My Awakening, The Happiness Trap

Floating on Quicksand

This past week has been a trying one.  As a good friend asked me the other day, “Is it hard being in that head of yours?”  Yes, actually.  Sometimes it is.

When I’m dealing with anxiety, there are so many rabbit holes of thoughts that I scamper down, only to realize that my reasoning has become circular and confused.  After indulging my thoughts for a few days, my mom helped me to acknowledge the simple truth: all of this mental activity was an attempt to control my feelings.  My “struggle switch” was in overdrive.  I kept trying to regain a sense of control over my thoughts and feelings.

serenity prayer crossYesterday I started to feel pretty hopeless because I’d reasoned that I couldn’t be trusted to use the acceptance strategies from The Happiness Trap without turning them into control strategies.  But then, after praying for guidance (once again), I realized that I hadn’t been actively accepting my thoughts and feelings or mindfully connecting with the moment much at all recently. In other words, the good mindfulness exercises I was thinking of abandoning were not to blame. Instead, I had once been in a place of acceptance and openness, but then somewhere I crossed over into trying to hold onto a sense of control over my feelings.

Along those same lines, yesterday I thought – “These strategies don’t seem to be working anymore.”  Ah, and there it is.  I’d been expecting this new approach to “work” at keeping negative feelings away.  Of course they didn’t work; that’s not what acceptance strategies were meant to do.

This morning, while on a walk with Claira, I prayed for insight, peace, and acceptance.  The next thought that jumped into my mind was “floating on quicksand.”  In The Happiness Trap, Dr. Harris provides this analogy for struggling with our emotions: “If you ever fall into quicksand, struggling is the worst thing you can do.  What you’re supposed to do is lie back, stretch out, keep still, and let yourself float on the surface… This takes real presence of mind, because every instinct in your body tells you to struggle; but the more you struggle, the worse your situation becomes.”  He refers to this analogy again later, noting: “Lying back and floating on quicksand is both simple and effortless – yet it’s far from easy.”

Floating.  Stillness. Ceasing the striving.

I know it’s effortless, but it’s often a challenge for me to get to that point of surrender.

There’s a deep correlation between accepting thoughts and feelings and surrendering to God’s perfect will.  I’ve been praying the Serenity Prayer frequently –

God grant me the serenity

to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

as it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

if I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with Him

Forever in the next.


–Reinhold Niebuhr

As a Lutheran, we believe that Christ did everything that’s necessary for salvation.  Everything.  We are even gifted with faith as part of our baptism into the body of Christ.  Really laying hold of the fact that there’s nothing God needs from me to ensure my salvation in Him, has been a process in surrendering. I’m called to trust in him, not try to “figure everything out” on my own.

So, that’s where I am now, practicing floating on quicksand.

And trusting God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.   I’m in good hands.

3 thoughts on “Floating on Quicksand”

  1. Each of us struggle with something and I really like the analogy of “floating on quicksand.’ Never easy, but necessary in letting go. xo

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