Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Rollercoaster III

In my last post, Dr Paul explained in his book MindOS™ - "The Operating System of the Human Mind" that anger and anxiety are the roots of our poor self-esteem as widow/ers, and that the remedy is to be assertive, face our fears, and work to get our needs met. There are several ways to respond to both anger and anxiety, and in this last post of the series, I'll explain the results of each.

Anger is neither good nor bad — it is a signal that something is wrong — our needs are not being met. Dr Paul explains that there are only three possible responses for anger [pg 161]:

One response is to make no decision and sink into depression; in other words, do nothing to get our needs met. A second response is to act aggressively to get our needs met at someone else's expense in a win/lose scenario. Acting aggressively will cause ourselves more hurt, which will cause more anger, resulting in more aggression in a vicious cycle. The last response is to be assertive and work out win/win solutions to meeting our needs. This is the path to maturity and adds to our well-being.

Likewise for anxiety, there are only three possible responses [pg 183]:

Again, anxiety is a signal that something is wrong — we are harbouring fear. One way to respond to this signal is to be impulsive or avoidant and is the passive way to respond. This includes actions like:

  • over-eating

  • over-spending

  • addictions

  • drug abuse

  • workaholism

  • being busy just to be busy

Another response is to act like a victim and think that the world is out to get you (win/lose). This includes regret about the past and wishing that you controlled the uncontrollable (like wanting to have life return to the way it was when our spouse was alive). Essentially, this means trying to dump your anxiety into someone else's boundary instead of working to resolve it yourself. In widowhood, this commonly manifests by thinking "if only I had done something different, my spouse wouldn't have died and everything would be better now." When we verbalize this to others, we're trying to unload our anxiety onto them, and we lose their support. This causes further loss when they pull away from us, resulting in another vicious cycle.

The way out of anxiety is through courage by facing our fears. When we do what is right even when we are afraid to do so, this restores our confidence and builds our trust in ourselves and others. It is the other half of building positive energy back into our lives.

Does this make sense? Ever since I read this book, my thinking has totally changed. I can now catch myself getting angry or anxious, and I know now to work in positive ways to face my fears and work towards getting my needs met. So, I go to work on that guy in the mirror. Each time I succeed, even if just a little, I build my self-confidence and improve my quality of life.

I believe this perspective on the grief roller coaster is the major reason why I no longer feel the pain of grief. It is up to me to ensure my needs are being met, and it is also up to me to overcome my fears about the future and learn to trust others (and life!) again.

I hope you find this map as helpful as I do. It is one of the major power-tools in my grief recovery toolbox.

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