I Lived: Breaking Free From the Trance of Anxiety and Reclaiming Your Life
By LifeStance Health provider and award-winning therapist Carl Nassar, Ph.D., LPC, CIIPTS
Your life matters. And I don’t want you to miss it.
All too often, if your life is like most, your day gets spent leaping from one demand to another: your son or daughter’s crying; your partner’s calling you for help; your boss’s calling you; your phone’s telling you that someone’s texting/emailing/messaging you, and those red notification dots on your screen just don’t go away. Then, suddenly, it’s the end of the day, and you wonder where the day’s gone.
You’re so caught up in the demands of the day, and the anxieties and pressures that come along with them, that it feels as if you were never there. One of my clients explained it to me in this way, “It’s as if I’m in a trance. And then I have these moments when I wake up from the trance and think to myself, I’m not really here living my life. And then that moment passes, and the trance takes over. I’m going through the motions without really living.”
I don’t want you to spend another day in that trance. I don’t want one day in a trance to become one week in a trance to become one year in a trance… and then, you get to the end of your life and you wonder, “Where did my life go?”
Let’s make that different together. Let’s figure out, right here, right now, how we break free from that trance and start living. Let’s figure out how we come alive in our lives, and live fully, so when we get to our last days, we can look back and say, “I lived. And I lived well.” You deserve that.
I’ve worked with a lot of folks over the years and tried many different ways to wake folks up. And, I’m convinced that — at the end of the day — there’s a one-word answer to how we come back to our lives and live whole-heartedly: Feel.
The key is to feel — to embrace sorrow when you’re sad; to allow your scared when you’re frightened; to feel your anger when you’re mad; to allow for calm, or joy, or excitement when you feel those ways… to really get in touch with your emotions and experience them in all their agony and all their glory. Let me explain that a little more…
When you slow down and get in touch with your feelings — really touch them deeply — then you can bring your heart into whatever’s is next in your life: You can bring your vulnerability into relationships; you can bring your whole-heartedness into your work; you can bring all of who you are into whatever’s next…
But, if you’re like most of us, getting in touch with what you feel isn’t easy. If your childhood was like so many others, you may have been told not to cry (“stop that crying or I’ll really give you something to cry about”); you may have been told not to be angry (“don’t you dare talk to me in that tone”); you may have told not to be scared (“there’s nothing to be scared of”)…. so my asking you to feel can go against the very grain of a childhood of teachings that got cemented in your years of adulthood.
But there’s a doorway in. Every day, many times a day: Pause, breathe, and invite something into your life that evokes emotion — a song, a video clip, a few pages from a book — whatever it might be…. go ahead and let it touch you; go ahead and really feel it; go ahead and let yourself cry, or rage, or whatever it is that gets woken up inside of you. And then take that open-heartedness and carry it as far into your day as you can. Then do this again. And again. And again.
And suddenly, little by little, like drops of water that in time become a river, you start to find your feelings again; and remember what it’s like to live with vulnerability and the openness; and what it’s Ike to be cracked open in this world and feel it all. And there you are, alive again. The trance is broken. You’ve broken free.
And one day, a long time from now, when the road of life comes to its end, you can look back in the road you walked, and you can say, “I lived.” Because you did.