There has come a time in most of our lives when we have looked back and wondered “Did I really say those words?” or “Did I really behave in that manner?” Filled with remorse and regret of our actions, we vow never to repeat it again.
We follow this consciously for a few days but end up inadvertently reverting back to the usual by doing the said unusual things again. This results in a rinse-repeat cycle that has only become all too familiar to me.
Over the years, as I began to search for an end to this, it has become obvious to me that this is a rather widely suffered problem. People who you seem to ‘know’ are not really who you thought they were as they were probably in a phase where they acted and behaved different from their normal selves. And so, it leads to the question, how can this rather vague thing be defined first and then how can this be overcome? I was fortunate enough to stumble across the following sloka in Bhagavad Gita, which went “Chanchalam hi manah krishna pramathi balavad dradham I Tasyaham nigraham manye vayor iva suduskaram II “. This may be translated as “The restless nature of the mind means that it being collected in equanimity is not possible. The wavy ocean of the mind cannot be made free of waves”. In this sloka, Arjun concisely defines the problem that we have all faced – the restless, wavy and fickle nature of the human mind which refuses to stop alternating all the time between the good, the bad and the ugly.
So now that we have defined the problem itself – the unpredictability of our actions and reactions to events, if we could exhibit some sort of control over this state of mind, we could truly better our lives. The world’s second best tennis player Andy Murray is often considered slightly more naturally talented than the world’s best – Novak Djokovic. It is however, the mental strength of the Serb to execute his plans and react well when his mood sours, that sets him apart. Murray often goes into fits of rage where he ‘loses it’ and does basic things, like missing an open court winner, wrong. Remember that this is one of the greatest champions of our times and it takes immense talent and dedication to get to where he is in life. Even he is not immune to his mind wavering around. The problem may seem simple initially but even the world’s top sports psychologists offer contrasting views with respect to the solution. One school of thought is that Murray should freeze the big moments. Play with precision and calmness and take a deep breath and give it 110% in those moments. The other school of thought varies highly and state that he should treat the big moments just like any other moment. Trying to freeze it will only increase anxiety and his immensely well-tuned muscle memory of hitting the tennis ball would be disrupted. Thus, there is no one fixed way to control the wavering mind. It is a highly personal choice. It happens to every one of us be it Andy Murray or the addict down the street trying not to kill himself from regret.
From a personal stand point, while I have figured out no fixed method to end the madness, I have figured out one thing – identifying when I’m not ‘normal’. Just how does one do this? For starters, think of some of the things that you love doing most of the time – playing your guitar, talking to a particular person, watching your favourite TV series – could be anything really. If, even that thing, feels rather tedious to think about, there is one of your indicators that you aren’t in a right state of mind. Another indicator is, as cited in the Murray example, when your body can’t do things which have been trained by years and years of muscle memory, properly. That is, when your fingers don’t flow particularly well on the fret board, when you are awkwardly silent when talking o that person or when the series feels a bit too long. The first step in settling an unrest is, as obvious as it may seem, identifying that the unrest exists.
The biggest action you need to take, is ironically, inaction.
One of the most important things to do when you are not in a good state of mind is to never take definitive and drastic actions. Don’t break up a relationship, don’t sell your guitar, don’t delete the TV Series. To quote the popular band The Fray –
Having a good support system may help as well. Don’t be too bothered about letting all the steam out. If you don’t feel like talking about it to anyone, just drift away, ‘zone out’ and wait for it to pass. This not about optimism or pessimism. This is almost a fight for (mental) survival of your persona. So, naturally just endure it and wait for it to pass.
Unrest can be settled in two ways – the easy way is to lash out .but the tougher and in my opinion, the correct way, is to not react and accept whatever comes and endure it.
Normal order of things is never too far no matter how bleak things may seem.