High Anxiety

by DavalosMcCormack on March 5, 2009

Lately, I’ve been working with people who are suffering from anxiety.  There is a lot of anxiety out there, and in many cases there is good reason to be anxious.  Loss of a job, money worries, or health issues just to name a few.  But sometimes we create anxiety when we don’t have to.

One client was a young mother who was raising her step-daughter.  When the step-daughter was 8,  the birth mother re-entered the scene and took over as primary caregiver for the step-daughter.

You can understand why the young mother felt anxious.  Her world had changed from primary caregiver for her step-daughter to “Week-end” mom.  She felt anxious because each weekend she dreaded having the step-daughter re-enter the family.  It became unbearable because she felt all the good she did working with the step-daughter had changed and the girl became disruptive in the family dynamics.

The young mother began to dread each weekend.  She expected the worst, and you know what? Each weekend became worse.

Expectations can be extremely powerful when it comes to anxiety.  What you  anticipate is usually what you get.  If you expect bad things to happen you begin to interpret anything that goes wrong as “Bad”.

As Alexander Pope said, ” Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed”.

It’s not only negative expectations that create disappointment, it’s good expectations too.

I’ve seen this phenomenon with contests on television.  One of my friends  tried out for a reality TV show 3 times.  She felt that the third time was a charm and she absolutely thought she would win.  Not only did she think she would win, but she thought that she had the right to win.  When she didn’t win she felt that life was unfair.  She had done all the positive thinking and had the “right attitude” but she still didn’t win!

The loss really threw her whole belief system for a loop.  She had the expectation that life worked in a certain manner and if it didn’t, nothing she believed in was true.  She became anxious and began to devalue herself because she had lost, yet again.

We all have the feeling that life should work the way we want it to and when it doesn’t we question ourselves and our beliefs.  But when you take a closer look we are not prisoners of our beliefs.

The young mother has a choice to see the reality of her situation.  The step-daughter will be coming every weekend.  She can dread it or she can create a new way of being a family that will include the step-daughter instead of just “holding her breath” till Sunday Night.

My friend can  accept that she didn’t win again and see that being on a reality TV show isn’t going to change whether she has a successful life or not.

We are not victims of our expectations.  We are creaters of our lives.  How we react to life can make us anxious or we can simpy change our expectations.

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