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Friday, May 26, 2017

Relationships & Anxiety

Written by  Janan Broadbent, Ph.D.

We’re in the middle of growing anxiety and despair not only in our culture, but also in the world. Climate change issues loom over the horizon. Globalization creates economic insecurity in people. Polarization pulls people and groups apart. Social media keep us in touch instantaneously with all parts of the universe. Cultural and ethical norms change. There are numerous political developments that affect everyone, and more so with minority groups like the LGBTQ.

So how do you maintain yourself and your relationships amidst all this? We may create a bubble to keep the swirl out but it is impossible to make that in a size that shields us totally.

One can deal with events outside of one’s control in at least two different ways. One, you can look at all the negatives, feel out of control and depressed, and assume that “learned helplessness” posture. That will not provide you, as a person, or you with your partner, on to a path of happiness.

Two, you can accept that there are things you can’t control, but zero on what you can direct, take responsibility and move your life and your relationships to a positive place. We all need a certain level of power over what happens to us. That need may meet an obstacle when it involves another person. Do you feel anxious if you are not in a relationship? Do you feel pressure or even disapproval that you are single? Choose the positive path, think of the millions who are, look at this as a temporary phase and find all the positives in it. You can get up when you want! You can set all of the rules in your household! Have at it!

On the other hand, what about anxiety when you are in a relationship? Worrying about loyalty? Partner’s happiness with you? Partner not acting the way you expected? Irritating habits you have to live with? (She chews with her mouth open! Yes, I’ve heard that…) Then again, you have the choice of focusing your attention on what you derive out of that relationship to deal with the anxieties. A hand to hold when you feel down? Someone to share good and bad stuff with? Companionship, listening to music, on a snow day? At the beach?

Anxiety is the body and mind’s way to signal to us that there is a perception of some kind of danger, to the self and to survival. Use it as a red flag to do some self-exploration, to understand what is giving you that out-of-sorts feeling. Then take it by the horn and confront the fear, because more than likely, fear lies at the root of it. Fear of being rejected, of not being good enough, of making a mistake, of the self being damaged. Except we do have the capability to survive all mishaps. I think of the Japanese proverb: Fall down seven times, get up eight times. You are resilient…

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