Anxiety is the basis for most of our behavior and ability to stay alive. We have many cues around us that govern our actions so as to avoid danger. The essence of this sequence is: 1) a circumstance causes anxiety 2) we control our actions or the situation to alleviate the anxiety. Simple examples are:
- Not running a red light to avoid getting hit
- Treating our boss with respect to avoid getting fired
- Seeking food because you are afraid of starving
- Cutting away from yourself with a knife to avoid hurting yourself
Anxiety is the sensation that is felt when your brain senses danger (real or perceived), and creates a survival reaction. It is a “reflex” or link to your environment.
Our modern world holds out the promise of happiness if we have enough of “X.” One of the “X’s” is less anxiety. It appears to me that there is a lot of energy spent trying to rid anxiety from our lives. If you did this completely, you could not survive more than a few minutes. But we still keep trying and it’s ironic that the harder we work on eliminating anxiety from our lives, the stronger it becomes.
Some of our attempts are:
- Rigid/structured thinking
- Avoiding anxiety-producing situations
- Decreasing the “size” of your life
- Direct control
- Other people
- Control of household
- Control of spouse
- Control of children
- Bullying is basically an anxiety reaction
- Much of this behavior carries on into adulthood—just better disguised.
- “All is fair in love and war”
- “That’s just business”
- Other people
A universal strategy to decrease anxiety is to strive for more power and thereby increase your ability to control people and circumstances. I don’t know what percent of high achieving people have this as their motivation versus a vision based on love and excellence. My own obsessive drive to become a top tier spine surgeon was anxiety-based. Examples of ways we try to gain more power:
- Gain Strength
- More control over others
- Organizing others for your own agenda
It is not that many of the above behaviors are undesirable. It depends on the motivation and intensity and the effect on those close around you. The first and necessary step is to become aware of the effects of anxiety on you and those close to you. Then you will be able to process it in a way that allows you and others close to you to thrive.