The thing about anxiety, is that it is not some mysterious affliction that attacks us out of the blue.
Your brain has not developed an illness. It has not suddenly become “broken” and incapable of responding normally again. You have not completely lost control of your life forever.
The truth is that anxiety disorders are simply a case of bad communication and lack of trust between you and your brain – and a little “marriage counseling” for the two of you would go a long way.
Imagine you and your brain sitting on a couch in a therapist’s office. The conversation would probably go something like this:
( BTW, I seem to imagine my brain as being a blue collar guy with a Brooklyn accent. Maybe because I see my brain as a hard-working hero? I don’t know but just try to roll with me on this. 😉 )
Your Brain: “I don’t understand her. All day long her emotions are bugging me, telling me she’s scared. I try to do something about it…give her a little adrenaline… and she freaks out on me and blames me for ruining her life. What’s a brain supposed to do?”
You: “Like its my fault that he feels like he has to jump in and “help” me with my problems? Never once did I ask for his help. Why can’t he just listen and make me feel better rather than try to “read my emotions” and jump in and try to fix everything with his “magic juice”? Maybe I could just use a little comforting every now and then.”
Your Brain: “What are you talking about? Who says I’m trying to fix anything? I’m just trying to give you a little backup is all. You say you are scared so I send a little help your way….and that makes me the bad guy? What…… I’m supposed to be the only brain out there that doesn’t step up and do his job? You know how the other brains would talk if I just left you there in fear…they’d call me a coward. They’d say I was “sick” or somethin’.”
You: “Oh here we go again. Talking about his “job”. He cares more about his “job” than he cares about me. Is a little sensitivity too much to ask? Since when did scaring the crap out of somebody constitute “helping”, anyway? He thinks I’m scared, so he decides to fix it by sending more of that adrenaline garbage into me? All that does is scare me even more! That makes a lot of sense, Einstein. Do you see what I’m dealing with here doc?”
Your Brain: “See what YOU are dealing with? What about me? Nothing I do is right for you. I work hard all day! You’re still alive arent’cha? I suppose I had nothin’ to do with that? How about a little “Thank You” every now and then? How about a little gratitude? All you do is gripe about me all day long.”
You: “Oh please. You aren’t trying to help me…..you don’t even listen to me! If you did, you would know that all of your so-called “help” is only making things worse! I can’t even swat a fly away without you “helping” me. You are so overbearing! Maybe you just need to back off and give me some space. Maybe I could work through my stress all on my own if you weren’t breathing down my neck every second and making it impossible for me to think straight!”
Your Brain: “Oh trust me honey, you’ve never had a problem coming up with something to think about. All you do all day long is think, think, think, think. Do you know how tired I am of listening to you think? As a matter of fact….”
And this is when the therapist steps in and says “Alrighty then! I think I get the idea.”
If you are a person living with anxiety symptoms, I think its pretty obvious that you and your brain are having some issues right now, and I imagine that your hypothetical marriage counselor would tell you that it’s not the fault of either one of you. You are both handling stress the way that you think is right….the problem is that you just aren’t working together. You are actually working against each other.
Your brain is responding to all your fear – big or small – conscious or subconscious – by sending out adrenaline. Sometimes its a little too much adrenaline and that doesn’t always make the situation better. But it’s not your brain’s fault. It was designed a certain way, to help us live the life that humans were living in the prehistoric times… back in the caveman days. It hasn’t evolved enough yet to be able to seamlessly adjust the adrenaline dosage it sends out to better meet the needs of the lighter “threats” of modern life. But you know what? Your brain is doing the best it can and it still does its job pretty darn well. It may be a little old fashioned, but it is a hard worker, and like it said in therapy….you ARE still alive, aren’t you?
And as for you….I think its safe to say that you probably ARE over-reacting a little bit to the stress in your life. Those of us with anxiety disorders have a tendency to think big with our reactions. It isn’t our fault…it is just how we are wired. Never the less, here you are, probably unbeknownst to you, subconsciously asking for your brain’s help over things that you probably could handle all on your own – and then you are getting upset when it tries to help you. Again, I’m not saying its your fault. You are exhausted and stressed out and it’s hard to always respond rationally and handle things in a calm way when you are in that state of mind.
So what to do? How do you and your brain start communicating effectively again?
Well, the first thing I would suggest is for you and your brain to take a little down time and spend time doing stuff “outside of the house” so to speak.
Do something different every now and then. Everything doesn’t always have to be about danger, danger, worry, worry. Show a different side of yourselves to each other. Learn to appreciate the other great qualities you both have. Do some puzzles. Go for a walk and spend time with nature. Take a class together. Learn a new hobby. If YOU stop using the parts of your personality that center around worry and danger, your brain will stop using its own parts that center around worry and danger. It’s that easy.
And because you know your brain is used to life in a different time and era, maybe you could try to be a little sensitive to that fact and try to remain a little calmer when faced with something that is upsetting to you. I’m not saying you have to be perfect. It’s okay to be scared sometimes and feel concern and over-think. But maybe if you tried to remain a little calmer, and tried to use distraction techniques to avoid over-analyzing issues in your life, your brain might feel a little more comfortable in your environment and lose the desire to be so over-protective.
It also wouldn’t hurt to try to cut back on the worry a little bit. Any effort on your part to not dwell and ponder on the negatives would help. Your brain is a little over-bearing and relentless at times, it’s true. But it means well and maybe it wouldn’t feel the need to be “on” and in “protection mode” every single minute if you thought a little more positively every now and then?
You and your brain are a great team with some amazing qualities between the two of you. You should love and appreciate and be grateful for each other. Besides, the two of you are stuck together so you may as well learn to get along. The universe takes the marriage contract between you and your brain very seriously. It really is “till death do you part”, so keep that in mind the next time you are feeling less than thrilled with each other.
For some more fun “date night” ideas for you and your brain that don’t involve dwelling and obsessing, check out this article from ThoughtCatalog.com. 🙂
If you’d like personalized help for your anxiety issues, contact me here.
Photo Credit: Header Photo Used With Permission Granted by Canstock