Helping men who feel something missing in their lives

The Disquiet in Men

Helping men who feel something missing in their lives

Hit the “Pause” button

Have you had that experience of waking in the middle of the night worrying about your life and how it’s not going right? Isn’t it amazing how you can almost feel the acceleration of the thoughts and then the panic deep in your gut flash-ignites as more and more things swoosh through your brain like a locomotive picking up speed?

That’s the Disquiet talking.

And ever catch yourself the next day as you try to delete that horrible feeling by getting busier in the day. I know I have jumped into work and activities like a madman after a night of suffering from the whirlwind of worry and fear. Like getting busier is the antidote. I think deep down I clutch at the idea that if I am busy and productive, those fears won’t come back.

But something else happened – I’d hit a wall of Disquiet. I became very dissatisfied with what I was doing. I’d often feel like a fraud. Sometimes I got angry and impatient as I ran around going through the motions of accomplishment.

That’s the Disquiet hitting back.

I have learned through my own experiences and from working with others, that when the early warning signs of Disquiet show up, it is important to not speed up but do the opposite – slow down, even stop. Hit the “pause” button in your life. A reader, Mike, commented on an earlier article here which really speaks to it:

At 39 I hit a certain wall of disquiet. I found it useful to firstly just stop what I was doing professionally, spend time with my family and write some things down.

From my diary:
“I remember being in our back garden at 10 years old. We proudly referred to it all the time as being “a third of an acre”! It had trees and hedges, a big crab apple. It was late Summer / early Autumn and the wind was up. I was dressed in my school uniform. Still in short trousers with knees that were bruised and shoes that were scuffed and scratched.

The wind came in gusts and stood me ridged for a few seconds and I braced myself against its push. I had been running about a few moments earlier on my own. Now I stood still and took a deep breath of air. I filled my lungs and energised my body. I closed my eyes and heard the leaves rustle. In waves the gusts pushed the hedge to my right and the sound made me open my eyes again to see the ripples of wind force along the hedge wall. I liked what I saw. Although it was late in the afternoon with fading light and a sky threatening cold and darkness, I relished again the rush of the wind on my face, forcing its way into me as if breathing was effortless. I made a conscious decision to stay where I was for a few moments more, watching the ripples in the grass and leaves tumbling and bouncing. The energy of the experience made me smile a happy smile and then I was off again running about the garden.

This memory keeps coming back to me. It’s the wind and the leaves mainly, the smell of the damp earth, clean air with the smell of winter. Perhaps the first smell of snow and ice from some northerly source. I believe that this was the first time that I had stopped. My surroundings had taken me by surprise and I stopped to take it all in. I had enjoyed the experience. It made me feel good. I didn’t know it at the time because I had little perspective.

This has been my recurring dream, comprehending, I believe for the first time the joy of being alive. In the storm and darkness of previous months these images and then the whole dream came to the forefront of my mind. I believe my soul was telling me that I needed to go back there, to experience that joy.”

There are two pieces of valuable wisdom here:

1. Stop the running around. Get still. It’s counterintuitive to the wanting to spin up your activities like a whirling Dervish Dancer. Creating a tornado in your life does not solve the Disquiet. It pretty much sets you up for hitting that wall. There are ways to do this and I’ll start sharing them here.

2. Once you have gotten still, pay attention to where your thoughts, dreams and musings take you. Not the ones that come with the middle-of-the-night anxiety attacks. Pay attention to those quieter ones that come when you do get quiet. They hold important wisdom and will give you a direction to navigate.


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3 Responses to “Hit the “Pause” button”

  1. Sunday Reading 11 May 2008 Says:

    [...] A problem arises when we think about who we are, though. There is just so much noise around us and in our own minds, it can be difficult to separate ourselves from it. That’s why we need to periodically Hit the “Pause” button. [...]

  2. Nneka | Spiritual Teacher Says:

    Hi Dave, it’s great to return to your site. I experienced the Disquiet at 29. I stopped for a moment, but I didn’t want to listen to what was within so I ratcheted up the chatter. About 3 years ago, I finally had the courage to stop and listen. You know the message wasn’t so bad. I feel enriched and happy. I have a wellspring of joy within.

    Keep spreading the message and holding a safe space for men to explore that Disquiet.

  3. Dave Schoof Says:

    Hi Nneka – Welcome back!! I know exactly what you mean. I keep learning – and relearning how helpful it is to really engage in the Disquiet. I think it is a lot like how I deal with physical pain. It seems to me most of the suffering comes from how I try not to feel it as opposed to really feeling it. When I accept my headache and really feel it, I notice there isn’t this steady thing I am calling pain. There is actually a lot of changing sensations and varying intensities. The more I focus on it, the less I seem to suffer. I am uncomfortable, but I am not suffering. I may still need an aspirin, but I somehow feel better that I engaged it.

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