When worries do not let you sleep

Sometimes it is impossible to sleep at nights full of a cluster of concerns.

Whether a specific problem oppress you or that a series of not solved issues appear in subsequent and inconsistent manner, you remain awaken as time goes on.

You are not alone. Millions of people around the world suffer this situation. Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister has fully identified this condition and decided to write a book to help victims to mitigate it: Between the Dark and the Daylight (between the darkness and the light of the day).

Joan does not write a scientific treatise nor attends theological points. She simply identifies a range of concerns that commonly to assault men or women at night; she gives us advices to work with them.


Most of the concerns identified are of all kinds: personal, family, social and, even, labor.

Journey through life forces man to face a myriad of situations of all kinds that demand him to make decisions. Many situations are new; others are ancient, but they have undergone changes; others are unreal. Postponing the decision making or living with the fear of not having chosen the best one, you are prone to be harassed by the subconscious mind in the middle of the night.

The issues considered by Sister Joan involve all domains of life: “the delusion of frustration”, “the insecurity of certainty”, “the emptiness of accumulation”, “the role of failure in success”, “the productivity of the rest and recreation”, “the loneliness of love”, etc.

Insecurity of Certainty

I liked the particular way in which she tackles the problem of the insecurity of certainty.

According to Sister Joan security is not a state of life but a state of mind. It is the necessity that you feel that you step on solid ground. It is to avoid flying for fear of losing touch with what gives you support. In economic terms, it is the eternal fear of losing the accumulated wealth that hinders you, paradoxically, from taking the maximum reward of it.

Facing this insecurity is to accept risks. It is to know that every moment brings you dangers. It is not to expect that the worst scenarios will prevail. It is simply to trust that the outcomes will be good and to be resigned if eventually they are not.

Trying to base your security on the certainty of power, status, money, or fame is vain. The only fear of losing them paralyzes you. Because you truly know that this certainty is illusory. You have you seen many powerful ones fall; many respected people, justified or unjustified, change from heroes to villains overnight; huge fortunes have vanished, solid businesses ended in bankruptcy; of ten years ago celebrities only a few remain so.

The inexorable change which affects all the dimensions of life inevitably crashes certainty. You must, for both, embrace the challenge of confronting every day circumstances, be similar or different to previous days. It is necessary to assume a creative attitude to invent your life on an ongoing basis.

The Call to Solitude

Another issue that Sister Joan deals in an excellent way is the one that has to do with overcrowding. Too many people live together. Living in big cities sometimes it is suffocating. And it is increasingly difficult to be alone; to give yourself time to be alone with you.

And some of the moments in which you could be alone are invaded by images and sounds of the media: radio, TV, Internet, social networks, etc. That is why the ghosts of the problems still to be solved are on the prowl and attack at night, when what you want is to sleep.

It is advisable to find moments of solitude, of encounter with one’s self. During that time you can see the life you lived, you are living and what you can do with your life to live.

In addition to these two themes, Sister Joan studies 30 more that are common to most people and appears frequently between the darkness and the light of day.

This book will not solve the problems of your life. This is impossible because life offers new challenges every day. Neither is an algorithm to which feed the variables of your situation and throws you a solution.

But it is a mirror in which you see reflected many aspects of your life and is an invitation to consider many practical ways to deal with them.

Note. I received this book from Blogging for Books for review.


As you strive more, you get less

Very often we have the feeling that as more we strive to achieve something, we less succeed.

And so it is. A typical case is when we have insomnia: as we care more about sleeping, less can get to sleep. As the minutes pass, or even the hours, we are more stressed and less we can sleep.

Another situation is when you want to make a good impression to your superiors and try to have a good performance during a key meeting. Nerves betray you and you end up performing a poor role that does not make a particularly good impression among participants, perhaps even a bad one.

Paradox of we-wei

This phenomenon is known as the paradox of we-wei. It was identified thousands of years ago by Chinese thinkers. As they believed, you have to try to get something, but without trying to. Because if you try, you get less so. Therefore, treat is not good, but not to treat is also not good. Then, what can we do?

Edward Slingerland addresses this issue in his recent book Trying Not to Try: Ancient China, Modern Science, and the Power of Spontaneity and provides tips about how you can act so that you may live more spontaneously and that, at the same time, your performance be better.

He argues that in many everyday situations it is worth more to rely on the reaction of the body, or of the unconscious mind, than on a conscious effort. Something like when we play a game of tennis, for example, just for fun and perform brilliantly. But when we play some important game, maybe in a tournament, we do so awkwardly.

In the first case, we let the automatic reaction of the body to take over. In the second one, the conscious mind, tries to take control of the situation, interferes with the natural action of the body and hurts our performance.

Slingerland leads us to the past to review the solution to this paradox that four Chinese sages reached: Mencius, Confucius, Laozi and Zhuangzi.

These sages called we-wei when you leave to your automatic reactions to take care of the situation. They agree that this is better than always acting under the control of the conscious mind. The achievements are greater.

But not only this, when operating in we-wei you provoke de, which is a projection of tranquility, security and trust, which is perceived by others. De facilitates the relationship with whom you live.

All they recognize the paradox we-wei. If you try to operate in we-wei, you don’t get it. To operate in we-wei you should avoid trying. But, somehow, you must try.


Unfortunately there is no consensus among them on how to achieve we-wei. Each one provides a solution that is largely incompatible with those given by the others.

Confucius proposes that through strive to follow deliberately certain behaviors, finally the body adapts to them and respond correctly and automatically when they have been assimilated. Something like how you learn to drive. At the beginning you do each of the tasks consciously, accelerate, stop, go, but afterwards you do them automatically.

Laozi suggests to let yourself be carried away by your natural automatic response. He thought that that since birth you have imbued the appropriate response to each situation and simply you must let yourself be guided by them. Nature (plants and animals) does not have a mind that guide it and, however, they carries out it  functions properly. Mind clutters the man. It conditions and controls him so that he deviates from the correct behavior.

Mencius believes that automatic reactions are important, but it is necessary to regulate them. They must pass through the filter of the mind and be adjusted as needed. Over time you can exercise less supervision and rely more on automatic answers without question.

Zhuangzi advises that easily let yourself be guided by your values, by what you consider convenient, without worrying if you try or not try, simply doing what you have to do.

But, the question remains: what should we do? Whom to follow? The author of the book considers that depending on the circumstances and the way of being of each person, you can adopt the appropriate strategy to each situation. It provides some practical examples of how you can discern what is most suitable.

Note. I received this book from Blogging for Books for review.