HOW DO WE REMAIN CALM IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY? AFTER ALL, PANIC IS SO APPEALING
Recently, I have experienced a number of setbacks—so this topic is near and dear to my heart.
But do I have answers? I am far from sure that I have. However, I have become convinced that staying calm is, in itself, a prime virtue.
Calmness, like fear, is infectious. If you remain calm, there is a reasonable possibility that others around you will remain calm also. And you will think more rationally (which is not necessarily saying a lot).
As readers of this blog will know, I come from a large and complex family where emotional over-reaction was the norm. Here, the primary actor was my mother who, having worked herself up to an uncontrollable rage—the “tell” was that she would click her fingers as if counting down to an explosion—would then lash out both physically and verbally to a degree that makes phrases like “physical abuse” and “verbal abuse” seem entirely inadequate.
As for physical abuse, its primary form was a slap on the face delivered with all her strength. A slap from her was akin to a punch—and the fact that she wore numerous rings would add to the pain and the impact. Recipients would reel, or fall—and the pain was considerable. Worse was the psychological pain. It was often far from clear what you had done wrong wrong—if anything—and then there was the prospect of another unexpected, and frequently unjustified, blow. And, all of that apart, it was terrifying to be out of mother’s favor. Under such circumstances, you were a target.
Such a background was not conducive to learning how to remain calm—and, for much of my life, I have had a tendency to over-react. Nonetheless, I have steadily progressed to more Zen like behavior, and I am currently celebrating my fourth year without losing my temper. How have I managed that? I just decided to in a very conscious way—and then found the decision fairly easy to implement. Occasionally logic works. My intellect told me there was no upside to losing my cool. No one could be more surprised at the outcome than me.
My friend, Vaughn, says life is hugely about “managing one’s fears.” I tend to agree, but am far from sure how to do that. I wish I had answers—because this is a really important issue—but I don’t. I do know that a sense of humor, leavened with a sense of the ridiculous, helps. When I was growing up, that much used facility was known as “black humor.” Today, I’m told that is politically incorrect.
When I feel like panicking, I always think of a marvelous line delivered by Kris Kristopherson in BLUME IN LOVE. In it, he is asked—since his life is in the pits—why isn’t he panicking?
He replies: “I passed panic on Tuesday.”
That ridiculous, wonderful line has sustained me through more crises than I care to mention,