The mean reds can rob us of our calm and creativity.
“To venture causes anxiety, but not to venture is to lose one’s self.” ~ Søren Kierkegaard
“The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?” ~ Truman Capote‘s character,
Holly Golightly, in Breakfast at Tiffany’s
My client, Will, got right to the point the minute our session started.
“I’ve got everything in my business humming along now,” he said. “All the right people I need on my team, solid sales, and client work that excites me.”
“That’s terrific!” I said. “Congratulations! You’ve worked so hard.”
“So, how come I feel like my racing mind is on fire, and I’m drowning under waves of anxiety? Everything is going well, and I have accomplished precisely what I set out to do. And now here I am, unable to escape feelings of overwhelm and uneasiness.”
“You’ve never felt that way before?” I asked.
“Well, yeah, a bit,” Will said. “It’s been there, I’ve felt it, but I’ve been able to work around it. It’s mostly been in the background, like ambient noise. Maybe I even worked a little better because of it as you do in a café when there’s the right balance of the sound of milk being frothed and coffee cups clanking.”
“How do you feel about having accomplished your goals?” I asked.
“It felt really, really great for a good three hours,” Will said with a laugh. “And then this creeping anxiety started to take root. I didn’t last a day without feeling I had no purpose, no adventure.”
The Mean Reds
“It sounds to me as if you have a case of the Mean Reds brought more to the fore due to your not having an exciting goal to pursue,” I said.
“The Mean Reds are a term created by novelist and screenwriter, Truman Capote,” I explained. “Capote’s main character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly, described her anxiety and feelings of impending doom as the Mean Reds. It can feel like you are drowning on dry land.”
“Exactly,” said Will. “So what do I do?”
“There are two separate issues to address,” I said. “First is becoming aware that you are an entrepreneurial stallion that likes to run. You are happiest when you are working the musculature of your creativity, engaging your mind in problem-solving, and tackling challenges.”
“Guilty on all counts,” Will said.
“Next, it is important to note that you’ve said that anxiety likes to run just beneath the surface for you,” I said. “That it seems to be with you in some form or fashion all of the time. When you are engaged fully in your creativity, that anxiety stays docile, toothless. However, when you’ve completed a project, or are no longer on gallop mode, here come the Mean Reds.”
“Ugh,” said Will. “So, I have to be in gallop mode all the time then just to have peace?”
“Absolutely not,” I said. “But you do need to become skilled in creating what I call Green Mind, inspired by the work of Wallace Nichols. The best antidote I’ve found in combatting the Mean Reds.”
“I’m all ears,” Will said.
The Blue Mind
Author and marine biologist, Wallace Nichols, has spent decades studying the impact of water on the human brain. In his book, Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do, Nichols asserts that being near or in water puts us in a calm, contemplative state (what he calls “Blue Mind”) and opens us up to new cognitive, emotional, and psychological skills.
I would imagine all of us have enjoyed this sense of well-being brought upon by a lazy day spent at the seashore, picnicking near a pond, canoeing across a lake, or even soaking in a tub. “Blue Mind” states of being have delivered to me some of my best ideas and solidified my dreams while helping them take root.
A delicious cure for the Mean Reds if there ever was one.
The Green Mind
I have found that there is also a powerful, healing balm that is delivered on dry land—getting to Green Mind. We get to Green Mind when we step out into nature and place ourselves in forests, in front of mountain vistas, beneath waterfalls, along mossy paths on misty days, and/or in the stirring quiet of a solo hike.
We go to Green Mind when we let ourselves collapse into The Unknown, and we venture out beyond the edges of what seems possible. When we gift ourselves the ability to hear ourselves think, open our focus, and ignore the chatterings of others.
When we stop the doing, the running, the chasing urged and exacerbated by the Mean Reds.
When we acknowledge fully and without apology the electric desires we possess to explore, create, and live an adventurous life. When we take our dreams into our pockets, carry them with us, and set about making them our reality. Not from a place of distracted desire to escape, but from an embracing of our true nature, what we love, what brings us joy.
When we let ourselves create for the sheer love of making something, not with an eye on the performance or on the end product.
Green Mind is the force within us that is driven to partner with the divine to create. It is the inspiration, the passion, the paper, the pen, the stage, the business platform, the thing that brings us most closely to knowing our voice matters and our vision has merit.
It is coming home to the threshold of we truly are and stepping across whether we have the courage or not.