I felt nervous as I drove onto the Unity Village campus for the first time.
I desperately wanted to be the next Unity copy editor, but job interviews are nerve-racking. And while I understood that the Unity organization is a spiritual nonprofit serving a worldwide audience with inspirational publications, educational programs, and events, my friends and neighbors preferred rumors:
“Isn’t it a cult out there by the Tower?”
“Some woo-woo pseudo-religious group.”
“I heard they chant.”
I had just graduated from college as a nontraditional student, “nontraditional” being the euphemism for “older than everyone else in class by decades.”
After years as a stay-at-home mom and then working part-time while in school, I looked forward to the next phase—and also getting past the nausea-inducing anxiety of entering unfamiliar territory, a new job with new people and new responsibilities.
How Anxiety and Fear Were Shaping Me
Anxiety plagued me all the time. Actually, I should say anxiety played me all the time, because that is what it does. Anxiety plays with your mind, creating stress about things that are not reality. All the “but what if?” and “why didn’t I?” and “what did they mean when they said that?”
I entertained many voices in my head. Like a cocktail party host catering to guests, I just let the conversation flow and I fell for every story:
- You can’t go back to school at your age.
- No way you will get a job.
- They looked at you funny at the PTA meeting.
- You offended your mother-in-law.
- Every single person in your seventh-grade class remembers how awkward you were—and they still talk about it.
But despite the anxiety, I got the job, and I assumed working at Unity would be nothing more than that, just a job.
Anxiety plays with your mind, creating stress about things that are not reality.
In a lot of workplaces, you hear the jokes about becoming “one of us” or “drinking the Kool-Aid.” I didn’t walk on campus and become miraculously relieved of all anxiety or suddenly enlightened. But I was welcomed, and I began to pick up on a message from a lot of Unity materials I was reading: My thoughts matter, but I am the boss of them, not the other way around.
Unity minister Rev. Eric Butterworth said, “You can change your life by altering your thoughts.” I read that the first time with a heavy dose of skepticism. My life is going to change if I think differently? C’mon! I cannot control what I feel! Life happens.
Yes, life happens. Through me, not to me. My feelings come from my thoughts, and those are all on me. Every single one of them.
Rewriting My Story—One Thought at a Time
So I began monitoring my thoughts. I discovered that I expend a lot of energy on emotion and reaction, rather than response and progression. I tend to wallow in a place of “what could have been/should have been” and “if only.”
One of the tools I’ve learned at Unity is practicing the pause. Pausing to acknowledge my thoughts allows me to sort out whatever feelings are arising from them.
Maybe a work project is running behind. Feelings such as frustration, anxiousness, and anger clamor for attention. Taking a pause to recognize the thoughts behind those feelings and sort out what is real (a missed deadline) from what is going on in my head (stories of doom/failure) allows me to process and choose how to move forward.
I don’t have to spiral into hand-wringing and mental paralysis.
In his article “On Releasing Stress,” from the Unity booklet Simple Living: When Less Is More, Butterworth says, “No matter what happens out there in the world, or even on your doorstep, all that really counts is what happens in your own mind.”
Hurt and anger, sadness and disappointment, fear and apprehension didn’t evaporate from my life when I learned these Unity teachings. But they no longer run the show.
I can acknowledge their presence and then dismiss them, like the unwanted guests that they are.