I listen to too many podcasts. My problem is that I’ll hear something in a podcast, think, “Oh, that’s good. I need to think about that some more,” and then completely forget about it after an hour because I’ve already moved on to the next podcast. The other problem I have is that something will stick with me, but I have no idea where I heard it, or what the host was referring to, so I don’t know where to go to more information. Such was the case with the phrase “non-anxious presence.” The host of the podcast (Which one? I can’t remember!) said this phrase while talking about a book he had just read, but I can’t remember the name of the book. A google search brought up so many results that I can’t sort through them. So as much as I want to give credit where it’s due, and point you to some good resources, I can’t. But I thought the phrase was so good, especially in this uncharted time of crisis due to COVID-19, that I wanted to share a bit about it.
Anxiety and fear are the norm for today, and that was true even before this pandemic got us all locked inside. This anxiety and fear often manifest themselves as outrage, which we find so often on cable news and social media. Now that we’re all quarantined, we’re probably spending more time on social media or watching cable news, which perpetuates our anxieties and fears, which only leads to more outrage — you can see how this can become a vicious feedback loop. If we’re going to get through this, we need to learn to break out of the cycles of anxiety and fear. In my experience, anxiety is assuaged as much by example as by understanding. Seeing someone, whether in my life or on a screen, who is not anxious or afraid helps me to be less anxious or afraid. Conversely, I tend to freak out if the people in my life are freaking out. This is why we need examples of a “non-anxious presence,” and even more importantly, why we ourselves need to be that example for others.
A non-anxious presence is an example of peace, confidence, and courage in the midst of anxiety, fear, and chaos. The storms of life will howl and crash, but we do not have to be afraid. We do not have to be anxious. We need to see others who refuse to be anxious or give into fear because we instinctively draw courage from the courageous. In the midst of chaos, order follows courage. So how can we be a non-anxious presence for the sake of others?