Anxiety lies. Did you know that? If you suffer from anxiety (and suffer is the operative word because man! anxiety is cruel) then, read on and you’ll recognize what I mean. Anxiety gets a kick out of telling us stuff like, “Don’t go too far from home because something awful will happen” and “You’d better not make that presentation because you’re going to blank out and make a fool of yourself” and “Don’t take a plane because you’re going to feel trapped and freak out and start screaming!” Anxiety gets a good laugh out of telling us stuff like that. Ha ha ha!
Anxiety has signed an affiliates’ contract with fear. Every time anxiety can get us to feel a shot of fear, it gets a cut. Anxiety bought a boat from all the money its made on this deal and named it after you! And because fear can reproduce asexually, anxiety knows that this was a very good business decision. It will really pay off.
Anxiety has a side deal with humiliation. That also tickles its fancy. Anxiety knows that it can always control us by threatening shame. It whispers, “People will see you sweating” and “People will know you’re weak” and “What if you can’t find a bathroom?” Anxiety is so clever – it knows exactly how to keep the upper hand.
But anxiety lies. It takes advantage of us because we’re vulnerable. It has all the moves. It makes us feel weird and strange in our bodies. It makes us question whether we are going mad. It gives us sensations that we don’t understand and makes us think that the only possible reason we are feeling those things is because something has gone terribly and irreversibly haywire.
It’s relentless. It’s the schoolyard bully that never leaves us alone because he himself is weak and scared and needs us so he can feel better. It’s the Wizard of Oz, pulling the levers behind the curtain but who is really just a sad little man.
And we react to the taunts and threats – how could we not? Words have power, even the lies that anxiety tells us. We are thoroughbred racehorses, high-strung and very responsive to the slightest touch. We’ve been beaten down so often that we can’t even feel our own strength, although it’s there. Instead, we are good little boys and girls who listen politely to what anxiety tells us and we do what we’re told.
Paradoxically, to get anxiety to buzz off we’ve got to listen to the lies it tells and then respond with, “Phaw. Whatever.” We’ve got to roll up our sleeves and get on the offensive. Maybe even get a little belligerent. Oppositional. Just a little bit. Because once we recognize its tricks and manners, we don’t want to expend too much energy fighting it. We don’t want to honor it too much. We’ve got better things to do.
I’m a psychotherapist, family therapist and the author of Divorce - How to Tell the Kids: A Parent’s Guide to Breaking the News without Breaking Their Hearts; Runaway Husbands: The Abandoned Wife's Guide to Recovery and Renewal and My Sister, My Self: The Surprising Ways that Being an Older, Middle, Younger or Twin Shaped Your Life. I can be found online at www.vikkistark.com.