Anxiety, a Human ConditionOct 18, 2022
A typical morning. My sister and I are headed to work. She’s driving and I’m in the passenger seat. She tries to converse, but I’m fidgety. I glance at my phone. I’ve been waiting for a response from a business partner for an important meeting this week and it’s not there. Without my control, anxiety rushes in.
Thoughts start flooding my mind. Maybe she’s upset with me. Maybe it's because I rescheduled twice. Or maybe my tone was off. I re-read the thread to make sure. The thread looks fine (for the 18th time). But does it look fine to her? No no. It’s not that. Maybe she had a conversation with the colleague we’re both collaborating with about how I’m always flaking, always rescheduling, running late. Surely I have a reputation among them that I’m not dependable.
Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe….
By now my ballooning restlessness has jolted me into action. I start to frantically fumble into my phone apps, pull up every email, every text, every important message that I think I’m late to respond to and start sending a flurry of messages.
All the while my mind is whirling like a tornado about what my professional contacts must think about me. How I’m absent minded, distracted, not present, not committed. I mentally run through all the different projects at-play, the various tactical details of our interactions and work, and pinpoint all the specific ways I wasn’t specific enough. Present enough. Detailed enough. Thorough enough.
My head is now full of pressure, static, and my neck and shoulders feel stiff. With my body clenched, my mind racing. All this while, I’ve been verbalizing and putting all of this on full display to my sister who’s trying to drive through heavy morning traffic.
My sister finally interrupts me, and asks a surprising question, “So let’s just say what you think is true.. So what? What does that mean?” I am both shocked and relieved. I think to myself, “Wow, okay, she’s using my coaching questions on me.” She must have learned from our practice sessions when I’m coaching her on her stuff.
But her awakening questions were powerful!
So I started crying! Right then and there, I realize my deepest fear was triggered. I find myself anxious again (and again and again) because the world, the people, the situations make me feel “Not Good Enough”. This was the story of my life. Countless scenarios flash before my eyes. In that moment I feel as if almost every decision, every action in my life was driven by fear: “What if I’m not good enough?” This was a heavy, deep, and painful realization to process. I crack open under its weight and cry, cry and cry.
They say, “crying is a release.” Maybe. Maybe not. But following my uncontrollable sobbing, for the first time, I saw with such clarity how anxiety has shown up in my life. Hijacking my entire system - my mind, my body, my actions - time and again without my conscious realization. Spurring me into a flurry of doing, doing, doing. For what purpose? To feel good enough in the eyes of others, then (seemingly) failing to meet their expectations, and feeling (again, and again, and again) “not good enough.” Although none of the scenarios are logical or real, they feel real to me.
Anxiety is a Human condition. It’s a protective element of our emotional makeup meant to keep us safe in uncertain situations, and drive us to prepare. And so anxiety isn’t the problem. But rather, how we respond to it.
Anxiety never feels good. And like all difficult emotions, once it arrives, we do anything to stop feeling it: Run, hide, suppress, react. Sometimes it’s not just anxiety we’re dealing with, it’s even anxiety about anxiety. So we find ourselves in an endless loop we can’t escape. And the harder we try, the deeper we go, like quicksand.
Anxiety is different for everyone, but yields the same results. For some of us it shows up so severely that it makes us withdraw from life, and avoid events, situations and people. It paralyzes us. It prevents us from acting on our dreams, reaching our potential, achieving our goals.
Let me ask you. Do you suffer from anxiety like I do?
If you do, please know that you are not alone.
And, do you know that you can learn practical ways to deal with it? Yes, through a bit of committed personal work, you can overcome anxiety. The tools you’ll learn have the capacity to free you from the grip of anxiety once and for all and break this vicious limiting cycle.
If you’re interested, consider joining Arda in the next community event about Overcoming Anxiety, on Tuesday, 10/25 at 5.30pm PDT over zoom.
Come with lots of questions. He’d be happy to answer them. See you there.
Emel Mutlu, Certified Rise 2 Realize Life Coach