An Age of Darkness and Anxiety by Lisa Hunt-Wotton

I believe that this age will be known as the age of anxiety.  The world seems very big, very out of control and we seem very small and we don’t know what to do about it.  The sign posts have all changed.  The world is no longer a simple place.  We don’t even know who our enemies are any more.  It is no longer black and white.

One reason that people have lost heart today is that we feel both confused and powerless.  The forces against us are overwhelming: consumerism, racism, militarism, individualism, patriarchy…these powers and principalities seem to be fully in control (Richard Rohr).

We don’t know what to do with our fear.  365 time in the bible instruct us: ‘do not be afraid’ but we are not sure how to not be afraid when every morning we wake up to a new level of terror and pain.  Fear is a very real enemy that we need to recognise and learn how to deal with.   Fear is negative energy and if we don’t know how to hold it, to transform it, we expel it.  We breath it over our lives and it consumes everything in it’s path.  We expel it in anxiety, rejection, hatred and by shrinking the world around us into manageable bite size pieces that we can control.  Unfortunately this suffocates relationships and is the exact opposite of love.

People with anxiety perceive the world differently—their brain lumps both safe and unsafe things together and labels them all unsafe.
The very definition of spirituality is to be able to sit with pain.  To hold it, to embrace it, to understand it and to allow it to transform us.  It is the opposite to expelling.  Richard Rohr says that ‘Spirituality at its best is what you do with your pain’.   We are bombarded, literally daily with global pain and we are overwhelmed.  We have no idea what to do with our pain and this is causing a global crisis of anxiety.

Talk to any psychologist and they will tell you that the fear response works two ways.  Fight or flight.   We use these responses to avoid pain.  It is an natural inbuilt response to avoid danger, to avoid the predator.  Think of a animal being hunted, its first reaction is to flee from danger,  if it can’t, it will stop and fight.  How does this look in our daily life.

Fight

You hear and see the fighters.  They are loud and aggressive.  Their opinions override you.  They are the zealots.  They are the ones condemning, controlling.  They are always look for the evil person so that they can hate, reject, expel.  They do it for all the right reasons and in self righteous rage.   They get energised by having an enemy.  You don’t have to look far – look at the American Presidential race and see the hatred and vitriol, or bring up the topic of refugees, the American gun lobby, ISIS or LGBTIQ.

Flight

These respond out of ignorance.  They are often ill-informed and very conservative.  They hold to their moral ground at all costs.  Everything is black and white.  We are right and you are wrong.  There are good people and bad people and they have nothing to do with the bad people.  They are the bubble people who surround themselves with other bubble people who safely hold the same opinion.  The world is a bad place and we need to keep all the bad people away from us.  Secure our boarders,  send back the boats, get rid of the Muslims, don’t allow LGBTIQ people into the church. Why?  Because its wrong and that’s enough for me.  They are in denial and live in naivety and they like it that way.

Third Way

There is a third way, Rohr calls this the way of wisdom.

The other day I took my kids and their partners out for dinner.  The topic came up about the recent QandA which hosted Pauline Hanson and then the following media storm around the comments made by Sonia Kruger.  My kids are all pretty vocal,  so the partners sat quietly for a while and let the lions roar.  They were enraged at the ignorance of comments made against Muslims.  They were furious at the racism, the fear and the stupidity.  I was trying to say what was on my heart but had to let the roar continue for a while.  When a quiet voice piped up,  can you three quiet down, I would really like to hear your mothers opinion.

My concern was that although I didn’t agree with Pauline and Sonia I could hear and see their pain.  My question to my kids was this.  Instead of just slamming them, who is helping them with their pain?  Watching Sonia on the Today Show you could see she was visibly shaken and frightened.  No one is addressing the fear or the pain.  We are just getting fight of flight responses.

The third way to look at these issues is through the eyes of wisdom.  Wisdom teaches us to see the pain and to learn how to process it but more than that, allows us to transform the pain.  Transformation is always a process, it is confusing, dark, disorientating.  The end game of transformation is that takes you to a place where you can comfortably hold paradox, where you can weigh up both flight and fight responses but see something more.

If we don’t transform the pain we will transmit it.

“The way of wisdom is beyond flight and beyond fight, and yet is a certain sense including both of them.  It’s fighting in a new way from within and fleeing from the quick egocentric response.  Only God can hold such an act together within us.  The small self is always too small” (Richard Rohr)

bridge_over_water_by_vanity_alchemist-d5761uz

I believe that the true Christ followers of our age will be bridge builders.  They will be the ones to walk with grace, and peace and light to show the way.  These will be the ones who are able to see both sides, hold the tension, build the bridge and allow both sides to not only meet in the middle but to transverse to the other side.  To engage in empathy and to walk a mile in the ‘others’ shoes.  Bridge builders are more concerned for the other, they see pain and they embrace it, they walk alongside it.  This is the message of the gospel.  The gospel that loves the enemy and embraces the marginalised.

Bridge builders operate out of love and love is the opposite of fear.  Fear burns the bridges, fear build walls, fear isolates.   Love dispels fear.  Love is a healing balm in this rageous and enflamed society in which we live.  Love pulls down the middle walls of division and extends the olive branch of peace.  Love looks at darkness and chaos and sees creativity and possibility.  Life is birthed in the dark womb.  Life was breathed over the darkness and chaos of a world which was void of life.  Life comes to a seed which is planted deep in the darkness of the womb earth.

Love sees possibility, life and creativity where fear only has the ability to expel, reject, hate and kill.

Featured Image by Matt Lawson

Richard Rohr Quotes taken from his book Hope against Darkness.

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Love Lisa

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3 Comments on “An Age of Darkness and Anxiety

  1. Hey Lisa,

    Brilliant. Thank you once again for sharing your thoughts. LOVE YOUR BLOG.

    As one of our daughters suffers from generalised anxiety, I read a lot of articles about it! My ears always prick up when I hear the word and I gobble the information up in an attempt to help unpack this big topic to a little mind.

    At the moment the anxieties are centred around things relevant to an 8 year old. But I often fast forward in my mind to when the problems are relevant to a 13 year old or 16 year old and I want to be prepared for helping her understand in more depth how to harness this overactive fight / flight response, assess it and then use it in powerful ways.

    In addition to this, I am finding that the more I read, the more I realise how much of this issue I, we (humans) all seem to battle this in different ways. So much our opinions and reactions are grounded in this same anxiety and fear but on a larger scale. (As reflected in the early part of your blog).

    So when I read your thoughts and Richard Rohrs words, I just had to say it was a glorious ‘light bulb’ moment where I suddenly had words for this idea that I had been searching for…

    “The third way to look at these issues is through the eyes of wisdom. Wisdom teaches us to see the pain and to learn how to process it but more than that, allows us to transform the pain. Transformation is always a process, it is confusing, dark, disorientating. The end game of transformation is that takes you to a place where you can comfortably hold paradox, where you can weigh up both flight and fight responses but see something more.”

    O.k so I love the idea of a third way, Fight, Flight or Wisdom. Being present in that fear, in that pain, in that moment. Looking at the fear, recognising it for what it is, what response it wants to illicit and then allowing that moment to teach us, to grow us, to move us, to empower us, to transform us.

    “The way of wisdom is beyond flight and beyond fight, and yet is a certain sense including both of them. It’s fighting in a new way from within and fleeing from the quick egocentric response. Only God can hold such an act together within us. The small self is always too small” (Richard Rohr)

    I’m still trying to wrap my brain around it all but I love where this is going. When we are not controlled by fear and anxiety but rather able to embrace the pain, and allow it to transform us, to nurture love…then it gets really exciting.

    “Love sees possibility, life and creativity where fear only has the ability to expel, reject, hate and kill.”

    Thanks again Lisa…I have much to ponder again tonight!

    Will have to have you over for dinner soon so we can both pick your brain (gee thats a terrible saying) but you get the idea! LOL

    Also loving Peter Rollins thoughts at the moment…the podcast I was listening to he was also talking about a similar concept of sitting with the pain rather than running from it. LOVE IT!

    Ok thats my words for the night…off to sip my wine and relax now:)

    Luv Mel

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow
      I really needed to hear that tonight.
      Thank you for taking the time to
      Write that. It really means a lot.

      Its also so great to get the context of where people are struggling. This society teaches us to run away from pain or to anaesthetise it. E.G. Drugs , alcohol, food, sex addictions are all used as analgesics to pain. Only the Mystics and spiritual sojourners teach the way of wisdom which is to embrace the pain, to sit with it, to hold it. Then we can be transformed by it and it loses its power over us.

      If we do not transform pain we transmit it.

      And Dinner – whoop – game On. Yay

      Like

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