Decreasing Anxiety with Control

Anxiety is the basis for most of our behavior and ability to stay alive. We have many cues around us that govern our behavior so as to avoid danger.  The essence of this sequence is:  1)a circumstance causes anxiety; 2) we control our actions or the circumstance to alleviate the anxiety.  Simple examples are:

  • Not running a red light to avoid getting hit
  • Treating our boss with respect to avoid getting fired
  • Seeking food because you are afraid of starving
  • Cutting away from yourself with a knife to avoid hurting yourself

I realize that I am dramatically oversimplifying anxiety.  There are many subtleties.  However,  I am still choosing to consider anxiety as a “reflex” or link to behavior rather than an emotion.

Our modern world holds out the promise of happiness if we have enough of “X.”  One of the “X’s” is less anxiety.  It appears to me that there is a lot of energy spent trying to rid anxiety from our lives.  If you did this completely, you could not survive more than a few minutes.  It’s ironic that the harder we try to eliminate anxiety from our lives, the stronger it will become.  (Look at my post “White Bears” for info on the suppression of thoughts.)

Some of our control strategies are:

  • Suppression/denial
  • Rigid/structured thinking
  • Avoiding anxiety-producing situations
    • Phobias
    • Decreasing the “size” of your life
  • Direct control
    • Other people
      • Marriage
        • Control of household
        • Control of spouse
        • Control of children
        • Boss
        • Bully
          • Bullying is basically an anxiety reaction
          • Much of this behavior carries on into adulthood—just better disguised.
            • “All is fair in love and war”
            • “That’s just business”
      • Circumstances
      • Self

A universal strategy to decrease anxiety is to strive for more power and thereby increase your ability to control people and circumstances.  I don’t know what percent of high achieving people have this as their motivation versus a vision based on love and excellence. My own obsessive drive to become a top tier spine surgeon was anxiety based.  It was not until I went through a rather intense Hoffman experience that I truly changed.  Examples of ways we try to gain more power:

  • Gain Strength
    • Physical
    • Mental
    • Spiritual
    • Financial
  • More control over others
    • Intimidation
    • Guilt
    • Organizing others for your own agenda

It is not that many of the above behaviors are undesirable.  It depends on the motivation and intensity and the effect on those close around you.  If you are comfortable living with your anxieties, you do not have to work so hard to keep them at bay.  You will have a lot more energy to enjoy your life.

BF