How You and Your Kids Can Escape the Anxiety Story: Part Two

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This is part two of a three-part series “How You and Your Kids Can Escape the Anxiety Story”.  Click here to read the rest of the series.

The Hook and Lies

Now that you and your kids know that you yourselves are the driving forces behind your Anxiety Story, you guys can just switch it off your stories and have a nice day, right?

Not so fast. If you’ve been creating your Anxiety Stories over and over for some time, they tend to become ingrained in your heads. Our Anxiety Stories suck us in and one chapter leads right into the next, so it can be hard to interrupt the story.

A major roadblock may come lumbering into your path, especially when it comes to a long-ingrained habit or well-worn Anxiety Story. That roadblock is what Buddhists call shenpa, and shenpa brings along his pal klesha.

Meet shenpa and klesha

While shenpa and klesha may be fast friends with each other, they are no pals of you and your children. You and your kids can at least be relieved to know you’re not the only folks who get regular visits from this dastardly duo. Buddhism has, after all, been around for some 2,000 years.

Shenpa is the urge to be drawn into a habit that causes us to suffer. The suffering is klesha.

While neither sounds particularly attractive, unless you happen to be a big fan of self-abuse and destruction, getting shenpa and klesha out of you and your kids’ lives may not be as simple as you’d hoped.

An example can show you why.

Let’s say you know you need to lose 10 pounds but you feel you just gotta have that piece of chocolate cake or you’re just going to die! That deep tug you feel inside to eat the cake you know you shouldn’t because it will make you feel lousy afterward is the shenpa. You eat the cake anyway. In fact, you don’t stop with a single piece of cake but you eat the whole dang thing. The suffering you get from eating too much cake is the klesha.

Recognize them yet? 

Your kids fall prey to shenpa and klesha in much the same way. Perhaps your kid knows every time she runs down the hill in the park she falls and scrapes her knee, but every time you guys visit the park she’s off and running down the hill. The urge that compels her to run down the hill even though she’s going to fall and mess up her knee is the shenpa. She runs down the hill. Her knee is so bloody it ruins her shoes. The bloody knee and the suffering is the klesha.

Shenpa and klesha are definitely on hand when you play an Anxiety Story. Shenpa shows up when you get anxious and feel that strong urge to replay your usual Anxiety Story that comes with the anxious feeling. The misery and suffering that comes with replaying the story is klesha.

Told you they were no pals of you and your kids.

It’s not important that you or your children memorize the Buddhist terms for these concepts or from whence the two faux friends come. What is important is to understand the specific things you keep doing that cause you to suffer and that that you have an incredibly powerful urge to keep doing those specific things anyway. It is equally important to realize you need to train yourselves to resist so this overruling urge can go away.

Don’t believe the lies.

Shenpa and klesha get loads of help invading your brains because most people typically believe the lies their Anxiety Story tells them. Your Anxiety Story will tell you when you engage in a particular activity, you are going to feel a certain way, so you need to do something else so you don’t feel like that.

Let’s go through a few examples. Your Anxiety Story says if you go to a party you are going to be bored. So you start to feel you need to avoid parties altogether and sit home by yourself if you ever want to be comfortable. That’s a lie.

An Anxiety Story of one of your kids tells her when she goes to math class she is going to be embarrassed. So she needs to find ways get out of math class or she’ll forever be embarrassed. That’s another lie.

Every time you turn down a party invitation to sit alone on your couch and every time your daughter avoids math class, you both are making your Anxiety Story stronger and stronger. Pretty soon the Anxiety Story will have you both in a stranglehold and it will be laughing with glee while you both wallow in misery.

The only reason either of you feel the way you do at parties or in math class and the only reason you both feel compelled to avoid them is because you keep buying into the Anxiety Story. You keep repeating your Anxiety Story. You keep feeding and fueling your Anxiety Story. You keep believing its lies.

Exercise: Avoiding the hook (and the lies)

Because the concept of shenpa can be a bit tough to grasp, even for adults, you can liken it to an analogy that helps it make sense to your kids. Illustrate the concept with the story of Mr. Fish.

Every day Mr. Fish swims along happily in the lake when a hook with a worm on it comes plopping into the water. Mr. Fish is a smart fish, and he knows the hook with a worm means trouble. He’ll get hooked, pulled up and end up on someone’s dinner plate.

Alas, even though Mr. Fish knows he shouldn’t mess with the hook, he wants to go after the worm so badly. If he goes after the worm, things will only get worse, never better. Despite the worm appearing so delicious and inviting, there is always a hook hidden.

Practice seeing all the baited hooks in the water around you. You and your kids’ goal becomes swimming around them without getting tricked into getting caught on one.

Our next and final article in the series offers further tips on how to avoid the Anxiety Story’s twisted trickery by purging the urge to fall prey to it and returning to that thing called reality.

This is part two of a three-part series “How You and Your Kids Can Escape the Anxiety Story”.  Click here to read the rest of the series.

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