“Once you know the emotional building blocks of anxiety, you can influence them.” Chip Conley from his article, Mastering The Anxiety Equation: A Remedy for Fearful Times (link included at the end of this blog post)
I googled “anxiety” and up popped a funny meme. A girl in a cape captioned,
“Anxiety Girl … able to jump to the worst conclusion in a single bound.”
Some days, anxiety is my super power. If I’m not mindful, I make it worse by babbling to the wrong people – ones who are also anxious, but instead of admitting it and relating, they focus on and try to fix me.
They say not-so-wise things like …
- Let go and let God.
- Look on the bright side.
- You have a lot to be grateful for.
- Things could be worse.
- Have a positive attitude.
- Cheer up.
- It’s all in your head.
I get it because I’ve said the same sorts of things to keep from looking at how anxious I am.
We minimize others’ anxiety when we’re out of touch with our own. If we weren’t fearful too, we’d listen instead of being impatient, annoyed, and fixated on fixing each other. Like the saying “Hurt people hurt people,” so it is with anxious people. We make each other anxious unless we take a break from fixing, feel what’s going on with us, and relate.
I believe relating, not relaying advice, is how we help each other.
We weren’t put here as projects, but for a purpose. Anxiety keeps us from it. On the other hand, relating gives us a chance at living it.
It’s not that the sayings are wrong; they just aren’t helpful. “Things could be worse.” Yes, always. They could be worse and someone always has it worse, which I was telling my friend Betty when she reminded me, “Pain is pain and yours deserves your attention.”
Turning fear over to God works when we figure out how to do it. Until then, the saying wreaks guilt.
Not being able to cheer up, have a positive attitude and gratitude, and see the brighter side of life are reasons we feel anxious to begin with, so suggesting these as solutions heaps on more anxiety.
“It’s all in your head” isn’t helpful unless someone can tell us how to get it out of our heads. Otherwise, anxiety stifles our minds and hearts, wrecks our bodies, and derails our purposes. This explains why we end up with fibromyalgia instead of final projects, depression instead of creative designs, and anxiety disorders instead of art.
When I stumbled onto T.S. Eliot’s quote, “Anxiety is the handmaiden of creativity,” I also found a quote by David Duchovny that expanded on it. Duchovny said, “Anxiety is part of creativity, the need to get something out, the need to be rid of something or to get in touch with something within.”
After thinking about both quotes, I determined this suggestion should top the list, “Get back to work.”
Writing gets me in touch with what I need to get out, what I need to get rid of and what I need to get in touch with. I’d wager your purpose does the same for you. In the opening quote of this blog post, Conley mentions emotional building blocks of anxiety and our influence over them. In a world filled with unknowns, my purpose is a known – a thing I can influence and a thing that helps influence (and diminish) my anxiety.
This reminds me of my artist friend who paints bright and fun folk art. However, during her divorce that I didn’t know she was going through, I walked into her studio and knew instantly something was wrong. Her paintings were intense with dark colors. She painted her pain, which brought her through it and to the other side.
As often as I resist writing, I recognize it as a best friend. More than once, it’s pulled me from the depths of anxiety and helped me face it and overcome it.
When we’re feeling anxious, a safe place to take cover is in our purpose. Do you take refuge in yours?
In This Together,