Looking at heffalumps of worry? Time to take back control of our thoughts

The adventures of a small teddy bear and his friends have charmed generations of both children and adults for decades. The characteristics of timid Piglet, bouncy Tigger, bossy Rabbit and the sullen but lovable Eeyore have made us laugh at or sympathize with their predicaments.

But theseThere are also some subtler lessons for us to ponder, like when fear takes hold of the imagination.

Take the story of Pooh, Piglet and the Heffalump, for example.

“’I saw a heffalump today, Piglet,’ Christopher Robin mentions casually. ‘What was it doing?’ asks Piglet, already beginning to tremble. ‘Oh nothing much. It was just lumping along,’ responds Christopher Robin.” That one short, casual conversation triggers the decision between Pooh and Piglet to set a trap for what was, in effect, just a figment of everyone’s imagination.

Today, Piglet might be diagnosed with some kind of anxiety disorder. (In fact all the lovable and quirky characters in the book, except for Christopher Robin, might be diagnosed, then labeled with some disorder or another – but that’s another article.)

Many of us have more than a few heffalumps to worry about, and the list of health consequences from so much anxiety is long. In fact, we end up worrying about the fact that we worry too much, and we develop strategies to cope, just as Piglet did.

I totally get Piglet, having had anxieties that felt overwhelming at times. I also glimpse an underlying message in that story – that what we are worrying about may have no basis, and sometimes even come from the suggestions of others.

For example, several years ago I had just started a new job that I enjoyed. However, as my training progressed it became clear that I needed math skills I simply did not have. I began to worry I would lose this wonderful job. Adding to the problem was the news media, which consistently reported higher levels of unemployment in my location. All this anxiety resulted in many wakeful nights strategizing how I would cope when the pink slip eventually landed on my desk. I started getting headaches that affected my job performance.

It took me a while to recognize that, like Piglet, I was looking at the problem from the wrong perspective. Pooh might have liked taking “elevenses” honey breaks, but I realized I needed to take a prayer break. What came to me in that quiet communion with God was a verse from the modern Message translation of the Bible .

“When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us, so that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day.”

For me, the worry was about not having the needed skills to do my job; the ‘Judgement Day’ was my performance review and the inevitable job loss. Amid all that anxiety, I sure wasn’t living in the present awareness of the God that is love. Once I realized that’s what I needed to do, the relief was quick and permanent.

The final part of Piglet and the heffalump story offers a good example of what happens when we see things from the basis of love rather than worry. When Piglet sees what he thinks is a heffalump in the pit he dug with Pooh, he runs, terrified, to the cool, calm and always loving Christopher Robin. Looking at Piglet’s object of terror, “Mr. Cool” lovingly shows Piglet that it’s just Pooh Bear with an empty honey pot stuck on his head. No heffalump! It takes just a moment for Piglet to see his mistake. He was looking at the monster from the wrong perspective – from fear, based on a misperception.

In my case, I was also looking at my problem from a position of fear. I observed that this was a question of identity. I could either see myself as vulnerable and fearful, or as permanently, divinely loved and capable. It couldn’t be both. So my way forward needed to be to claim that loved status – to see it and express it everywhere, including at my workplace. I realized there was no value in an identity that was fearful about what my boss might be thinking, but that a more confident, loving approach could bring solutions. This was a major change of perspective for me. As I consistently cultivated these ideas, they became more “at home” in me. The sleepless nights, headaches and anxiety left, as I felt more confident in this new identity.

When ‘Judgement Day’ arrived, I was calm and ready to learn, but I had no idea of the surprise I was in for. My boss told me that I was being given more responsibility. As for the math – someone else was given that task. He understood that it wasn’t my strongest talent. Instead, where I saw lack and failure, he had seen potential and ability – a wholly different perspective. We were both living in that same Love. Even if I had lost that job, I also realized that in this new way of seeing things I had lost my fear of unemployment. It never influenced me again.

Every day new worries are trumpeted from social media sites, blogs, news outlets and even friends and family. We unwittingly take on many of these worries.

However, we can learn from Piglet’s experience. We can look at all these issues from the position of divine Love’s reality. We can cultivate a new sense of identity, and take up permanent residence in this life of Love.

There, we feel – and are – safe and healthy

This article was published in the Vancouver Sun online HERE