Thank you Anxiety


In recent weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to quite a few people about thanking or being grateful to the emotions they most wish they didn’t feel.

“I hate when I get this way,” I’ve heard. And I understand. We all carry these parts of us around that we wish we could undo or do differently.

Personally, I hate that I get super anxious when other members of my family walk the dog. “You aren’t keeping him close enough! He’ll lunge at that person walking toward us! He won’t learn to walk well for me if everyone else lets him do what he wants!”

I hate that I worry what other people in the Target parking lot will think if I’m parked with my blinker on waiting for a spot. “Am I in their way? Are they going to honk? Do they think I’m selfish?”

See how that goes? That anxiety is annoyingtime-consuming, and often completely unnecessary. I can’t stand it when it happens because it makes me want to avoid walking the dog as a family or going to Target during busy times. So much of the time I’m torn between the actual anxiety and my frustration WITH the anxiety.

**Alannis Morrisette’s “Thank U” — an anthem to thanking those things we really don’t want to…

When people I work with share parts of themselves that they dislike, or even loathe, I find myself looking for the protective purpose that emotion is serving. Is the over-thinking all night long protecting you from missing something that could throw your whole next day off? Is it protecting you by covering all the bases? Is the nervousness you feel when you’re in a room full of people you don’t know protecting you from being judged or rejected?

When relationships are in crisis and at risk of breaking, those parts of ourselves that we like the least get activated the most. They do that because they are trying to protect us from further hurt or rejection. But, sometimes their efforts backfire and exacerbate the very situation we were trying to avoid–so we get mad at the part that tried to protect us.

Consider those times when you’ve been upset about something your partner did, but your worry about conflict caused you to keep it all inside. By trying to protect you from the conflict, your worry has given you a secret you now have to caretake. And, because you have a secret you’re keeping from your partner, you’re likely to pull away…which can cause more conflict. At the end of all that, you find yourself mad that you’re conflict-averse and judge yourself for not being more forthright.

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What I’ve begun doing for myself and recommending to others is really simple but counter-intuitive.

Consider how that emotion is trying to protect you. Then thank it for its service.

You’ll be amazed at how quickly the tension in your mind and body goes down and how much relief you feel. Thank you, anger. Thank you, depression. Thank you, anxiety. Thank you, conflict-averseness. Thank you, social fear….

McNamara photo

Jenni Martina McBride, LAMFT