regret. And the reason is that when you get rejected, you know you did your best to explore the unknown. And funny enough, that experience will help you when you step foot into the unknown again.
But with regret, you don't get better.
Instead, you stay stuck in your head wondering. Life should be all about moving forward, no matter how scary it seems.
Dr. Maslow puts it in a different but insightful way:
"Every human being has both sets of forces within him. One set clings to safety and defensiveness out of fear, tending to regress backward, hanging on to the past, afraid to grow away from the primitive communion with the mother's uterus and breast, afraid to take chances, afraid to jeopardize what he already has, afraid of independence, freedom and separateness. The other set of forces impels him forward toward wholeness of Self and uniqueness of Self, toward full functioning of all his capacities, toward confidence in the face of the external world at the same time that he can accept his deepest, real, unconscious Self."
A good rule of thumb that I got from Swamplands of the Soul is:
"You must make your fears your agenda."
If you make your fears your agenda, you will set yourself up for a worthwhile life. Say, hypothetically, you're on board with this rule of thumb. You must be wondering how you commit to anxiety.
To be obnoxious, it's pretty simple (but not easy).
First, remember that every hero or mythological figure you know experienced the same emotions that come with anxiety. They felt doubt, fear, agony of ambiguity, and more. Yet despite that, they still moved forward, making moves and shaking the world uniquely.
Secondly, remind yourself of these heroes when you are experiencing anxiety. Remembering these examples will give you the boost to go through your experience.
Malcolm X preached for civil rights despite knowing he could get killed.
Jean Valjean chose to stop the false imprisonment of a man despite causing Jean Valjean to lose everything.
Brutus chose to save the republic despite causing a war with his family friend Caesar.
I can list more examples, but you get the idea.
Whether factual or fictional, they all experienced a cocktail of uncomfortable emotions before embarking on their heroic tasks.
And remember, you don't have to take on heroic tasks, just the things that incite fear in you. Thirdly, remember the examples of people who chose to be cowardly, resulting in their depression.
Matahachi, the best friend of Musashi (in the novel Musashi), runs away from the anxiety of facing his mother truthfully and ends up choosing depression, where for most of the novel, he regrets the poor choices of cowardice.
Willy Loman chose not to face his anxiety. Where he ends up getting depressed leading to a tragic end.
Okay, at this point,
let's say hypothetically, you're a little more convinced, but you still hesitate and have the following question.
Can't we live a fulfilling life without anxiety?
To continue with my obnoxious behaviour, the answer is no. Suppose you're not feeling anxious at all about a particular decision.
In that case, it won't help create a fulfilling life.
Watching interesting Netflix series, chatting with the same old friends, or doing the same old things doesn't lead to a fulfilling life.
Referring to the rule of thumb earlier in this article: "You must make your fears your agenda."
It's not expected to live an extraordinary life with incredible stories and experiences and not experience anxiety in the process.
And one experience of mine where I have felt anxiety was my fitness journey.
For a significant part of my life, I was underweight. 5'11 and 130ish pounds. And I thought this was just my lot in life.
But in those rare moments where I thought I could get bigger. I would go to the gym and workout. Yet I felt out of place and lazy, and my fitness journey would end as fast as it started; this went on for years, feeling depressed about my body.
Then, one day, when I got my fragile heart broken by a girl.
I decided I needed to make a change. So I went to the gym. This time, I didn't care what I felt.
Even though I felt anxious about being the skinniest guy, I still showed up.
Even though I felt anxious about not knowing what I was doing, I still showed up.
Even though I felt anxious about being judged, I still showed up.
And you know what happened?
I gained 20 pounds of muscle. And my best friend, who didn't see me for 6 months, did not recognize me. He drove right by me when I was waving him.
I feel proud of my fitness journey.
Because that was one of those rare moments in my life before therapy where I pressed forward despite the anxiety. And I reaped the rewards. Besides the stories of impressing many people with my build, I discovered some of the most extraordinary people in the gym.
Choosing anxiety in my fitness journey gave me rewards that were well worth the fear. Compared to choosing depression and staying underweight
You have stories like this, and if not, you can go out and create your own.
But in this process, please, for the love of God, do not entirely dismiss the times you feel a little depressed.
It's normal at times to feel a little depressed.
And in those times, we have to respect those feelings. When we have those depressive episodes, this is our body telling us to rest.
So, in those cases, do not keep trudging on and ignoring those depressive feelings. Take some time off from your fun and exciting tasks, and relax.
And if these depressive episodes are too frequent or chronic, then go see a therapist. Remember that your body constantly communicates with you in real time, especially during those depressive times. So, you must explore these episodes and come out of them with lessons and wisdom.
Alright, enough chit-chat; let's explore the summary now.
In life, you are going to face pain no matter what. Yet the type of pain you accept will either lead to a fun or sad life. And this comes down to choosing either anxiety or depression in your life.
Anxiety is the feeling you get when you explore the unknown. So when you accept anxiety and move forward, you will create memories and an interesting life. Choosing depression will leave you in a stagnant position in life.
The best way to commit to anxiety is by remembering that every hero has felt the same emotions, So remember the specific heroes to help you push through. But also remember the people who chose cowardice and depression, with their lives suffering.
You can't live an interesting and exciting life without anxiety. This is the price to pay for a good life.
It's normal to feel depressed at times. So use that time to rest and reflect on why you are feeling depressed. If the depression is chronic, go see a therapist.
As you peruse the internet,
you'll see a lot of content telling you what you need to do to make the most out of the year. Yet, to make the most out of this year and your life comes down to whether you choose to experience anxiety or depression.
Although choosing anxiety might seem like a difficult task. Just remember that whatever tough decision you have to make that induces anxiety, it will most likely be easier than killing your mother.
Until next time,
The Charismatic Nerd