Because I'm a psychologist, I've noticed that some people think I'm immune to anxiety. Not so. In fact my home provides a rich environment for the development and maintenance of rumination, concerns and worries, several of which neither I, nor my family, have much control over.
For example, the past week there's been the world economy, early onset dementia, job loss, spiders, turning off the gas, losing keys, traffic noise, and so much more. Despite this, I like to feel that I'm a normal functioning member of society. My anxieties, I believe, are really quite typical.
I have a teenage daughter, just one, but sufficient to keep my arousal levels a notch higher than I might choose. It's a parent-daughter thing. My daughter studies Theology, she doesn't do drugs (I think), her boyfriend doesn't ride a motorbike. Neither does she have an interest in free-fall parachuting, rock climbing or joining in protests outside toxic waste facilities. In short, I really have very little to worry about, but I do. Parents are designed that way. It's our birthright to be anxious about our children.
My wife hates spiders. It's therefore something of a cruel irony to observe that they seem to love her. We joke that she's actually a spider goddess. We say all they want to do is be near her, to sit on her lap and to keep her company. Periodically, I'll hear a scream, quickly followed by the noise of slapping and banging. Despite her best efforts, the spider has not been crushed beneath the onslaught of shoes and has instead retreated to the nearest available corner to await its fate. However, this gives me sufficient time to put aside whatever it is I'm doing, because I'm just about to be summoned to deal with this latest incursion.
Anxiety is full of contradictions. I'll sort out the spider, but you won't get me within 20 feet of a horse (actually, the same rule would apply if spiders were the size of horses). Anxiety is fear in search of a cause. On a day-to-day basis we put our masks in place and off we go, apparently fearless, but actually quite vigilant. I see this with the students I teach. As they walk in the room they are ‘cool'. Sometimes, they are so cool I worry about whether there's a pulse, but that's a different story. When, I address the issue of anxiety I like to enquire about the fears of the students in the room. The reaction is pretty standard. The question is usually met by a series of guarded looks . I then offer up an example from my own life and that's it, the cork is out of the bottle. Everyone, but everyone, has anxieties.
Anxiety then, is normal and actually quite useful. Its role is to protect us from real or perceived harm. Unfortunately anxiety has a nasty habit of developing, growing legs and running away with itself. Treatments for anxiety rest on the principle of understanding why this happens and what can be done about it. However, we're also meant to be anxious, it's part of the human condition. There's really no such thing as getting rid of anxiety, but we can strive to contain unwanted levels, put it into perspective and try not allow it to dominate our lives. Now, what time is it!
Published On: November 14, 2008