You know that feeling when you are working on a project, and it’s full of joy and excitement…it sails along, the ideas come freely, and when finished, you are so excited about the result that you feel like doing a little joyful jig?
Or the feeling when you are happy with your performance, and your place in the world around you…excited to share ideas or your presence with people? The feeling of having actually contributed to an event or gathering… of having connected with people in a real way?
I think many of us know those feelings. They are lovely feelings, I find they help me be creative, and keep me interacting with others in social/work settings.
Unfortunately, too often I instead know anxiety, worry, and a paralyzing or suffocating sense of inadequacy or despair about myself or my work. It lurks around many creative and social corners. I know others feel this too –sometimes every so often, sometimes frequently.
I feel like I see people creating, progressing, happy in their artistic points of view, churning out work that they’re proud of. I see them enjoying social occasions and not acting openly self-conscious.
How do they do it? How do they preserve that feeling of jig-inducing excitement as they carry their projects mentally over the chasm of fear/shame/worry/inadequacy that often yawns just beyond the initial creative process? How do they navigate the valleys of self-consciousness and anxiety?
I love the creative process. I feel blessed to be part of it. Where I sometimes struggle is with sharing the results… often I feel I switch quickly from the role of creative midwife in the process of a new piece of work emerging, into the person in charge of ‘grading’ it.
‘D! F!” My mind delivers the grades, seeing only the flaws. ‘You could have done better…this and this and this are wrong’. ‘So-and-so would have done this much better/differently!’ ‘You’ll only take away from the event.’ ‘You aren’t good enough to be doing this…’ ‘You messed up that interaction.’ and etc. The result is an unwillingness to share the work or our presence with others because it isn’t ‘good enough’.
Yet, whose grading rubric am I using so quickly and with such condemnation? From where are these instinctive ‘Pass/Fail’ levels? Who made them? Why have I placed such confidence in their rightness when ‘grading’ myself? I don’t grade other people this way in my mind!
Short answer: These ‘grading systems’ are from the Hells. They continually are ‘stirring up and accusing’ us of everything….which can cause us to pull back from those endeavors.
It reminds me of Herod…who lied, deceived, and finally ordered the death of so many small children to prevent the fulfillment of the Lord’s promise. The Hells don’t want us to live up to our potential from the Lord, they want to block it, or better yet, lead us to block it ourselves.
Reading through Christmas readings from the Glenview Church this year, and sharing conversations with friends and family I have been struck anew by the Light of the Lord’s coming into these negative states, whether about work, family, relationships, etc.
I am grateful for these doctrinal gems…reminders of the Lord’s presence into my life, and Light to illuminate a new, fresh year.
Here are several quotes and my recent musings that may help in times of anxiety/frustration. At the moment, these 4 themes have been standing out to me.
I would love to hear how others deal with these thoughts and states.
1) The LORD’s PROVIDENCE is working even when the Hells Attack.
The Hells try to reach the Lord through attacking us. All the time, and continually they strive to hurt people…to prevent their connection with the Lord.
In wars in History, attacking the children and families of their enemies to harm them has been a despicable act. The evil spirits attacking us and our uses to grieve the Lord and block our connection with Him seems a similarly nasty action. Yet, in those times of despair, the Lord is with us, so closely, so strongly.
“God remembered” means His being merciful. . . this is attributed to Him especially when temptation is past because at that time new light is shining. As long as temptation lasts, a person assumes that the Lord is not present, for he is being harassed by evil genii, so harassed in fact that sometimes he has so great a feeling of hopelessness as scarcely to believe in the existence of any God at all. Yet at such times the Lord is more present than that person can possibly believe.’ (Arcana Caelestia 840)
‘The words which Joseph here spake to his brethren: “Ye thought evil against me, God thought it for good, in order to do as it is this day, to make alive a great people” are words which contain within them a secret of heaven, which secret is this: in the other life the Lord permits infernal spirits to lead the good into temptation, consequently to pour in evils and falsities; which also they do with all endeavor; for when they are doing this, they are in their life and its delight.
But the Lord Himself is then present with those in temptation, both immediately, and mediately by angels, and resists by rebutting the falsities of the infernal spirits, and by dissipating their evil, thus giving refreshment, hope, and victory. Thus with those who are in the truths of good, the truths of faith and the goods of charity are more inwardly implanted and more strongly confirmed.
This is the means by which spiritual life is bestowed….
For be it known that the infernal spirits to whom it is permitted thus to trouble the good, intend nothing but evil; for they desire with all their might to drag them down from heaven and cast them into hell; because it is the very delight of their life to destroy anyone as to his soul; thus to eternity. But not one whit is permitted them by the Lord, except to the end that good may come of it, namely, that truth and good may be brought into shape and strengthened with those who are in temptation. In the universal spiritual world reigns the end which proceeds from the Lord, which is that nothing whatever, not even the least thing, shall arise, except that good may come from it. Hence the Lord’s kingdom is called a kingdom of ends and uses.’ (Arcana Coelestia 6574)
‘And God shall be with you. That this signifies the Divine providence of the Lord, is evident from the signification of “God shall be with you,” as being the Divine providence of the Lord; for when the Lord is with anyone, He leads him, and provides that all things which happen, whether sad or joyful, befall him for good: this is the Divine providence.’ (Arcana Coelestia 6303)
From numbers like these below, I am starting to identify these negative feelings as a type of temptation…ie, being discouraged/despairing about work or other situations may not be a ‘personality trait’, but rather temptations. And Temptations can be fought in the Lord’s great mercy by and with Him, and with very good results. This is such a hopeful thing.
‘They who have not been instructed about man’s regeneration suppose that a man can be regenerated without temptation; and some that he has been regenerated when he has undergone one temptation. But be it known that without temptation no one is regenerated, and that many temptations follow on, one after another. The reason is that regeneration takes place to the end that the life of the old man may die, and the new heavenly life be insinuated, which shows that there must needs be a fight, for the life of the old man resists, and is not willing to be extinguished, and the life of the new man cannot enter except where the life of the old man has been extinguished. Hence it is evident that there is a fight on both sides, and this fight is a fiery one, because it is for life.
He who thinks from enlightened reason can see and perceive from this that no man can be regenerated without a fight, that is, without spiritual temptation; and also that he is not regenerated by one temptation, but by many.’ Arcana Coelestia 8403:2,3)
‘…in regard to the truth that man first begins to live when that perishes which in the world he believes to be the all of life;
and that the life which he then receives is relatively ineffable and unlimited; and that he is altogether ignorant of this so long as he is in evil-these and similar truths can never be believed, unless the man is in good; for it is good which comprehends, because the Lord through good flows in with wisdom.’ (Arcana Coelestia 3175:4)
3) STEALING from the Lord:
Being discouraged and acting on it, giving in to anxiety and inadequacy seems to me to be stealing:
Stealing from others, because the Lord intended each of us to bring Uses into the world.
Stealing the power from Providence by not believing that the Lord is All Powerful, and not trusting Him.
Stealing the Lord’s ability to affect us because we assume it is all up to us and that we are in charge…
I think identifying a trait as being against one of the Commandments makes it more clearly possible to know what to shun in the repentance process.
‘…In the celestial sense, thieves mean those who take away from the Lord His Divine power; also those who claim for themselves His merit and righteousness. These, even if they adore God, still do not trust in Him but only in themselves, and also do not believe in God, but only in themselves….’ (True Christian Religion 319)
‘ The Divine power of the Lord, which was represented by the filling of the hands of Aaron and his sons, is the Divine power of saving the human race; and the power of saving the human race is power over the heavens and over the hells. For man is saved by this power of the Lord, and not by any other‘ (Arcana Coelestia 10019:3)
4) DWELLING on INADEQUACY is foolish.
The Lord has created all of us, uniquely. He decided we are to be recipients of His blessings and Eternal life, and He is fighting for us. He inspires our love for certain uses, and all good is from Him, anyway.
He allowed Himself to be born into this world to save us from the Hells. We are His children.
‘while He lived in the world the Lord was in continual combats of temptations, and in continual victories, from a constant inmost confidence and faith that because He was fighting for the salvation of the whole human race from pure love, He could not but conquer; which is here meant by “believing in Jehovah.” From the love from which anyone fights it is known what his faith is. He who fights from any other love than love toward the neighbor and toward the Lord’s kingdom, does not fight from faith, that is, does not “believe in Jehovah,” but in that which he loves, for the love itself for which he fights is his faith. …
But in all His combats of temptations the Lord never fought from the love of self, or for Himself, but for all in the universe, consequently, not that He might become the greatest in heaven, for this is contrary to the Divine Love, and scarcely even that He might be the least; but only that all others might become something, and be saved.’ (Arcana Coelestia 1812)
Arise, give light; for Thy light comes, and the glory of Jehovah has risen on Thee. For, behold! The darkness shall cover the earth, and dense darkness the peoples; but on Thee shall Jehovah rise, and His glory shall be seen upon Thee. And the nations shall walk to Thy light, and kings to the brightness of Thy rising.(Isaiah 60)