About two weeks ago I got to revisit the site of my greatest bout of anxiety. It seems a bit silly a hundred miles away from it but that parking garage was something worse than the imagination of any horror writer could have come up for me.
My line of thinking the first time was that I would be trapped, total the vehicle, or some combination of both. Or have a heart attack from the panic experience.
This last visit was less worrisome (I wasn’t driving) and really more an experience of wonderment about how the hell I got out of that without either fear coming true.
There have been many stressors lately in my life (I know, joining the crowd on that one). And while I haven’t hit panic mode yet, I am trying to figure out a different way to beat this beast of anxiety.
My old methods have been less useful than in the past. While I can make the cognitive connections to realize the irrationality of most of my worries, it doesn’t really relieve the worry. It doesn’t make it lessen. It just serves to distract me at most. The beast never seems tamed or controlled (not for long enough anyway).
Worse, I have lived with the impression that it can be controlled. Then I think I must be defective in some way since I can’t beat it.
So within this pondering I started to question my method. Started to question the usefulness of trying to get away from the beast or beat it into submission.
And here is a bit of what has happened. Turns out the beast, as it is, certainly can get all big and nasty and mean, but does so more when I try to push it away. When I either try to out logic it or ignore it or yell and scream at it.
But when I respond differently. When I take a breath and acknowledge all the barking and screeching, I can choose to also take action, or not, in a different way than panicking. It frees up my ability to do something, anything really, while still experiencing the anxiety.
Anxiety is not my enemy here. The belief that anxiety is my enemy is the true problem.
And in this I discovered what is so immobilizing about my fear. The act of trying to suppress or deny or tame it drains my energy to do anything else. It’s a fight that always leaves me exhausted. Too tired to do anything else, anything I would prefer doing like more time with the family, or going for a walk, or writing, or any number of other things.
I guess what I really found out is I can pet the beast, maybe a little scratch behind the ears, and then go about my business. The beast is only a beast when I ignore it. A little attention when it needs it and it settles down and does what it’s supposed to do – warn me about dangers that could end my life.
My challenge to you is to consider how you respond to emotions (anxiety for sure but any others as well) and try to stay with the feeling, for a little while, instead of trying to make it go away. Maybe give your beast a little belly rub or something and see if it doesn’t become a little friendlier. Mine has.
Thanks as always,
With civility ~ Brian