If talking in front of others fills us with dread, if our bowels loosen and we need the toilet, if we sweat or blush or feel ‘on the spot’, then we can get jobs that don’t require chairing meetings or giving presentations. If we feel awkward mixing with people we can find someone more confident to play ‘wing man’ to and hang out with them. We can develop strategies like asking questions to take the attention off of us as soon as possible.
If taking a flight sends us into panic we can avoid flying and holiday at home.
If the idea of confrontation makes us want to cry we can become very adept at people pleasing and placating others or work with children or animals or on our own so as not to have to say anything to an authority figure.
Most of the time when we feel afraid or anxious around a person or in a particular situation we are likely to want to spare ourselves those uncomfortable feelings so we work out a way to avoid meeting the person or going to the place. This can be relatively easy to do and result in minimising our distress.
Rarely does avoiding solve the anxiety, but it can give us a way of not having to face the fear.
However, sometimes avoiding is holding us back from opportunities (in work, in romance, in travel and so on). Sometimes the cost of not feeling able to confront and get over a fear is too high; we can end up lonely, or unfulfilled or develop low self-esteem.
By avoiding we don’t get the chance of feeling the triumph of going beyond a fear and the positive energy that brings.
By avoiding we reinforce the idea that we are small and weak relative to what it is we fear – including the fearful feelings themselves.
There are more effective ways of dealing with anxiety and fear that trump ‘avoiding’. Though I would council against facing fears until we feel emotionally equipped to do so. With the right support and effective tools all fears can be faced and transformed.
2) EXPLAIN, EXCUSE or RATIONALIZE:
Sometimes when we feel anxious we seek to excuse why we’re feeling anxious.
Examples: “Of course I feel intimidated – he’s the CEO.”…. “Anyone who knows the number of road deaths would be nervous on the motorway.” ….“Everyone feels scared alone in the house – particularly in this neighbourhood.”
While this is an attempt to understand or explain why we feel anxious it doesn’t result in a resolution of the anxiety. In fact explaining most commonly keeps the anxiety in place because it looks like it ‘should’ be there. That the anxiety is inevitable, caused by someone or something else and therefore unavoidable.
While certain threatening situations do indeed warrant a fearful response. If a person is attempting to hit you, anxiety and fear is a normal and likely reaction. However most of the time when we’re feeling anxious we are not being threatened and do not require the anxiety.
If we look at the above examples we can see CEO’s are just people, equal to all other people and do not cause anxiety. Road death statistics don’t cause anxiety. Being alone doesn’t cause anxiety. If anxiety is felt in these situations then it’s how we’re thinking about them that’s causing it.
Explaining, excusing and rationalising our fears can bring us temporary relief, but these strategies don’t relieve us of the fear.
3) ACTING OUT:
sometimes a way we try to handle anxiety is by acting out. Perhaps we get drunk to ‘take the edge off’, perhaps we start a row because at least anger feels a bit more powerful that fear, perhaps we munch through a giant size portion of crisps. We might go shopping, watch TV, play a bit more aggressively in a match. We might go home and take it out on the spouse, kids or dog. We act out of anxiety in a variety of ways.
We try to make ourselves seem ‘bigger’ (puffed up ‘fight’ response) or perhaps we cower in a corner to make ourselves seem ‘smaller’ (‘freeze’ response) or we get out of the situation and away from the person (‘flee’ response).
Instead of indulging or acting out of the anxiety we can feel it, accept it, experience the sensations, tell ourselves something supportive and let go of the energy. We can understand where the anxiety is coming from and re-educate ourselves if limiting beliefs and memories are behind the anxious response.
Often when we feel fearful or anxious we will condemn ourselves for those feelings. We tell ourselves we’re ‘stupid’, ‘weak’, ‘wrong’, ‘silly’, ’bad’, ‘broken’, ‘less than’ for feeling feelings. By going into blame and self criticism we don’t give ourselves the chance to understand our reactions and feelings. And we don’t give ourselves a chance to correct our thoughts and feelings. Instead we just put ourselves down and continue to feel not only scared and anxious but also guilty.
Blaming others is another strategy when we feel anxious. We can blame our parents, teachers, siblings, governments, criminals, men, women and so on. While this can help us to feel less blameworthy and we can feel that we’re right (and can actually be right) never does it help with the actual anxiety.
‘Blaming’ ultimately just adds another layer onto the problem.
Understanding, changing our mind-sets, and letting go are far better approaches.
burying our head in the sand. One of the most common ways we try and deal – or not deal – with a problem is to deny it exists. We can become defensive and try to control anyone who points out what we don’t want to look at.
Usually we deny and defend when we feel powerless to a problem or feel useless about being able to change it.
Sometimes denying and defending works and we can also avoid so as not to have to face the anxious feelings. But again this doesn’t resolve anything – it just buys us some time. We can use that time to effectively resolve and transform the fear, but that does mean we’ve to be willing to let our defences down a little so that the resolution of the fear can be made.
If you would like to chat about how life can get easier for you then feel free to drop in for a chat.
I’m always happy to talk about how things can turnaround. You can get me on
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Have a good week,