The Anxiety Paradigm

Anxiety, to me, was always about an empty hole that needed to be filled.  If only I could see a doctor, if only I could get medication, I could use therapy, if my financial situation changed… then I would be free from anxiety.  The problem with this idea was that the anxiety was never caused by lack of those things.  Anxiety was mostly about the worrying of not having them but once I would get them there was always something else I would need to really fix my anxiety problems.  Let me share with you a couple of the “if onlys” in my past.

1. If only I had a better job

A new job wont necessarily release you from anxiety.  You may make more money but you may also move in to a higher standard of living.  When I moved back to Florida from Michigan in 2009, I went from living in a place where my rent was $425 per month to a place where we paid $850 per month.  An increase in pay gave us more square feet to live in but it didn’t mean I was putting thousands of dollars per month in a savings account.  It just meant I was spending more for things so I could live the same way.

2. If only I could move somewhere new

In 2002 I moved from Michigan to Florida.  In 2005 I moved back to Michigan.  In 2009 I moved back to Florida.  A change in scenery didn’t take my anxiety away.  I often hear people say “if I could only move to a better state, then everything will be ok”.  I often tell them that if they want to move then go ahead but don’t expect it to solve your problems.  99% of our problems are us and we take ourselves everywhere we go.  You can’t expect to move and leave yourself behind.  You and your problems will go with you, trust me, 1100 mile moves didn’t change a thing for me.  They just added to my frustration of not finding what I was looking for.

3. Once I get a new car, I’ll be able to get a job

When you don’t have a job, it’s because you aren’t willing to take the necessary steps to get one.  I know a LOT of people who walk and/or take the bus or ride a bike to their jobs.  Sometimes it isn’t the stellar career path you imagined and there certainly wont be a red carpet but I’ve had some pretty lowly jobs at times that have gotten me to the next step in life.  Looking back on it, aside from work, these were some of the best times of my life.  I remember all the good times I had and have very little memory of the foreclosure or my utilities being shut off.

So What Is Anxiety Then?

Anxiety comes from many places.  At it’s root it comes from that empty space you believe you have.  Some call it desire, others call it ego but we create in ourselves an empty space in our hearts for things that we don’t have.  We believe if we can just get one more thing in our lives that we’ll be ok.  The truth is, as Glinda the good witch said, you had the power all along to beat anxiety.  There are times when stress and pressures of life will give you anxiety.  Yes, I’ve been there.  I nearly lost my home at one point.  I ended up having to move my pregnant wife and child and I in with my parents for a couple of months.  I’ve seen friends lose everything.  I’ve also see homeless people who are happier than anyone I’ve ever met.  It’s all relative.  I do, however, hope you are not homeless.

The anxiety I felt came from an empty place of desire and constant want.  Worry of what would happen to my kids, would I get sick, what if the cashier at the grocery store didn’t like me?  For the record, even on some of my worst days, the cashiers have been very friendly to me and I wish I had been friendlier back.  If I had stopped worrying about that then I could have relaxed and just enjoyed the experience of shopping.  Yes, even grocery shopping can be joyful.

As long as I feel like I’ve beaten anxiety, there are no more giants to confront in my life.  In the coming weeks and months I hope to share with you, my dear reader, some of the tools I’ve used to stay positive.  Thank you!

Be well. Be positive.

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