Mon, July 22

Untangle the knot of incompletion and anxiety in your life

Marta Adelsman, Psy.D.

Marta Adelsman, Psy.D.

I sat in front of my magnifying mirror, staring at the tangle of turquoise beads knotted just below my throat. I sometimes wear two long necklaces together, each looped twice around my neck so they look like one tiered necklace. As I had attempted to remove them, I noticed they had become hopelessly tangled.

I couldn’t take them off over my head; they would break. I couldn’t pull them apart; they only became more tightly knotted. My only solution laid in closely studying the large knot so I could, one at a time, untangle the jumble of strands.

I worked painstakingly, finally loosening the knots enough to remove the whole mess over my head. For the remaining snarls, I laid the necklace out on the counter, focusing intently, until I looked in relief at my freed-up necklaces. The whole process took an hour.

When frustrating events occur in my outer awareness, I like to ask myself how they reflect my inner state. In this case, I saw how, for weeks, I had felt overwhelmed. I had juggled details for a holiday trip, dealt with family health challenges, and bought a car. I had helped my husband prepare to leave for Japan, and attempted unsuccessfully to keep up with my writing.

I had an image of myself on a hamster wheel, running and running and getting nowhere. As unfinished piles of disorganization reigned in my office, I felt anxious and unfocused, like a big knot of inadequacy and incompetence.

Outer chaos shows up in lots of different ways -- others’ anger or criticism, stuff filling rooms and closets so we can barely move, a too-slow Internet connection. In situations like these, we can ask ourselves, “What is the inner version of my outer experience?”

When we address outer chaos at its source -- our own inner attitudes, habits and belief systems -- we can begin to shift those. When we do, our outer world often shows up differently. It settles down. It has done its job: pointing our attention to the place where we can best effect change -- our inner world.

To handle the outer snarls, I applied what I had learned from my necklace. I used the magnifying glass of focused effort to examine my unfinished tasks. I honed in on them, separating them into a list. Then I addressed them, one at a time, tying up the loose ends that had become a knot of incompletion and anxiety.

I never would have guessed that a tangled necklace could appear as such a wonderful teacher. As I sorted out the tangle of disorder in my life, the gnarl of confusion and stress in my gut relaxed and disappeared.

I had stepped off the hamster wheel, and I felt like I had begun to soar. What outer teachers are appearing in your life these days?

Dr. Marta coaches and teaches in the Verde Valley. To contact her, email or call 928-451-9482.