A talent is formed in stillness, a character in the world’s torrent.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Freda’s tired of Freddy’s “I’m going to lose everything” mood.” Yes, he could be laid off. But, he hasn’t been. Freda’s tired of Freddy’s watching TV and soothing himself with beer, chips and ice cream. She’s tired of being a single mother and going to bed alone. So, she told him –
Freda: “This moodiness has to stop. It feels like you’re preparing to be hung.”
Freddy: “Would you be happy with the sword of Damocles hanging over your head? It’s like waiting for a hurricane to hit.”
Freda: You haven’t lost your job. You’ll find another one if you do. Your supervisor likes you and he’ll write a good letter of reference.
Freddy: “It might not be that easy. What will happen if my money stops coming in? How will you feel about me then?
Freda: “We’ll adjust. We love you. Besides, I’m still working.”
Freddy: “I love you too. It just feels so damnably humiliating.”
Freda: Let’s stay focused on what’s actually happening now. You could work on your resume and see who’s hiring engineers. And, you could talk with Dr. Jones about medication to lower your anxiety.
Freddy: “Thanks. I’m sorry. I know I’m overreacting.”
Freda: It’s okay. Let’s relax and have some fun tonight.
Our imaginary couple, Freddy and Freda, are beginning to talk things out and Freddy is feeling more hopeful. Medication can help move him out of immobilizing fear and so can support from encouraging family and friends.
Anxiety is part of life from birth to death and support is needed from birth to death. Infants fear separation. Children fear abandonment and punishment. Adults fear failure. In our advanced years we fear abandonment and death.
Brain research is uncovering new ways of handling anxiety and rediscovering old ways. For example, compassion, touch, meditation, and prayer have soothed people’s minds for millennia.
Focusing inward with breathing exercises can calm the limbic system and stimulate the executive part of the brain. Yoga has helped many people. Oxytocin, the feel good hormone, seems to reward people who maintain good social bonds. Exercise allows the body to better handle increased stress hormones. Medication and psychotherapy can help with anxiety, panic, depression, and other psychiatric disorders.
So, in psychotherapy, I review with my “Freddies” how they can better handle the threat of a job loss. Drinking bourbon, eating chocolate chip ice cream, and zoning out with the TV, although understandable, are not a recommended stress reduction routine. Therefore, I talk with my “Freddies” about the dangers of abusive drinking, junk foods, and watching negative TV shows. A little alcohol can help the body relax and positive, humorous, TV shows can be up lifting. But, more than a beer an hour might work as a depressant, and violent, conflictual, TV shows stimulate anxiety and depression.
In psychotherapy, my “Freddies” learn to monitor their thoughts and replace self-defeating thoughts with positive ones. “Freddies” can refocus to the positive truth about today. Psychotherapy can also be used to deal with past trauma when past anxiety is flowing into a current stressful situation that appears, on the surface, to be similar.
My “Freddies” can decide to eat nutritionally, exercise, snuggle with their “Fredas”, and practice their religion. Good nutrition gives bodies the fuel they need. Exercise results in more alertness and energy. Snuggling fills emotionally, and a religious community can encouragement. Religious practices can help “Freddies” feel love, strength, and guidance from God (higher power).
So, can “Freddies be fixed? Of course they can. Attitude and habits determine “Freddies” level of contentment and inner peace. My “Freddies” do best when they strive to be –
Thankful. Appreciate the incredible opportunity to live, love, and explore. Celebrate love, beauty, truth, opportunities, and accomplishments.
Encouraging. Courageously follow your interests, experiment, and consider failure a part of learning. Encourage others to do the same. You’ll feel more alive.
Peaceful. It’s easier to be close to calm, peaceful, people. You’ll feel more appreciation and love.
Forgiving. Let go of resentment and anger; make it easy for people to relax and get close to you. You’ll feel less weighed down; you’ll have more energy.
Compassionate. Feel yourself in another’s position and respond with kindness. You’ll have gratitude and help when you need it.
Generous. Consider sacrificial giving a part of loving others. It’s the only way to build a loving family; a loving community.
Mindful. Slow down, be aware, of how you’re relating to yourself, others, nature, and God (higher power). You’ll respond more realistically.
Playful. See the humor in life; don’t take yourself too seriously. You’ll live a longer, happier, life
Realistic. Life is what it is; people are what they are. You’ll have better outcomes if you accept this and not try to change people. Make realistic decisions about when to give, receive, compromise, and set limits.
Courageous. Accept that something worthwhile is learned in the struggles of life. The heroes in our stories are better persons as a result of the challenges in their heroic journey. They’re tired and weary but they’ve learned from their experience.
My primary message is don’t let anxiety rob you. Prepare for difficult times by being a helpful, positive person – then you won’t be alone when Damocles sword is threatening your position. Family and friends will be with you. You’re a person who’s valued and loved.
Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. Helen Keller.