Saturday, June 21, 2008

Dumping Your Anxiety

In my last post, I shared some very interesting information from Dr Paul Dobransky's ebook called MindOS™ - "The Operating System of the Human Mind". I love the way he explains complex emotional behaviour in a logical, straightforward manner. He showed how avoiding anxiety in our grief is really a passive response to anxiety. While avoidance can be helpful in the first few months after our spouse dies, eventually we need to actively deal with our anxiety if we ever want to heal.

In tonight's post, I'll continue Dr Paul's teaching about responding to our anxiety "signal." As he already explained, anxiety is a signal that we have fears, challenges, change or risk to face, and there are only three ways to respond to anxiety. In my last post, we covered the only passive response, namely avoidance or impulsiveness. This post will look at one of the two active responses to anxiety: worry and complaining.

[pages 188-189]:

When we think destructively with anxiety, Mind OS calls that "Victim-thinking", "martyr-thinking", or masochism, where you take on a "poor me" attitude, erroneously believing that you are truly hopeless, or helpless. You worry about the future and complain without offering solutions. You regret the past, and essentially are WISHING you controlled the uncontrollable, "dumping" your anxiety into someone else's boundary.

Doing all this may seem harmless, but it is NOT. You are dumping your anxiety into someone else to let them worry about FOR you. It is childish, WIN/LOSE behavior, where you WIN relief but someone else LOSES their sense of peace, by absorbing your negative energy.

Is an adult person who walks and talks and can do adult things ever truly hopeless or helpless? NO! Never. Sure, a CHILD can't just go out and get a job, or buy a home to fix their problems, but adults CAN. To think otherwise is an illusion. When we get masochistic, victim-like beliefs about the world, it forces others to participate in the mechanics of OUR illusion. This is where anxiety connects to depression.

[pages 191-192]:

When we decide to take the destructive, immature "quick-fix" of immediate gratification, we find that others can sometimes be convenient "dumping grounds" for our complaints and worries. This happens especially if they have holes in their boundary where we can "push their buttons," shame and manipulate them into accepting our anxiety FOR us. We then "WIN" and they "LOSE."

Note that all the traits that go with playing the victim are also characteristics of nonbiological depression, and they are an illusion. We complain to the boss, we whine and moan about how helpless we are, we allow ourselves to believe there is no hope, and finally find ourselves winding into masochistic depressive thinking.

When we do this attitude long enough, people will get sick of it and turn on us, abandoning us and leaving us with even more loss than before. Complainers, whiners, moaners, and masochists attract the attention of soft-hearted friends in the short run, but tire them out and lose those friends in the long run. So a negative feedback loop occurs where we get negative momentum for our personal growth. We started to make a "mountain out of a molehill" that drives friends and solutions away...

Now you're probably reading this and thinking, "uh, HELLO!!! My spouse is DEAD. This is NOT a molehill. It is a thousand Everests!!!" And I agree. It is probably the most painful, agonizing ordeal we ever have to go through in our whole life.

Keep in mind that this ebook was not written for the bereaved, so it can come across as a bit harsh and uncaring. Yet the phenomenon of dumping our anxiety into someone else's boundary is all too common. Why do you suppose "friends" and acquaintances vanish after the funeral? They cannot deal with our immense sorrow, so they avoid us, adding to our losses.

But to grieve, we absolutely must get our feelings out by talking! We need to talk about our anxiety and fears in order to heal, but if we tell our friends, they can't deal with our hopelessness and they leave! How unfair is that? And how do we resolve this paradox?

Well, you've probably already guessed the answer: bereavement support groups. Try to find a support group like Bereaved Families of Ontario, one run by volunteers who have themselves suffered a similar loss. The primary reason to attend these groups is precisely to express your sense of "poor me," hopelessness and helplessness, worry about the future, complaints without solutions, regret about the past, and wishing you controlled the uncontrollable, all that unflattering stuff in the first quoted paragraph above. The major difference here is that support group attendees can relate to you and support you, unlike your friends and acquaintances.

You are not expecting these strangers to worry about all this stuff for you — you just want (and need) for someone to listen. You need to get your pain and frustrations out. Keeping them bottled up inside is a recipe for lifelong misery. And when you are finished talking, you can be there to listen for someone else who needs you just as much as you need them. Sitting with someone else in pain is one of the most powerful gifts you can ever give another human being. And when you give this gift to someone else, you heal yourself in return.

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