Scientific research suggests that the main factors causing stress are uncertainty, lack of knowledge and loss of control. Undoubtedly, we have experienced one or both of these factors at the same time in our daily lives. However, we are experiencing it three-in-one, for the longest time and perhaps for the first time ever, altogether. We are largely wrapped in feelings of stress, anxiety, worry and fear. What’s interesting is that in dealing with these emotions, we use our cognitive mechanisms – that is our systems of thought, in an effort to make sense of the events and make decisions. Although we can soothe our emotions for a short time, with each introduction of new information into the equation, we once again dive into a search of balance…
In short, we send the helve after the hatchet! Why? Because our minds push us to attribute meaning to things and remove us away from uncertainty. Rolling in uncertainty is so uncomfortable that we are holding on to a branch by decision… without knowing the strength of the branch nor the extent of it, so to speak. Constructing possible outcomes based on assumptions is to the extent of our imagination. However, life is full of unlimited possibilities… A pretty old story pictures it very well… It’s called “Don’t Make a Rash Decision.” Rumour has it that it belongs to the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. The main message is “Don’t make a rash decision! Avoid looking at a small fraction of life and make a decision about all of it… ”
The story is basically as follows… There was an old man in a village… who was very poor, but had a legendary white horse and only one son. The king offered a great fortune in exchange for his horse, but the old man always said, “this horse is not a horse for me, but a friend; would a man sell his friend?“. They woke up one morning and there was no horse. The villagers said, “You old geezer, it was obvious that they would not leave this horse to you; you did not sell it to the king, and now you have neither money nor horse…“. The old man said “You’re in a hurry to make a decision; all we know is that the horse is missing; beyond that, it’s your interpretation and your decision. We don’t know yet, if its disappearance is luck or misfortune, because this is just the beginning… ”
Fifteen days later, the white horse returned along with 12 wild horses. The people of the village came to the old man and told him how right he was, that it was not unfortunate that his horse disappeared, but rather a windfall. The old man said, “You are rushing to conclusions, again; all we know is that my horse is back; we do not yet know what will come out of it…”
A week later, while training the horses, the old man’s son fell, broke his leg, and the villagers came to the old man saying “poor fellow, so unfortunate, you were poor, but now you will be even poorer.” The old man told the villagers that they were rushing to decide again; but the folks called him “senile” and made fun of him. Soon after, the war broke out, all the young men got drafted, except the old man’s son. The villagers gathered around the old man and claimed how right he was, that his son breaking his leg was not a misfortune, but a luck. Again, the old man said, “you keep making decisions too soon; but no one knows what happens next… The only fact is that my son is with me, yours are in the army… Only time and events will show which is luck and which is not…”.
The story kept going on in the village; maybe the old man followed the peasants and started making early decisions; maybe the peasants stopped making hasty decisions… Who knows? What I do know for sure, is that when we make hasty decisions, our fiction is also limited to the depth of our imagination; and it is directly related to our experiences and the ideas we pass through our minds. Yet, things that might happen to us are unlimited; there are events which we call miracles… Although we cannot see the whole picture from our positioning, they come as parts of the whole; they serve to create a perfection by completing one another.
Here, the nitty gritty is that when we are in uncertainty, we are curious and impatient to understand the events that occur in pieces; we want to know what they will bring and their results; favourable or unfavourable, fortunate or unfortunate, good or bad. What we do in the absence of knowledge is that we fill the gap ourselves within the limits of our imagination… For the most part, we tend to complete this process with the first scenario that comes to mind, not leaving the door open to another possibility… I wonder, if we were one of the villagers, would we have constructed a scenario such as “wow… how wonderful that your precious horse is gone, maybe it will bring 12 wild horses along…?” Well, I don’t think so!
This story is, of course, a fiction… However, when we look at it like a film strip, you can be sure that it is full of exemplary events that we may reflect to our lives… Despite the great misfortune and the pain they cause, we know that most events subsequently produce invaluable takeaways! Lao Tzu therefore says that we must not make hasty decisions; “…decision is the stopping of the mind; when we decide, the mind stops thinking, therefore, developing. Nevertheless, the mind always forces us to decide; for it is dangerous to be in a state of development, and it makes us restless. However, the journey never ends; as one road ends, a new one begins; as one door closes, another opens…”
In summary, especially nowadays, when we live together with the three stressors, we should avoid giving too much meaning and judgment to events for we are clueless about what the future holds, we should handle each event individually with care, and give ourselves the opportunity of not making hasty decisions… We should observe with curiosity and allow miracles to happen. If we still have to decide, we should slow down and extend the decision-making process as much as possible. Because we give our energy to what we pay attention to!
Shirli from Barcelona
April 25, 2020
You can access the original story at http://www.siirparki.com/haftoy5.html or listen to the story with Judith Liberman’s fabulous narrative. https://www.instagram.com/tv/B_UIRPrqwQB/?igshid=9s2w1kplg8ou