A symptom of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is jumping from one bleak thought into depression about everything, e.g., one error leads to the thought that I am worthless, which leads to thinking about all the mistakes I’ve made, which leads to how utterly hopeless I am, which leads to the whole world sucks and nothing will ever get better.
Some GAD sufferers benefit from medication to help with brain chemistry, some, the listening ear of a good counselor or coach, and all, an EGAD (Eradicate GAD plan). My Egad goes like this:
- Egad! I’m in a hole again.
- Quick, change the soundtrack in my head.
- Think about my heroes who changed things by first remembering that nothing is permanent.
- Alexa, play “You Better Think” by Aretha Franklin, “I Can See Clearly Now” by Johnny Nash, or “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by IZ.
- Now, have a good laugh at how serious I am taking myself.
Hmmmm, which is better? To freak-out over my concerns or to keep it simple?
What if…? WTF? How will I make it? Why am I such a loser? Who do they think they are? Why is this happening to me? What am I going to do?
I’m going to do the best I can with what I have, trusting that all will work out, breathing the oxygen that miraculously feeds my trillion cells (while traveling through the Universe at one-thousand MPH on a planet made of hot molten lava).
When confronted with injustice and tragedy, (which is a frequent event if we keep up with the news)
Do not merely ask, “Who could do such a thing?”
Also ask, “Help me recognize the depth of pain, loneliness, and anger in humans who think of doing such things.”
Do not merely ask, “How could something so terrible have happened?”
Also ask, “How can I be more in touch with the painful, tragic things that are happening in people’s lives all over the world, right now.”
Do not merely ask, “How can I physically protect myself and my family from this evil?”
Also ask, “How can I psychologically shield myself and others from despair and live a courageous life in spite of tragedy?”
The car is totally out of control on icy roads, wrecking into things, gaining speed, fish-tailing on the edge of dangerous cliffs. As I am being thrown around the car, I am astounded that the driver is allowing this chaos by not even attempting to steer!
Then, horrified, I realize that the focus of my disbelief is sitting in the backseat! I am in the driver’s seat! It has been me, all along, who has abandoned the steering wheel and gotten us into this mess!
I don’t need a psychiatrist to interpret the dream. My subconscious is screaming, “Wake up, quit blaming others for your stress, and take responsibility.”
(Photo courtesy of Mental Floss. Click on photo for link to 12 Common Dreams and What They Supposedly Mean)
Next stop for me: apology…to my “passengers.”
If I could buy an automatic filter that would not only clean the air, but also remove all of the harmful things I think, say, and do, how different my life would be! I would…
- Think more clearly
- Sleep better at night
- Become a stronger and kinder person
- Be happier
- Be less competitive, jealous, or angry
- Have more peace and patience
- Be more productive
- Play better tennis 🙂
Since this miracle “filter” doesn’t exist, my job is to create a routine for myself that functions as the “filter.” It may be a lifetime project, but so far my filter consists of:
- Setting an intention of radical self-improvement and contribution
- Daily meditation and prayer
- Reading and learning from others
- Honest, on-going evaluation
- Owning my mistakes quickly
A small price to pay for all the benefits.
When things don’t go right, go left is good advice but I must do it quickly; move to plan B before I have time to fret, fear, or flounder. Otherwise, I will bog down from the weight of all the disappointment and frustration.
Like this morning, when things started to crumble around me, I couldn’t even get a foothold to change my direction in the onslaught of minutia and miscommunication; redoing my work, spending twice as much time and effort with nothing to show for it in the end. So, I just had to stop, quit taking myself so seriously, and trust that who I was in the moment would be more important in the long run than anything I might accomplish.
It was an anxiety-erasing, temper-soothing directional change. Thanks Lemony Snicket.
I caught myself today worrying about how others perceived me…at the dentist! Really? What a waste of time; time that I could have spent:
- Making a difference
- Viewing others with compassion and interest
- Concentrating on my work
- Remembering my value…which is not dependent on someone else’s appraisal or evaluation
Although I wish I hadn’t slipped into the temporary “insanity” driven by an overactive ego, I am thrilled that I caught myself in the act! That’s progress! In the past, I would have been unaware of my inner dialog and ended the day wondering why I was:
C. Angry, or
With just a little awareness, I can stop the slide into those states before it is too late, while there is time to bail.
That erroneous theory (that began driving so many of our weird behaviors as early as elementary school)?
The theory that we are more screwed up than everyone else.
By the time I finished kindergarten, I had an elaborate web of lies to hide behind. Fear of being found out to be not as smart, good, strong, worthy, loved, rich, talented, endowed, worldly-wise, attractive, or normal as everyone else appeared to be.
I didn’t start the process of letting myself out of this dungeon until I completely owned my humanity and became vulnerable enough about it that others started letting me see the reflection of it in them.
That’s freedom. No apologies. No pretention. Just being who I am, on the road to improvement.
In Father Joe: The Man Who Saved My Soul, a Benedictine monk expounded on the ancient concept of the “prison of self” to help Tony Hendra escape from his mental anguish. It was a timely reminder for me. When I am stuck in the prison of my…
- self pity
- self criticism
- self flagellations
- self centeredness
- self aggrandizements
- self absorption
- self despair and/or confusion
I can remind myself to take the key out of my pocket, let myself out, then pick up the remote and change the channel.
Free at last!
By the way, humor is a good place to start. Check out the scientific research on Barking Up the Wrong Tree Blog…