Reverse Anxiety: Part VIIII, Who's Driving?

Anxiety Makes a bad Boss

Another way anxiety steps outside of its boundaries of protector is by grabbing the wheel of your life from you and acting as if it's Mr. T (the boss).  We all have several emotions to pick from at any given moment.  Anxiety, when it becomes toxic, knocks you over the head with a bottle and overthrows your mind.  However, as I'm certain you've experienced before, that dude's not equipped to be the driver of your life.

After my heart surgery, I couldn’t understand why my back and shoulders were hurting more than my chest.  After all, the grinder had torn through my chest cavity like a knife in warm butter (sorry, I tricked you into reading that part).  For quite some time after the surgery, people would ask how I was and I would usually reply “I’m good, except for my dang shoulders.  They hurt like crazy.”  Despite the sawing in half of my chest, the shoulders stole the show.

Finally someone who knew what the crap they were talking about said, “whatever you do to the chest, affects the back, the supporting muscles.”  Not rocket science, yet my lazy brain could never put the two together in a simple enough package for it to store (over time I've certainly earned several glitches in my brain).  

Now, armed with this new knowledge, I went to physical rehab (some 19 months after the surgery) and began working on strengthening my back muscles so they wouldn’t struggle so much picking up the slack for my weak chest.  Two years later, the pain is almost completely gone. 

Anxiety Relieved of it's Duty

The emotions of anxiety can be similar.  Typically, when one emotion suffers damage (or is in some way wounded by life events) the others can struggle even more than the originally activated emotion.  They support each other.  Like pillars on a bridge.  When one fails the others have to take on more of the load.  Anxiety, like my shoulders, likes to bring the whole bridge down.

As a therapist, one of the first things I do in a beginning session with a client is soak up their life story.  At first, I'm more of a sponge soaking up every hint of pain, anxiety, betrayal, unforgiveness they feel comfortable enough to share with me.  There are many reasons I do this.  But a relevant one in our discussion of anxiety is that as they’re inviting me into their story, like one of those strange metal detector guys waving his detector thing over fresh soil, I get an opportunity to encounter what's just beneath the surface, disturbing the topsoil of a person’s life.  And usually what I find beneath the surface of anxiety is anger, betrayal, unforgiveness, unresolved grief, confusion, defensiveness, trauma, shame, guilt, etc..

Over time, I’ve found that after emotions like grief, anger or shame are uncovered and worked through, anxiety oftentimes loses its grip on a person’s life and becomes “old news...something I used to struggle with.”  By relieving the tension on other emotions, the pressure is taken off of anxiety to perform as leader.  Essentially, getting help for the other emotions, you are firing anxiety as boss and putting him back into his proper role…protector.  Not boss.  Your decisions, your behaviors are no longer driven by unhealed emotions.  And, you, the real you can lead again...


(The information included on this site/article is not an attempt to provide counseling/therapy or any other form of professional treatment, not even a bit.  In no way is it intended or implied to substitute counseling/therapy or any other professional services.  Also, while the content of this site/ article could be based off real life circumstances, people (clients), names and situations have been changed to protect the identity/confidentiality of the person.  Each client has also signed a release to allow the therapist to write about their situation for educational [not therapy] purposes only.  If you need professional help, and/or have mental health questions, by golly, seek out a professional and your family deserve it! )