Certainty is the cage that keeps us safe from curiosity. I've been released from the cage. I am the songbird and I am flying for the window. I know it's closed but I plan on breaking through. – Charlie Coté, Jr. (1987-2005)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Anxious, Anxious, Anxious

Americans are anxious, not because of the economy or work stress, but for the following three reasons, or so says Taylor Clark in a article at Slate, and I'd have to agree given the trends I've seen in my practice:

1. Loss of community:

We spend less time in face-to-face interaction and more time in front of plasma displays, creating a second rate substitute for real relationship. People feel more isolated than ever. Here I am, on my computer, telling you that we're all more anxious and should be chatting over coffee, decaf of course, because the high test stuff would get on our nerves.

2. Information Overload:

For instance, I've spent hours today combing the Internet for something newsworthy to share but the choices are staggering. Facebook feeds, Google Reader, The Times, Network News, professional journals, Slate, Salon, etc... I get stressed out deciding what to pass along and wonder if it's even worth it. If I'm bombarded, then so are you, and why should I ask you to read something more? Well, because I think you might be anxious and I'd like to ease your mind, which is to say that I'm anxious and write this down to ease my own. Misery loves company, eh?

Which leads us to the real culprit.

3. Our Intolerant Attitude Toward Negative Feelings:

This is what I address every day with the anxious folks I see in my clinical practice who feel so uncomfortable when their just right feeling goes away that they'll do just about anything to get it back, no matter how irrational. I focus on the mindfulness concept of radical acceptance. Anxious feelings are often reinforced by our efforts to avoid them, so much of what I teach involves learning how to tolerate distress.

Of all the articles I read today -- how to improve memory, America's real interest in Bahrain, Rush Limbaugh's tirade against the Wisconsin protesters, villains cast as good guys, low SAT scores for states without collective bargaining, former football players dying plea for brain research, the deficit debate -- I found this to be the most stress relieving. I particularly liked this quote:

Psychologist Steven Hayes, creator of a highly effective anxiety treatment formula called acceptance and commitment therapy, told me that we've fallen victim to "feel-goodism," the false idea that "bad" feelings ought to be annihilated, controlled, or erased by a pill.
I'm interested in Hayes anxiety treatment formula so might blog on that next. Until then, breathe, relax, and talk to a friend, in person.


Or you could watch Mel Brook's High Anxiety.

1 comment:

Kat said...

Charlie, I loved reading this. I too feel these same pressures and see them around me. I like that you put the community reason first. I've been doing a lot of thinking about that particular subject. It's almost like we want a community that is too big to handle (global community), so we retreat and have a lack of "real" community...

Anyway, thank you for sharing! I didn't know you had a blog. They're so much fun. I read a couple friend's blogs, and I want to start one with my family, since so many live so far away.

I hope you're having a wonderful day!

Kat Colmer