So, we're constantly telling ourselves stories and narratives, and those stories and narratives both define us and the world we live in but at the same time are colored and influenced by our opinions, our worldview, our moods, and our prejudices.
It's really almost like some sort of mobius strip - our moods influence the way we perceive things, and the things we perceive influence our moods, which in turn affect the way we perceive things, which in turn affect our moods, and so on and so forth, ad infinitum.
As evidenced by some of my latest posts, I've recently begun to worry about my finances and livelihood, a not uncommon activity here in the United States lately. Saturday, I filled out the last check remaining in my checkbook and I was worried both about my ability to pay the remaining bills, as well as when the new checks I had ordered were going to finally arrive from the bank so that I could pay those remaining bills (provided I still had any money left in the bank). Several years ago, a box of checks was stolen out of my mailbox and the criminals went on an interstate crime spree forging and cashing my checks at Walmarts and supermarkets across The South. Although my bank was very understanding and I didn't lose even one cent, I didn't want that inconvenient experience to reoccur, so my anxiety increased every day that I checked my mailbox and the checks weren't there, only more bills that I couldn't pay until those checks finally arrived.
My outlook was colored by financial anxiety so everything I perceived appeared to be a threat to my fiscal well being.
That afternoon, I retrieved my mail from the box and once again the checks still hadn't arrived. What was in the mailbox, however, was a letter from my health-insurance provider marked "Important Plan Information" and another package, sealed in plastic, from someone called "Deluxe Financial Services" in New Jersey. Great, I thought, the insurance company was probably telling me that my monthly premiums were increasing, an additional cost I didn't want to even consider just then. And whatever Deluxe Financial Services, whoever they were, wanted, I couldn't imagine, but just knew intuitively that it wasn't good news.
I threw the letters unopened on the kitchen counter in disgust and didn't open them all weekend, and felt anxiety and discomfort about money. Not wanting to spend anything more, I didn't even go out to listen to the bands that I was planning on seeing Friday and Saturday nights.
When I finally did open the packages on Monday, I saw that the letter from my health insurer was just the usual monthly bill - no change in premium, no bad news, just business as usual. I had been worried over nothing. And the other, ominous looking sealed package from Deluxe Financial? That was the checks that I had been waiting for, cleverly sent in an inconspicuous but secure, tamper-proof package.
My anxiety had affected my perception, and my altered perceptions fueled my anxiety, and so on in an vicious cycle until a new perception of the situation finally presented itself to me and snapped me out of my tailspin. Meanwhile, several clients with past-due invoices have told me that my payments were either coming soon or had already been mailed out this week, and my backlog of work has perked up with a couple of new assignments. All of my worry was for nothing - the danger was all in my head.
Of course, accepting this lesson, learning from it, raises the question if my current view of a happier, more secure "reality" isn't also just another affected perception, happily more optimistic than before but possibly no more grounded in "reality," whatever that is, than before.