Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Emotional gremlins

Wouldn't we all be very different if we could free ourselves from anxiety and fear? If we could go through life with endless confidence and optimism rather than all those doubts and insecurities that get in our way?

Virtually everyone is hampered by anxiety and fear to some degree, however skilled we might be at seeming cool, calm and collected. We all have those moments when we just want to flee some situation that stirs up the emotional gremlins.

I'm no stranger to anxiety and fear, but at least they take a fairly mild form and don't interfere too much with my daily life. It's unusual to feel so overwhelmed that I simply make my excuses and run for it.

I know people whose anxiety and fear is so intense they can be totally hobbled by it. People who have panic attacks that last for days on end and stop them doing anything but lie in bed in a helpless heap. People whose chronic anxiety means everything has to be double-checked, triple-checked, quadruple-checked before they're sure they haven't done anything horribly wrong.

Luckily I've never known those extremes. But there are things I would hate to do because I'm sure the anxiety would consume me. Like giving a lecture, or acting, or chairing a public meeting, or talking to a mega-celebrity. In fact anything where I'm visibly "onstage" and being scrutinised by large numbers of people.

And wherever I go, I'm always aware of a little frisson of fear, a slight apprehension about other people, though I know perfectly well they're probably harmless. Then there are specific fears, like a fear of the dark, or hospitals, or confined spaces, or old age. How wonderful it would be if I could just breeze through life, go with the flow, take everything as it comes, all with unshakable poise.

Which is as likely as turning into a mermaid.

25 comments:

susie said...

I need to take a pill. I'm not telling which one. Haha

Cheerful Monk said...

I used to be hampered by a lot of fears --- public speaking was a big one. A few years of Toastmaster's International took care of that one. I think of my life as pulling the weeds, nurturing the flowers. Overcoming fears is part of the pulling weeds.

Helen Devries said...

I dislike conflict....but when it has to be done it has to be done...

Nick said...

Susie: I know several people who take a pill. But I don't like taking pills, I try to get by without them.

Jean: Pulling weeds is a nice metaphor, but my weeds seem to have stubbornly enormous roots!

Nick said...

Helen: Me too, I find any serious conflict immensely stressful and anxiety-causing. But as you say sometimes it just can't be avoided.

Mike said...

Conflict has always been one of those things that got to me, which was the biggest reason I was always glad I was never promoted into a supervisory role. Public speaking once scared me tremendously -- funny that I ended up with most of my career as an instructor at a nuclear power plant... and continue at it as a contractor.

Nick said...

Mike: Glad to know you got over your fear of public speaking. Nothing like having to dive through your fear because your job demands it!

I've never had a permanent supervisory role either. It really stresses me out having to be responsible for other people for longer than a few hours!

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Nick,

Well, we have to say that we are not nervous types. If ever we were, then several years in secondary school classrooms cured us! One had to be a good actor to survive and survive we did.

A certain degree of anxiety we have always felt to be a good thing. If one is slightly on edge, then one does tend to raise one's game accordingly and it often means that one prepares more fully than if one had a too self confident approach.

Nick said...

Jane and Lance: So you've been together since secondary school? Most impressive! You're right about the positive side of anxiety, that it prompts you to prepare for things more fully and reduce the likelihood of stupid mistakes. I'm a great "preparer".

Bijoux said...

That must be difficult to have those social situation fears. It has always fascinated me that my child with autism is afraid to do simple things like answer the phone, but has no problem giving a speech or singing for a large audience. Not having a script of some sort is her stressor.

My own anxieties are more along the lines of snakes, large spiders and heights. Kind of boring, huh?

Nick said...

Bijoux: That is strange that the simple things are more problematic than the advanced things. I can see that not having a script is stressful if you have a low tolerance of uncertainty.

Snakes, large spiders and heights - yes, that's as normal as they come!

Anonymous said...

My father was a dreadful worry wart, he wasted years stressing and worrying about things that never happened. I soon learned to face what ever each day brought. Over last weekend, all my woes were put in perspective. A friend of mine in Dublin, we grew up on the same avenue, we danced many a night away and he was best man for one of my brothers... On Sunday he found his son dead, it is now a murder investigation. Compared to that, my life is bliss.

Grannymar said...

Oops! That last anonymous comment was from me.

Nick said...

Grannymar: Goodness, what a terrible thing to happen. Indeed, it puts our own trivial daily worries into perspective. You're right, the awful scenarios I tend to imagine never happen, and what actually does happen comes as a total surprise.

Jenny Woolf said...

I too am always envious of people who don't think negative thoughts or worry. I think it's probably a bit of a gift, like having wonderful strong teeth or athletic ability!

Nick said...

Jenny: I think it's probably a nature/nurture mixture. I'm sure a lot of my own anxiety stems from my emotionally disturbing childhood.

Rummuser said...

I suspect that you are very normal - like all of us.

Wisewebwoman said...

I tend to worry about the stuff that actually happens, like a water problem at the moment.

I learned along the way that the worries about hypothetical issues consumed my life and never actually happened in the end. An exercise given to me by a therapist was: imagine the worst, imagine the best and somewhere in the middle is where it will happen or not at all.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

Ramana: I know anxiety and fear are very very common, however clever people are at hiding them and faking boundless self-confidence.

www: I think your therapist's advice is about right. What actually happens to us is quite different from all the lurid extremes we waste time imagining.

Jay, Sparking Synapse said...

I am no stranger to anxiety, either, and the odd panic attack, but I am grateful to be able to say that I am not crippled by it. I feel so much sympathy for those that are.

I do think, though, that the number of people whose poise is truly unshakeable is far, far smaller than we believe.

Nick said...

Jay: I agree, unshakable poise is usually a false impression. More likely it's a brilliant bit of acting designed to hide shredded nerves.

Dave Martin said...

In a way I think it's good to have some element of insecurity and fear, otherwise we'd all be loud-mouthed know-it-alls that irritate the hell out of everyone else around us, and god knows we've all met someone like that. Confidence is good, but it needs to be tempered with a healthy level of self-awareness to keep us in check.

Nick said...

Dave: I think the loud-mouthed know-it-alls are often deeply insecure on the inside but trying to hide it. If only they'd keep a discreet silence instead of pretending to be something they're not and annoying the bejesus out of everyone else.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Anxiety disorders, including panic disorder and social phobia, are among the most treatable psychological issues. No one has to just live with debilitating anxiety.

Nick said...

Agent: I didn't know that, which only goes to show how ignorant most of us are about mental and emotional disorders. I must do some research.