My favorite scene in Saving Private Ryan is where the Nazi soldier is fighting Mellish, the Jewish soldier.  The Nazi subdues Mellish by literally quieting him with soothing words so that Mellish will no longer resist the knife being stabbed into his heart. Obviously I’m not rooting for the Nazi, but I found an important lesson in the scene.

 

The Nazi’s strategy is to convince Mellish that the fight is hopeless, that it will be easier, even preferable, to submit.  Mellish is unable to win because he is accepting the Nazi’s terms, resisting strength for strength.  He puts himself in a position where the Nazi can convince him.

 

Rather than taking for granted the terms of the enemy, it’s much better to know how your enemy is fighting.  How are they attempting to win?  Fight the strategy, not the enemy.  

 

The fact is, this is especially helpful when the enemy is yourself.  I have recently come to understand that my biggest trigger for anxiety is time.  When I feel like I am running out of time, I am triggered and at my worst.

 

I have come to realize that money, for me, often represents time.  As the money runs low, I feel as if my time is running low.  But recognizing that’s not always true changes the fight.

 

Understanding that time is the issue, not money, prevents me from making decisions that would only take care of the money.  I might sabotage myself by making decisions based on inaccurate information about what’s scaring me.  I might have spent years trying to solve the money problem, only to see that it never eases my anxiety at all.

 

I have also had tremendous difficulties throughout my life learning other languages.  Despite being a writer, a language nerd, and having fabulous pronunciation skills, I have never had a good conversation in French or Italian, both of which I have studied intensively.  I can neither express myself adequately, or understand the response.

 

Can you believe it took me fifty years to figure out the culprit was…anxiety about time!  As soon as I want to say something, I hear the clock ticking about how much time I have to say it.  As soon as the other person starts talking, I feel an immense rush to understand, and it makes me so anxious I don’t!

 

So as I go forward in my language studies, I’ll have to understand that the real enemy is not my language skills, but my time anxiety!  I overcame this in music by learning to count along with my playing, which subverted my confusion about time and timing.  Perhaps now I’ll discover something similarly helpful in my language studies.

 

Can you relate to my struggle?  Who’s driving the knife into your heart?  What are they saying to you?

***

News From a Jazz Musician Who Writes Books

Two interviews and a feature this week!

You can see previous features and interviews on my press tab.

 

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