Breaking free from anxiety | Mel Schwartz | TEDxBeaconStreet


Translator: Judy Klass
Reviewer: Tanya Cushman In any given year, 40 million Americans
will suffer from debilitating anxiety. Over the course of your lifetime, there’s a one out of four chance
that you will have an anxiety disorder. That is such a staggering rate. It suggests that we’ve entered
into a new realm. We’ve acclimated to a new norm, one of mass disquiet. Anxiety exists in epidemic
proportions in our culture. If 40 million people fell
mysteriously ill on a physical level, the Center for Disease Control would be searching for the cause
and looking to find the solution. As a practicing psychotherapist, it’s never made sense to me
that the best we can do is try to manage this disorder,
typically through medication. So I’ve been searching to understand
why we struggle in this way. Now, I’m not talking about normal levels
of stress, which are typical in our lives. I feel some stress
standing here right now. That’s the stress of engagement, of being productive and generative,
and moving forward. But when stress turns
into distress, it impedes, it blocks our ability to live
our lives well, with joy, to be present in our relationships. So I’ve been searching to understand
why we are entrenched in this epidemic of anxiety. Here’s what I’ve learned: I find that primarily the cause of such anxiety is due
to our relationship with our thoughts. You see, when our thoughts
are constantly seeking certainty, wanting to know the future in advance, we get anxious, we get fearful. We can’t know that future
in advance; it’s unknowable. But we still continue to search for it. It sets up the struggle
to actually engage in the flow of life. Rather than experiencing life,
we’re trying to ward off the uncertain. This induces fear in our lives. Ask yourselves, think to yourself, what causes stress,
fear and anxiety in my life? Does it have something to do
with my need to know the future? A number of years ago, I was working with a woman
who came to see me around her relationship, her marriage
and her anxiety disorder. She shared with me that she was
unhappily married in a loveless marriage. Her husband had refused
marriage counseling, and she said they were
very disconnected and conflicted. They were both financially independent,
and they had no children. So I asked her, “Why do you
continue to stay married?” She shared that it was
around her uncertainty about “Who would I be if I got divorced? What would my life be like
if I were not married?” I was incredulous at first
because the known in her life was setting up
such despair, such anguish, such depression and such anxiety. But there it was, her need to know
who she would be in the future precluded her from moving forward
and kept her stagnating in life and stuck in the way she was. The need to know “Who would I be?” kept her mired in an unhappy,
if not miserable, relationship. I see this phenomenon occurring
on so many levels in our lives. So how did we get to be this way? How did we get stuck requiring certainty? After all, we seek uncertainty when we
go to sports events, movies, read books, but in our personal lives,
we try to thwart and mock uncertainty. I tracked the cause back to the great
17th century scientist Sir Isaac Newton. Newton proposed that if
we had enough information, today what we might call data, that we might reasonably
predict a future event. This became known as determinism,
but we took it to an extreme. It led us to slicing
and dicing our options, getting us stuck in our lives. It created a fear,
a fear of making the wrong move. It’s almost as though
we’re living our lives as though we’re playing a chess match: sitting back and deliberating
but afraid of making the wrong move. If you have problems making decisions, if you get stuck in moving
forward in your life, you probably have an issue
around your fear of uncertainty. Here’s the good news: It turns out we’ve been living
from the wrong game plan. Over the last hundred years, remarkable discoveries
from the field of quantum physics have revealed that the universe, reality,
is nothing like what we imagined it to be. It’s not Newton’s reality. Reality is not fixed, deterministic
or predictable. Nothing is inert. It is a flowing, moving, bubbling sea
of possibilities, infinite potentiality. And we too, can jump into that game plan
and live our lives that way, once we can reframe
our relationship with uncertainty. Think about it. Embracing uncertainty allows you to start to navigate
and craft your own life decisions. I used this concept with that woman
who was stuck in that troubled marriage. I asked her to close her eyes and imagine that she was standing
by the bank of a river. I explained to her
that the river, metaphorically, was going to resemble the flow
of her life, the current of life, particularly the middle of the river
where the current would get strong. She closed her eyes,
and I let a few seconds pass, and then I asked her what she saw. She said to me she sees herself in the middle of the river
where the current is strong, but there’s a large rock –
let’s call it a boulder – and she’s grabbed
ahold of that boulder, and I asked her why: “Why are you holding onto the boulder?” She said, “Well, the river
is bending to the right up ahead, and I need to know
where it’s going to take me.” Let’s presume that
that’s going to be her life as a divorced or single woman. She needed to know. I explained to her she needed to let go of that boulder
and enter into the flow of life. And that once she did,
she’d be free to navigate along the way, but she had to let go of that boulder. How do we accomplish this? How do we have this shift of mind to allow us to make
these changes in our lives? First we have to change
our relationship with uncertainty. Typically what we fear, we resist. We go like this, we push it away. And when we do that,
it emboldens it; it makes it greater. It makes us more anxious. Paradoxically, what we need to do
is invite what we fear in. When you invite it in –
in this case, invite uncertainty in – the fear starts to dissipate;
it starts to retreat. Think of it this way:
If reality is uncertain, and we cling to seeking certainty,
we’re going to dysfunction. We need to change our game plan
of how we engage life. Next, think about your relationship
with your thoughts. If you still see your thoughts
are seeking certainty, you need to notice those thoughts, try to release them. Essentially, see the thought
but don’t become the thought. If you don’t become that thought,
you can release it. It’s the moment you have a thought, the thought summons up
the accompanying emotion. They work in tandem. So if you have a thought seeking
certainty, you’re going to feel fearful, you’re going to feel anxious. In the nanosecond between your thoughts,
you exist in a state of pure potential. That’s the universal reality. But if you keep having thoughts
that are seeking certainty, garnering fear, you’re never going to transcend anxiety. The most important relationship
you will ever have in your life isn’t with your parents. It isn’t with your children. It’s not with your spouse. The relationship that’s going
to impact you far more than any other relationship
you have ever had is with your thoughts. You need to learn
to choose them with care. Turn your thoughts into your ally. When you do that, you can begin
to write the script of your own life. Think of it this way: Uncertainty can be the wind
in the sail of your life that generates your ability
to move forward and experience your life without fear, without anxiety and with joy
and the ability to be present. Embrace uncertainty;
it can be your best friend. (Applause) Thank you. (Applause)

About the author

Comments

  1. No one that has talked about anxiety that I have seen talks about the sciences behind anxiety and how that effects each person. My god! Kinda pisses me off

  2. God is the answer. Man will always be anxious without God. But most people dont want to hear this because it doesnt suit their lifestyle.

  3. Has Mel Schwarz ever been disabled PLUS threatened with homelessness? Has he ever had serious physical injuries remain untreated? Has he trusted people to fix his bike and they repeatedly break/change something else? Has this man ever experienced a serious accident and then loss of job then extreme loss of income (none for a while) then having to try claim social security when you're really injured = massive debts = losing your home & retirement plan? Has he got a retirement plan, a pension to look forward to? if so he cannot tell others to just let it go and wait and see. Does he own his own home, has he got family who'd help out if he suddenly became very ill/injured and couldn't pay the rent or mortgage? Has he got good health insurance, has he ever been without and needing medical care? Has he had years of toothache and teeth becoming wobbly because of having no dentist? Has he ever been in constant pain and becoming more injured/getting worse? Has he ever lived in unsafe dangerous housing with a brain injury = falling down stairs and daily small injuries? I could go on but it hurts to type. If he says (I can't finish watching this = did he say he has?) he's experienced anxiety = what was the cause? Just 'wanting certainty' or NEEDING safety? Oh yes: let it all go, whatever will be will be = fine unless you're facing REAL (& sometimes imminent) dangers. He says he 'cures' people = from experiencing NORMAL emotions to terrible events? What about after extreme trauma = docs say we need (and we KNOW we need) safety & security = certainty for the BASICS, what does Mel Schwarz say to that and what REAL experiences does he base his theory on?

  4. As the presenter said, we should be more willing to accept uncertainties, and not become ourselves a mirror of certainty- seeking thoughts, as the presenter said, to combat anxiety we should accept uncertainty, we can still see certainty- seeking thoughts but should distance ourselves from it, and accept uncertainty to liberate ourselves from anxiety and negative energy.

  5. WOW. WHAT AN INSIGHT! WORRY IS THINKING TOO MUCH ABOUT FUTURE AND CERTAINTY.
    JUST "LET GO" GUYS. LET GOOOOOOO. INTO FLOW OF LIFE.

    YAAAAAAAA.

    DON'T BECOME YOUR THOUGHT.

    YAAAAAAA.

    Next time a thought comes, just don't become the thought man.

    TRANSCEND YOUR THOUGHTS MAN.

    THIS GUY'S A GENIUS.

  6. what if anxiety influences the relationship which is also a strong friendship at a time and is the only true factor that makes this bad?

  7. The way to fix such a problem as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, psychosis or other mental illnesses is to understand the relationship of the mind , body and soul. You are not what you think. As simple as that. All mental illnesses have their root in the mind. There are of course chemicals in the brain and the rest of the body that change when your having these kind of disharmony of your existencial factors. But they are not the cause of the occurrence, just the side effects or the way they manifest themselves in the body. I know you probably have heard the following statement from various spiritual teachers around youtube and other platforms , BUT: You have to figure out who you really are. You have to find out what your position in this ongoing sensation of life is. What I mean by that is the simple fact, that thoughts and everything that happens in the mind is just like everything else outward of URSELF. It is like a car that is driving by or a cloud that is passing. BUT we have the ability to look longer at a thought because it seems to happen in us. And so we think we are the thoughts or the mind in a whole. But how can we be something, that we can experience? Could it be that we are not the experience but the one that looks on the experience? We are flowing in life and our mind comments everything what we sense with our body by rationalizing it or interprete it with feelings. And we think that the mind which is just working is the one who we are. So we are VICTIMS TO OURSELFES RATHER THAN HAVING THE GRIP ABOUT OUR ACTIONS AND RESPONSES. We are becoming roboter like as a society. Western people get called "talking heads" because they are just speaking what their MIND is working at instead of being a spontaneous individual manifestation of the wonderful INSTANT presence of LIFE ITSELF. Know and recognize who you really are. Do exercises for controlling and silencing the mind. Examine concentration. Try to sit down in your room. Put away your cellphone and shutting down every activity. Be witness of your mind and try to recognize the distance between THE SEEN AND THE ONE WHO SEES. You can do it. Everyone can do it. We are all the goddamn same. Just be who you are. I KNOW that you are deep down like me. YOU LOVE YOURSELF AND YOU LOVE THE WORLD AND EVERYTHING THAT NATURE HAS BROUGHT INTO REALITY. YOU LOVE EVERY HUMAN BEING DISREGARDING THEIR NATIONALITY OR HOW THEY ARE LOOKING. YOU WANT TO EXPRESS YOUR DEEPEST LOVING SELF SO BADLY THAT IT HURTS YOU IN A WAY THAT CAN BE CALLED DEPRESSION. THE PAIN JUST COMES FROM HOLDING BACK THE LIGHT THAT YOU TRULY ARE.

    i love you all

  8. that's a hostile audience hah. He took the intellectual approach and it fell on deaf ears. Anyway, he's actually wrong about quantum mechanics. The future actually does already exist and QM is woefully misunderstood. So I'd call this TED lecture a categorical failure in every regard. Impressive!

  9. But HOW???????????

    Him saying change my relationship with uncertainty by inviting it in is like me saying become rich online by building a website with a programming team and building it….

    To actually do these things is difficult and complex and requires loads more detail…

    Please help…and also please change your clickbait title. This is a mental disorder. Treat it with respect!

  10. This guy sounds as if he’s never had real anxiety therefore how can he speak on it this whole video gave me anxiety

  11. I am anxious not to feel anxious, as if I lose my anxiety I will lose any danger awareness and be crossing streets with my eyes close enjoying fresh air a bit too much until I get hit by a car

  12. The biggest problem I see in anxiety sufferers and the connection to the need for certainty is that it stems from deeply rooted beliefs based around safety. Certainty + familiarity = safety, whereas uncertainty + unfamiliarity = unsafe. This formula is deeply rooted within the subconscious mind and many anxiety sufferers would rather stuff the emotions connected to the emotionally traumatic memory within the cells of their body aside, rather than investigate them further because again, this is the familiar response to something that doesn't feel right. It's a truly challenging place to be, to struggle with anxiety and I should know I've been there many years before finding relief. What I can say though is that there is much more evidence that supports the idea that it's safe to look our inner challenges in the eyes, confront them, shift the perceptions over them, and act on them rather than listen to irrational thoughts based on one or a few experiences. Much love to every warrior out there, give this comment a thumbs up if you're on your way to freedom.

  13. Lately I have been having extreme bouts of anxiously thinking about death and what happens when we die. These thoughts have been causing an extreme amount of fear to the point where I can barely get out of bed. All I can think about is myself, my children or someone I love dying and if we will all be together again on the “other side” or “heaven”😞 it’s like one day I just woke up and realized we are all going to die and this has brought an extreme amount of fear into my life. It’s debilitating me completely. Any thoughts or ways to deal with this?

  14. I think the big metaphorical bit is the type of thinking that gives psychologists such a bad reputation in science… I think you could make almost any conclusion if you think in those ways. But I expect that the overall point is at least a part of the solution to anxiety. As the great masterminds Incubus put it, "Whatever tomorrow brings, I'll be there." Still, I don't suspect that a panic attack will dissolve if the individual accepts uncertainty. I'd like to see a study on it though. Anecdotal evidence should never be taken far.

  15. This video was nice but I think it takes a lot more than 7 minutes for those who have severe anxiety to recover. I struggled for more than a year (actually, my whole life but not at such a severe level) before I figured out how to stop coping and start living. Now I write about it on my website. The thing to remember is that you have to set aside about 90 days for yourself to heal. Don't be discouraged if it doesn't happen in 7 minutes.

  16. Distress / stress / anxiety. We need it to be motivated to plan and act in a manner to both eliminate probable danger and to increase the probability of safety and security. Facilitative anxiety is essential. When we are overcome with real adversity it results in overload, debilitation and trauma. Dialogue, counseling, therapy, conversation offers a way to investigate the source of stress so we can respond well.

  17. Did this seriously help someone with actually anxiety? Because this seemed god awful to me. Made me wanna lock my doors and never come out the house, so thanks for that.

  18. Great message about how to overcome anxiety. I become anxious many times just like most of you here but I manage to stop it before starting to ruin my daily activities and job. I think anxiety starts when you want to live your future before happens and usually you imagine things before happens and create your own reality in mind and live it before the moment come. The best thing you can do is to focus on the present because this is all we have and not hurry the days to come. We have to be more patience and live the moment as it is and stay in the place we are right now not wishing to be somewhere else. Most of the time we want to be in a different place than we are at this moment and when we are there we want to change it. When we realize that we are right where we have to be anxiety will go away and we cannot feel it because anxiety is not in the present,it is only a mind game usually in the past or future.

  19. Finding Jesus, God, Mother Mary and the Saints, changes lives. I am a person who had bad anxiety and am better now because of my relationship with the Holy Roman Catholic Church.

  20. Also check your B6 and zinc levels. A large percentage of our problems come from nutritional deficiencies and the rest are generated by our thoughts.
    That's why our oppressors are making sure we get the worst food possible and our minds are as mangled as they can be!

  21. Good general information but a little light on specifics. Actions counterbalance fears that are part of human nature and a big part of living in an ever changing complex society. Our relationship to our thoughts is a very good point! To change and succeed takes taking risks and failing a lot. Not giving up takes persistence and a lot of help and hope. I try to accomplish 3 things a day even when things seem craziest.

  22. I have anxiety cause I know one day my family isn’t gonna be here to help me one day I’m gonna be alone 1 day I might fail and have no one to help lift me up I’m scared I’m gonna be alone forever and that I’ll never be happy… I’m just scared

  23. One of the best Ted talk ever . Did u ever analyzed that best Ted talk( which is not grandiose and no show off things) has very less viewership.

  24. How I would describe my anxiety as it is like an electrical shock that doesn’t go away like a blender on full speed it doesn’t stop until everything on the inside is blended and turned to mush

  25. Adding one thought or mantra to your mind won't ever be enough to cure anxiety. Although uncertainty is certainly part of anxiety, it's not as simple as saying go away. It takes work and coping method every day to manage it. It's an overactive flight or fight response, you can't will that away. But you can work with it. I can calm down a lot of my anxiety just by planning for the worst case scenario, because then I don't need to know for sure what's going to happen. Even then with extreme anxiety I need something to calm down the overreaction in order to actually think of that plan to calm it the rest of the way. I don't need medication but I need some substance that will calm me enough, whether that is tea, CBD, or something else it doesn't matter. Fundimentally it's nurological, I can't will it away

  26. Although the relationship we have with our thoughts is important, it is false to say that it is the "most important relationship".

    In truth, THE single most important relationship is the one we have with God: The Most Holy Trinity of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.

    When that relationship is either inexistent or hurt by unforgiven sin, or when we don't fully and completely trust Him with our lives – especially our eternal lives, that is when Anxiety can become a stronghold in our lives and bring us down into the pit.

    The key to overcoming anxiety is to be in right relationship with the One and only true God, and to fully and completely trust in Him.

    It may be a struggle at times, but FAITH in God is the answer to fear and anxiety.

  27. I've tried changing my thoughts for years but it hasn't work so far and I have presentations to get through and rent to pay and life to get through. We don't have many years on this planet and so while I check out videos like this once in a while still I end up just going for the meds. They work and there has been no other solution that works for me at this point in time. I always check every so often to see what new info is out there but until there is something more than change your thoughts it will be the drugs for me.

  28. EMBRACE UNCERTAINTY. WHO KNOWS WHAT THE FUTURE WILL HOLD. THE NEED TO HAVE CERTAINTY OF THE FUTURE IS WHAT HOLDS YOU BACK, STUCK WITH ANXIOUS THOUGHTS OF WHATS TO COME.

  29. I think anxiety is caring too much about what will happen to you or what people think of you. That’s been my experience with anxiety anyway. I get so worked up about what may happen because I think it matters absolutely. I build things way up and give them way too much importance. I’m not saying I have a cure for anxiety or that I’ve conquered it because I haven’t. But it’s just a theory of mine. Next time you’re in a the grip of an anxiety attack, just tell yourself that you’re caring too much and see what happens. See if it subsides or not. It may or it may not. Just something to try.

    I think we give things way too much value.

  30. Emotions like happiness, sadness, joy and Fear are rooted in the subconscious mind, the subconscious mind is faster than the conscious mind because one of its functions is to keeps us alive and out of danger
    Following this, it’s impossible for a psychological therapy or technique to work for anxiety or depression, even if you learns a way to 100% calm yourself which I doubt it will keep coming back, how are you gonna get cured ?
    If you wanna heal anxiety and depression you have to overcome your addictions

  31. I relate to this so much, I have been suffering with Generalised Anxiety Disorder for almost 2 years now. I talk about very similar topics on my channel too, feel free to come over and show a little support, thank you for listening.

  32. Nowadays, people are using the term "anxiety" to describe being nervous or stressed. ANXIETY IS NOT BEING NERVOUS OR BEING STRESSED. It is fearing of going outside, fearing to have panic attacks etc.

  33. Anxiety has a genetic component. When you decide to deal with it you are up against generations of learned behavior. So take it easy on yourself – it’s not something you can out-think in a day.

  34. I am afraid of losing control and going crazy. I am afraid that I am going to lose my mind and do something bad/wrong. I hate the physical symptoms as well. The tense feeling throughout my body. The uncomfortable feeling in my gut. The nausea. The sweating and so much more. I am on medication and I have seen so many therapists but I am still struggling. I feel depressed over my constant anxiety and sometimes I feel like wishing that I was dead so that I wouldn’t have to live this way anymore. I keep watching YouTube videos about anxiety but it doesn’t do much either.

  35. I no longer struggle with anxiety as I used to. I learned how to meditate, compartmentalize my problems/issues and let go. I started taking a good form of Magnesium (to relax), Vitamin D3/K2 and Selenium for thyroid health. I'm no doctor but these were the key things that helped. It took me about 4 to 6 months to feel in control and much better once again. It took effort and it certainly took time. Anxiety made me feel like I had cancer or a tumor or something. I went to every Specialist I could find. I guess I needed reassurance. I shared my journey on my channel here.

  36. Calming herbal teas help, as well as reading good books, listening to classical music, and of course, skateboarding.

  37. It's been 3years and I still suffer my anxiety 🙁 It ruined my life so much. I can't even do anything. I did stop my studies because of these. I can't go anywhere without bringing water. :'( And when I go outside I get panic attack 🙁 now I'm afraid of everything. I want to be a normal person again. 🙁 so hurt for me. I'm tired of these. :'( It really breaks my heart so much. from a happy person to sad. positive to negative. 😢

  38. "embrace uncertainty it can be your best friend." i will work on that! I used to say to myself this phrase "suprise me!" just to calm a bit

  39. There’s nothing new discussed here that isn’t used daily by most certified mental health professionals— it’s all associated with CBT which has its roots in stoicism. There are also aspects of Zen Buddhism as well which again is already part of mainstream methodology in psychotherapy today.

  40. So my anxiety has nothing to do with being criminally abused as a child instead it's all Isaac Newton's fault? Color me skeptical.

  41. Yeeesss
    Agreee!!
    Our thoughts are cause of anxiety..
    But body also can be maker of nervous..
    Two direction.
    Menopause can be the cause
    Thanks from free Catalonia oppressed by Spain

  42. I start using a strategy today that worked for me. When somthing trigger my anxity I dont try to stop thinking about it actually I try thinking about it in a more rational way. i wish every one a lovely day peace.

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