In psychology and the social sciences the consensus leads us to believe that anxiety is an emotional state to avoid at all costs. There is a long list of ‘anxiety’ disorders that are treated as illnesses. Turn on the television at any given time of day and flip channels… there will be ads for medicine to control it, Lifetime movies to illustrate its’ effects in agonizing and emotional detail, and news stories to show the worst examples of it.
The proliferation of ideas in the media can lead us to believe then that anxiety itself is evil incarnate. That when we feel it, there must be something wrong with us… But this is far from the truth. Being able to feel is just part of being Human.
Are you wondering, “Where the heck is she going with this, and why should I follow?” Let me explain my divergence into the social sciences.
Today I was agonizing over what to do for dinner. Money is tight right now, and though we are doing okay, I want to maintain that status for the duration of my foray into graduate school.
Out of the cabinets and refrigerator, here’s what I had available:
I took all that anxiety and channeled it. I decided to make a plan.
And, while I piece that plan together in another part of my psyche…
Here’s 3 points of view on the subject of ‘anxiety’ from the EXPERTS:
- Dr. Phil show and/or the DSM-5: “Anxiety disorders develop when anxiety is persistent over time and causes significant distress or impairment in functioning.” (www.drphil.com and http://www.dsm5.org/about/pages/default.aspx for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-5 information.)
- His Holiness, the Dalai Lama: “…Usually when something bad happens, we say, “Oh, very unlucky,” and when something good happens, we say, “Oh, very lucky.” Actually, these two words, lucky and unlucky, are insufficient. There must be some reason. Because of a reason, a certain time became lucky or unlucky, but usually we do not go beyond lucky or unlucky. The reason, according to the Buddhist explanation, is our past karma, our actions. One way to work with deep fears is to think that the fear comes as a result of your own actions in the past. Further, if you have fear of some pain or suffering, you should examine whether there is anything you can do about it. If you can, there is no need to worry about it; if you cannot do anything, then there is also no need to worry.” (from this awesome website: http://viewonbuddhism.org/dharma-quotes-quotations-buddhist/fear-anxiety.htm)
- The Bible (well, part of it…) in 1 Peter 5:6-8: http://www.biblestudytools.com/1-peter/passage/ . The basic philosophy here is to remain “humble”, let God know of your anxiety (talk about it, give voice to it), pray for assistance, and “be alert and sober of mind”… i.e. pay attention! And learn from it. Look for answers, because the devil prowls around like a lion… (scare tactics, sorry, but I gotta appreciate them as a parent…)
All of these examples, minus the DSM-5, because evidence-based is where it’s at, are admittedly a stretch, I know. Here are 3 blaring reasons:
- For each of these statements that are a multitude of examples within each professional, religious, and philosophical (no pun intended) continuums to counter them. (I had to skip over Matthew and Luke bible chapters even though usually they are my favorites.)
- The internet and television tells us differently. (Questioning my authority on the subject, right? No ad hominems allowed.)
- Most of us believe anxiety is an illness that needs to be treated. (Ad populum prevails… just like an 8 year old will tell you that “well, everyone says so…” therefore it must be true…)
As you can probably guess, I disagree that anxiety, and in fact any emotion makes us weaker, ill, or otherwise useless. (Unless, per Dr. Phil and the DSM-5, it begins to affect your quality of life, but I believe also that for most of us, this unfortunate side effect is perfectly avoidable.)
I lean towards the Asian concept of Yin and Yang. The world requires balance. We require balance. To remove either of those 2 basic aspects of the selves that we communicate by and with, leaves us, I believe weaker.
There are two common aspects of anyone (human) that is able to read this post:
- You are able to think, learn, and understand abstract ideas.
- You are able to feel this existence, inside and out.
I have a favorite quote that was cited in a brilliant book called The Crusades through Arab Eyes, by Amin Maalouf (GoodReads Listed):
Our ability to think and reason leaves us prone to hubris. But, is what gives us an edge over other animals (including other humans). Our ability to feel, to live in a multi-dimensional, icky, smelly, reality teaches us humility. But also leaves us open to manipulation by our environment and from others. Between the two… we are Human. And we need both to make it through this mess of a world.
Feelings, negative or positive, to me at least… just feels like potential energy. It is a power source for me.
When I am angry, I ask myself why. I ask myself what I can do. And I fix it, or forget it and go hit the punching bag a few times. Then I figure out a way around that thing or person’s collateral damage that is upsetting me.
When I am sad, I let myself feel sad. I ask myself why as I feel around and search for its’ corners and edges… And then I change things. Or sometimes, when all else fails, I just do something, anything with that energy (take a walk, watch a movie, call a friend, go to the store for groceries, clean something…), because sometimes, life just sucks, and all-in-all, is a fatal endeavor.
When I am anxious, I ask myself what I can do to not feel anxious. I channel my energy to problem-solving. Anxiety makes me fix things.
Just as with any ‘power’ (electrical, physiological, etc.), it’s very easy to overload the circuits if you don’t channel it appropriately. And it will make you sick.
My free advice today, take it or leave it: Don’t be afraid of your emotions. And don’t avoid them or push them away. Use them for good. Use them to solve problems and not to create more. Don’t use your emotions as an excuse to maintain the status quo because you are afraid of change. Don’t use your emotions to change things just because you feel a certain way… If you are feeling a certain way, ask yourself why. Ask for help. Figure out how to fix it.
Because of my anxiety today, for better or worse, we have 2 new favorite recipes:
Fried Green Tomato Quesadillas. (…Altered from a red tomato quesadilla recipe, using veggie provolone sliced cheese instead of Monterey jack and cheddar, and searing the tomato slices with garlic powder and a little cornmeal in a skillet before putting them in the tortilla.)
Corn and Black Bean (no-salsa) salad. (Minus the sweet red pepper or tomato salsa usually required. Instead, I used chopped celery leaves, yellow onion, cilantro, cumin, chili powder, and lime juice.) I kept the recipe for the dressing as it appeared in the cook book 365 Vegetarian Meals. Who knew orange juice and vinegar would make an AWESOME dressing!?
*Sorry there aren’t any pictures of the finished product. Dinner was late, and there were hungry people in the way. (Myself included)*