My occasional feeling of nameless dread goes something like this:
- I’ve forgotten to do something something;
- I’ve let someone down;
- I’ve neglected something important;
- There isn’t enough time;
- I’ve been wronged;
- I’m a terrible person;
- I’m going to be found out;
- I’ve squandered something good;
- Everything’s going to go wrong;
- Everyone’s going to die (eventually);
- It’s possible, eventually, that I might too.
I usually experience the feeling early in the morning or late at night. Some of the fears have a grounding in truth but many don’t, and in both cases their strength and the size they assume is disproportionate and unhelpful.
The clue in how to understanding this particular variant of nameless dread lies in the timing, which maps pretty well to the times of vulnerability that Alcoholics Anonymous identifies with the acronym HALT: times when I’m likely to be Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired. I might add Bored to the list.
I’ve learned that the answer to strong feelings at the times described is not necessarily to dismiss them out of hand, but to refuse to panic and to put them away until later or tomorrow (when they usually evaporate), and attend instead to the Hungry, Lonely, and Tired.*
Don’t make important decisions or have sensitive conversations at those times: call a HALT until you can see – and feel – clearly.
*Anger is probably best attended to later too.