We’ve all heard the saying, “Don’t kill the messenger.” It’s senseless to attack what is not the real problem in a given situation because we should be attacking the true root of the problem. We should use an intelligent analysis of where it begins rather than where it ends. Our bodies have thousands, maybe millions of messengers, yet millions of people spend their day attacking some or all of them with prescriptions drugs, alcohol, hard drugs, pure isolation, lying, procrastination, and general avoidance or laziness… any of the many things that place a low ceiling on our true potential and let us “run away” for short bursts of time. Careful, lots of short term shots at the messenger can end in detrimental effects on your long term health and well-being, especially mental health.
Our bodily messengers might go by the names of Anxiety, Depression, Nervousness, Fear, Worry, and even physical pain, like a headache for example. Note, messengers are also our positive emotions like happiness and excitement, but we are not normally trying to kill those ones the way we try to kill the not-so-great feeling ones. Each one of these messengers represents a feeling, emotion, and mental or physical reaction – all of which were sent to us based on an action we took, an action we did not take, a decision we made, or something external that happened to us in our life (like trauma).
What can be become the most frustrating and most confusing is that if we let something go too long, we can actually forget what has been bothering us; the action and the message do not even need to happen in close or relevant timing, they could even be delayed in timing all together. This can make solving any problem more cloudy than it needs to be. For example, this past year I experienced my first and hopefully last shooting in America. I was at a local park when 13 rounds of gunfire between two men went off and hundreds of families visiting the park ran in herds to exits, screaming, calling 911, helping one another, and some just ducking and diving for dear life. This event was so traumatizing that it haunted my memory for days on end, even in the middle of work meetings, until I finally had to drive back to the park, trace my steps, and went back in my mind on a safe, more normal, uneventful day. If I let those anxiety messages continue and did not go back to face my problem, I, like anyone else, could spiral down a very unhealthy, anxious path thereon.
For the controllable factors (daily decisions), we’ve all thought about that one thing we can’t believe we did or said years ago and become bothered by it all over again, or the greatest day we can remember that ‘takes us back’ and we try to re-live the feelings. We can call on and retrieve our own messengers quite easily – proof we have control over them using the reverse. I wrote about my experience bringing on and controlling anxiety in college sports in a 2018 article titled, “My Unmedicated Life“.
Messengers are a great immediate indicator of what to do, what not to do, what to fix, pay attention to, and what to celebrate. They are our whispering self that we cannot escape, our screaming conscious, and they expose our values to us and what we care about most in life. For example, if you were to tell a lie, how would it make you feel? Good? Bad? Surely if you called your little ole’ mother and lied to her, your emotions would send you a message telling you to stop, tell her the truth, and then apologize, and you would know right then and there what matters most to you and what is better for own mental health. As an optimist, I like to think there are more good people than bad in this world (there are), so don’t kill your messengers. They’re trying to tell you something important. Let them stop you in your tracks, let them make you work harder, let them make you seek the truth and facts in the world, let them make honest, let them make you apologetic, let them make you human.
When we suppress or run from our emotions, it’s often because we do not have the answers; are not ready to face something; have not thought through the problem enough; not tried to solve what is coming from upstream and down through the messenger. It is hard to recognize or accept that we are our own biggest “problem” in life, but we are! We are usually in our own way and naturally we are always some level of reflection for how we handle life.
This is not something everyone wants to recognize, it’s too easy to run away and blame our issues on something or someone else or even ask or demand others to change they way they live so that we don’t have to change ourselves – an easy attempt to escape. You’ll never convince a successful person who has lots of self-control or has it all together that they should live more like the person who has a list of problems, maybe hasn’t yet achieved their own goals, or is blaming their issues on something else. People facing their problems head-on day after day are the same people who look in the mirror day after day and take care of business.
Think of emotions this way – fear itself is literally derived from a lack of education or knowledge on any given subject (it’s the unknown). Depending on the subject, or how far you need to take it (some things are just flat out scary), you can get a great handle on fear by reading about the subject, calling and asking others or experts, and trying to understand what normally happens or how that thing you’re so scared of works. Knowledge is power!
WAYS YOU CAN PROTECT YOUR MESSENGERS:
- Call the person it’s about
- Call someone you can trust
- Get someone’s input who you really value and who really values you
- Take one small step toward the project; take action!
- Exercise; burn pent up energy
Notice all steps one through five involve taking some kind of action. Also notice I said “protect”. You need your messengers, because if you listen to them they will chisel and define you into the greatest person you can possibly be every single day. Messengers are our guiding light to reaching our full potential. You can become a more honest person, a more educated person, a more fit person, a kinder person, and most importantly – a happier person. Feelings can make us better every single day if we know how to weaponize them. So, it’s time to start asking your messengers some questions.