Category Archives: anxiety

The Hopes and Fears of All the Years

This Christmas, while singing carols, this line stood out to me in a new and unusual manner. “The hopes and fears of all the years…” And while having heard it and sang it all the years of my life, it struck me with it’s opposing nature as the words escaped my lips. How can two seemingly opposite emotions and states of being be brought together? And how do we live in that place, year after year?

My DBT training has taught me well to live the tension of conflicting thoughts and feelings, and so perhaps for me, it is less about the “how do we do it,” and more about the “but do I have to…?” I don’t want to live this way, in the tension of hope and fear. I want to live freely in hope and hope alone. I want to let fear go—it not getting a place in my life outside of keeping me safe and alive. I don’t want to live scared that I may fail at this, might not get those, or may lose that.

Plainly put, I want to find hope that is certain and without the accompanying partner of fear.

Yet, as I sit writing at the start of 2018, I can quickly and easily think of many things in which I am both experiencing hope and its companion fear about for the coming year—hopes for my personal life, my professional life, my spiritual life. And as much as I think I can control my destiny, work hard enough, choose wisely, or make fewer mistakes, when all is said and done, I cannot control the outcome of many of my hopes and fears.

They simply are.

And so I must choose to accept the feelings that come. To live in peace during the holidays, the new year, and beyond, I must actively accept the hopes and fears that swirl into and around the reality I am living. Though I may prefer hope and must fight the urges fear suggests of hiding and setting hope aside, I deliberately welcome both instead of trying to pick one. While choosing fear might seem safer and keeps the heart more guarded, it isn’t, however, the way that leads to a true life worth living. And holding hope alone is near impossible given its uncertain nature. I must invite both, I must hold both, and I must grasp both with open hands.

Not to be overlooked, the ultimate understanding and acceptance of hopes and fears as conveyed in the Christmas carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem, points at the birth of Jesus. The hope realized and the fears assuaged, all were met together in Christ. And, Jesus, the anchor of hope that can bear the weight of my fears was not lost on me this Christmas. For when we have hope bigger than ourselves, our fears seem to shrink back and find their rightful size and place. This and this alone is where we tighten our grip and hold on for dear life. For it is here and Him that will see us through the hopes and fears of all the year.

As you begin 2018, I encourage you to see how you are letting hope in, holding fear loosely, and what anchor keeps you amid the two. What do you cling to when fear grows and consumes your heart? What do you clutch for the answer to your hopes? And is there space for the two to collide and coexist, hope and fear crashing into one another while you withstand the impact?

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC


Alone With Myself

The busyness of life can make it easy to avoid being alone with yourself. Everything from errands to emails and carpools to committees keeps our time locked up. iPhones and Instagram give us the freedom to search and scan anyplace and allow for us to numb our own thoughts and experiences. We put music in our ears and videos in front of our eyes, entering into the noise that tunes out our own thoughts, emotions, and inner experiences. We never have to be bored and if we are not interested in something or someone, we simply tune in to tune out.

But, what is the cost of tuning out ourselves?

What happens when we forget to practice knowing, listening, and caring for ourselves is an unsettling thought. The risk of being disconnected and distracted from the one relationship we will always be a part of is significant. Self-awareness is subpar. Creativity is compromised. Self-soothing is sacrificed. Interdependence is irrelevant. And awareness is absent.

Like any relationship, to learn and know the other, we must spend time together. We learn ourselves in this same way. We spend time in thought, learning about where our mind takes us–what ideas it brings up, what stories it tells us, and what it longs to know more of. We spend time in emotion, noticing what information our feelings are giving us and how they are hoping to serve us best. And with time we become curious and responsive to our feelings rather than avoidant and reactive.

“Truly transformational knowledge is always personal, never merely objective. It involves knowing of, not merely knowing about. And it is always relational. It grows out of a relationship to the object that is known—whether this is God or one’s self.”

―David G. Benner, The Gift of Being Yourself

As Benner writes, and I echo, “knowing of” is different than knowing “about,” or knowing facts about oneself. You can know you don’t like eggplant, classic rock, or math. Knowing of though, knowing of is knowledge about your identity. It is the backdrop to what makes you tick and how you know your worth. It’s the awareness of your comfort with certain ideas and fear around others. It’s the weight of resting in your abilities and limitations. It’s the why behind your preference of ideas and information that resonate in your head and heart.

Knowing of oneself is the beautifully messy practice of being seen by yourself, faults and all, and learning yourself. It’s going deeper into your needs and wants, stretching yourself in acknowledging the parts of you that create discontentment, and making peace through acceptance and love for the unique way in which you are you. It is learning to be ok with you, and maybe even learning to like you, not in spite of your humanness, but alongside it.

This isn’t an excuse to stay stuck or ineffective. Rather, an honest acceptance of where you are and what you are doing, effective or not, that gives grace to your faults and less desirable parts.  This self-given grace gives way to growth and change. It cannot help but give birth to ideas, talents, and passions. As you learn the ways in which you best learn, grow, connect, and soothe, you move towards goals, values, and contentment.

As the temptation towards busy arises within you this coming month, I encourage you to take time alone. Absorb the silence on an early morning run, letting your mind and heart connect. Pause over a cup of coffee, no agenda or technology, simply noticing those around you. Make space to learn yourself by experiencing yourself without distraction or easy ways of disconnecting. Learn to be alone with yourself and learn to be in the best relationship with the one person who will be with you the rest of your life.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC.

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If You Want To Change How You Feel, Start With What You Do

It only takes a few minutes of TV to hear promises of a thinner waistline, a better internet deal, a sexier drink choice, or an improved relationship. Ads bombard us all day on our phones and computers, always luring us to something. They hit us through comparison of another’s better car, newer technology, or more comfortable lifestyle. They make promises for tangibles and services, and yet truly are hooking us with the enticement of positive feelings.

There is an infinity loop of sorts that directly relates to the kind of lives we want to lead. It looks something like this:

Screen Shot 2017-07-25 at 8.41.31 PM

Advertisers love this because they sell us a promise of a feeling if we treat ourselves to their product. And for a minute we can feel absolutely awesome. The new car smell or the latest iPhone do indeed communicate to us a message about how we think and feel about ourselves. We are worth it! We will make it! Life is going to be ok! We feel better and think more highly of ourselves because we did something that told us we are ok, we are normal, and we are worthy.

Long-term, however, this rarely works because the feelings associated with the “new” fade and we are left with the same thoughts, feelings, and behaviors towards ourselves as we had before. The new phone becomes old and normal, the fancy jewelry doesn’t heal our hearts, and the thoughts of how we are still left aching only create more discomfort.

So how do we impact how we feel for the long term? How do we change what we think about ourself?

While some folks may awaken one day with a renewed sense of self-worth and love, this is rare. Still, this is what we all are wanting. When I feel like working out, I’ll get up and make it a priority. When I think it’s going to be ok, I’ll stop drinking so much. When I feel like it’s too hard, I’ll break up with him. When I think I’m more financially secure, I’ll balance work and family better. Simply put, we want our thoughts and feelings to line up with our ideal lives and lead our behaviors onward.

Yet many of us are still waiting because when we do things this way, we let our negative self-talk or pain-filled feelings take over and determine how we treat ourselves. Doubt and “I’m not worthy,” keeps us stuck. Anger and “Life’s not fair,” keeps us hurting. Sadness and “What’s the point?” keeps us isolated. And we perpetuate the cycle in a downward spiral, making choices that confirm our low self-worth and compound the unwanted feelings and thoughts.

There is hope though. Given the cyclical nature of the above diagram, we simply must start on the other side of the equation. We must begin treating ourselves in ways that line up with the values we hold and men and women we want to be. We must choose not based on feelings, but on facts found in our identity. We must choose not based on our sticky self thoughts, but on foundations upon which we want to build the lives we long for. And we must practice, practice, practice.

Just as someone who is a “healthy eater” must practice daily healthy eating, we must practice daily behaviors that line up with who we want to be — often times regardless of how we feel or what we are thinking. We must take the effective action, not necessarily the behavior that feels easiest or we can best justify. If we know we want connection but feel lonely, we must reach out and push ourselves towards others. If we know we want balance but feel the pressures of work, we must create ways to have boundaries and stick to them. If we feel worthless, we must make even small choices that demonstrate the opposite to ourselves.

How we treat ourselves not only impacts others, but most importantly, these actions impact ourselves. So if we want to change how we feel and think, we must impact these by how we treat ourselves. It’s not magic, it’s simply that we change what we do, what we practice, and how we show up.

And as we learn to treat ourselves with value, to make ourselves a priority, to show up in a way we are content with, our feelings and thoughts will catch up and even change. We will wrestle to keep making the same choices — to not let feelings and thoughts keep us on the sidelines of our own lives — and yet, one day we will arise from the struggle with renewed self-worth and different thoughts than we’d deemed possible.

Written by Lindsay Williams, MA, LPC

If this resonates with you, I invite you to contact me today to discuss more!