In his game changing book, ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces,’ Joseph Campbell challenges us with his claim that there are only two kinds of people in the world. “Those that cry out to be saved (victims) and those that save (heroes).” The good news is we have the power to choose what kind of person we will be. Which are you?
One way to tell is what’s the first thought that crosses your mind when you feel stress, anxiety or pressure? “Help!!” Or.. “How can I help?” When we take the focus off ourselves and consider that the world is full of people in pain and in need of our help, our brain chemistry changes. New research is showing that our brain switches from a fearful fight or flight response to a hopeful courageous response. Shockingly, this simple but effective mind trick has the power to eliminate our toxic stress and unnecessary anxiety just by changing our mindset. Science aside, does it actually work?
I used to have a fear of planes. The weird thing was I actually didn’t fear the flight or height (I’ve been skydiving and paragliding after all) but rather I feared the space, or lack there of. My controlling (selfish) nature did not welcome 4 hrs of being squeezed into a small space next to people I didn’t agree to sit beside. As the plane lifted off, feelings of claustrophobia began to arise which I quickly suppressed not wanting to have an anxiety attack 35,000 feet up. I never did have an anxiety attack but for years, flight after flight, I battled this uncomfortable feeling and not surprisingly I began to be turned off travel all together. It wasn’t until I came across this research that I was saved.
After reading that the best way to deal with stress and anxiety was to exit victim mode and turn your attention to saving others who might be suffering, I decided to try this on my next flight! I hesitate to use the word, “miraculous” but wow did I ever notice a difference. Sure there was some residue left over from my years of self obsession but the more I considered others on the plane that might be suffering and the ways in which I might relieve their suffering, the less I suffered. In fact, my suffering essentially went away. Plus, I met some great people! I’m happy to report I now look forward to my next flight!
When you think about it, this isn’t rocket science. Although multiple thoughts may swirl, the brain can only hold one a time. If we focus on ourselves and our own need to be saved we will only feel the feelings associated with a victim in trouble (fear, anxiety, dread, anger).
Next time you’re caught up in yourself and you are feeling the effects, stop the selfish storyline and ask yourself, “is there someone that needs my help?” The answer will always be yes. Go to them (send a text or email, schedule a lunch, give them a call) and be a non anxious listening presence and who knows, one day you just might have your own Marvel movie 🙂 At the very least, you’ll be much less stressed.