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Anxiety 1: An Ally - The Glue That Connects You to Others

» Mental Health Library » Disorders & Conditions » Generalized Anxiety Disorder » Featured Article

By: Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

Just the thought of being anxious is enough to make you anxious! Who wants the worry, the knots in the stomach, the obsessive thoughts of impending doom and the urgency that compels you to try and prevent it?   Perhaps no one consciously chooses to be anxious, but it may be better than the alternatives that may come to take its place.

When making and maintaining relationships is a strain, anxiety can be a way of allowing yourself to reach out and be connected to another person. It provides the impetus for you to ask for support, comfort, company and acceptance. So it gives you the opportunity to check if you are lovable, worth being with, and worthy of being taken care of. This may be a learned pattern of attachment from your early years. If you got attention from parents and caregivers when ever you became fretful, anxious and panicked, it is likely that you discovered anxiety to act as a powerful glue to get needed contact from significant others. Anxiety about pushing away loved ones just by being true to yourself can also be a problem. The anxiety then acts like a magnet drawing back the same people you think you threw away when you feel ignored or not approved of if you choose to deviate from the path your loved ones expect of you. In other words, anxiety is a way of regulating the intimacy of your contact with loved ones. When you feel too far away from your loved ones, anxiety comes to the rescue, giving you the surge to get back in touch. When the need for closeness has been met, and you pull away again, it only feels good for a short while. As soon as the need for closeness recurs, anxiety is a sure fire way of getting it back for just long enough to reduce the fear of being alone.

Jody was a loner, loved to read and listen to music, and had minimal contact with people except when it was necessary such as while she was at work. She woke up most mornings burdened with the weight of the day ahead. She felt tired and worn out even before she began the day, anticipating what people might think of her, concerned with who was looking over her shoulder to catch her doing something wrong, and expecting to encounter situations that she wouldn’t be able to handle. Often her anxiety about being caught and punished for upsetting someone in the past was whipped up into such a frenzy that she couldn’t contain herself. She became so debilitated with worry that it became a matter of life or death. At these moments she called friends and talked, or made contact via instant messaging on the Internet. The words that her friends or contacts spoke were less important than their willingness to be there, listen, attempt to soothe and make Jody feel she mattered. Jody was able to allow herself this connection because it came at a time of dire need. As soon as she felt calmer, her need for contact would diminish and she would go back to her lonely existence.

For Jody, genuine closeness and intimacy was terrifying. It meant that she would have to give and get, see and be seen, and be in an equal partnership. This was too scary, so she used her anxiety as a way of making just enough connection with others to satisfy her basic human needs. But she was receiving and not giving. She didn’t have to be responsible for an equal partnership - the thing she feared most of all.

Jody was caught in a cycle of wanting contact but not being able to tolerate it for more than a short time. She was willing to accept the pulling toward her and the pushing away of people as and when her needs dictated, rather than take the enormous step of learning what made intimacy so difficult for her to digest. She allowed herself to be ruled by her anxiety as it was easier than self-awareness and making a fresh start on discovering the joys and sorrows of genuinely meaningful connections - those that allow the individuals within to be sufficient as they are, while at the same time enriching life with the deeper treasures of being touched and touching others through desire and love rather than fear and dread.

If you find yourself getting anxious every time you want to do something that you think may be disapproved of, ask yourself what you are really afraid of. All the meditation and relaxation techniques in the world will not help if your anxiety is your glue to connection with other people. Exploring the origins of your anxiety and what purpose it is serving will be the biggest gift you give yourself, and the first step you take towards a less anxious existence.

About the Author...

Dr. Jeanette Raymond is a licensed psychologist and psychotherapist. She has a doctorate in clinical psychology and a masters degree in child, adolescent and educational psychology. She has 20 years experience working with adults, couples, adolescents, children and families. She is the author of 2 books for teachers in the UK.

Dr. Raymond believes that the most important relationship you have is with yourself. She sets the stage for you to begin taking care of your most precious gift and ally - yourself. When you can do that, all else falls into place.

Her specialties include distress that shows itself in the body, feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled, fear of intimacy and loss, anxiety, eating disorders, and self-sabotage. If you mask your unhappiness with food, alcohol, drugs, or sex you abandon yourself. If you try to control it by working all hours, with excessive exercise, being busy, cleaning, and over-achieving you are ignoring yourself. Dr. Raymond helps you speak the turmoil that makes you want to go numb, and helps you find the fertile soil to plant your true seeds and flourish.

Dr. Raymond helps parents and children understand one another, and provides adult couples with a platform for having their conversations out loud rather than silently in their individual heads.

Dr. Raymond runs groups and conducts workshops on dream interpretation. She enables individuals to find their voice so that their bodies don't have to speak with back pain, gastric complaints, hair loss, skin breakouts, panic attacks and sleep disturbances. While emotional wounds can debilitate and prevent you from living a full life, Dr. Raymond collaborates with couples, family members and individuals to gain strength from it. She offers the opportunity to rewrite the internal dialogue that may be self-sabotaging and putting obstacles in the way of having meaningful relationships. She honors you and teaches you to honor yourself in a non-threatening environment, allowing you to unfold.

Click here to contact or learn more about Jeanette Raymond

Last Update: 3/10/2008

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