Do you have a particular worry that has somehow become a “Thing”? One of my “Things” has to do with getting my picture taken. I don’t remember exactly when it started. I do remember loving to go through our family’s photo albums and seeing all of the goofy pictures of my parents from before I was even a glimmer in their eyes 😉and I even liked looking at the pictures of myself when I was little. Somewhere along the line, though, I decided that I didn’t like having my picture taken. Maybe I went through a stage where I was self-conscious, maybe I overheard someone make a comment about a particular picture, maybe my own inner critic was the one whispering judgments in my ear. Wherever and whenever it started, my dislike of posing for and seeing myself in pictures grew into a “Thing”.
Anxiety likes to take our content (the things that bother us or get our attention…the things that have meaning for us) and use it against us. Remember that Anxiety’s job is to protect us and it will go all CIA psychological warfare on us when it thinks that we may be going outside of the comfort (safe) zone! For me Anxiety thinks that keeping me in the shadows and out of the “pictures” is the way to keep me safe….so having my picture taken became a “Thing”.
Here’s the thing about “Things”. We can know in our “logical” mind that our thoughts about our “Thing” are illogical ("it’s just a fucking picture, who cares” 🙄), others can reassure us until the cows come home (“OMG, you look so beautiful, what a great picture” 😳), and we might even have a part of ourselves that kind of wants to be in the spotlight (as long as we can be assured or “make sure" that all of the pictures will only show off our “best side” 😬). For those of us with Overactive Anxiety, none of the logical thoughts or reassurances from others or even our own desire to do something may be enough to demote the “Thing” from big, bad, and scary back to just a “thing" that we can do with ease.
Are you relating here? What is your “thing"? What is a “thing” with your loved one that drives you nuts? Those of us who deal with Overactive Anxiety know that “things” can be pretty tough to deal with. Some people have a “Thing” around dogs, or going to school, or driving on the highway. Others may have a “Thing” around spiders, or cleanliness, or an inability to make a decision. Sometimes the “Thing” keeps us from living our lives fully. It keeps us busy paying attention to or avoiding the “Thing” and that keeps us from fully engaging in our work, play, or social situations.
Yeah, so my “Thing” with getting my picture taken isn’t huge. I’ve found ways around it at times, like creating Auntie Anxiety and using my logo picture for advertising purposes AND I decided that I wasn’t going to let my “Thing” (which is really Anxiety in disguise) get the better of me. So what did I do? I met my “Thing” head on and I got my picture taken. And then I did things like Facebook Lives and even Selfies on Instagram and Facebook.
So what do we do to deal with the “Things” in our lives? We expose ourselves to them. Yep, there is no magic wand or fairy dust folks! You decide that the “Thing” is only a “Thing” because Anxiety has convinced you of such and then you decide to do the “Thing” over, and over, and over again, until it goes from being a “Thing” to just being a “thing”.
A better story about dealing with a “Thing” would be my Mouse story. The short version is that my mom had a phobia about mice (her “Thing”). I know where it came from. She was the oldest and her younger sisters knew she didn’t like mice and rats, so they would catch them and put them in the feed bin (they grew up on a dairy farm) and then stand back and watch my mom “freak out” when she put her hand in and found the “surprise” inside 😳
Growing up I remember sitting on the kitchen table with my mom until my dad came home because she was afraid of the mouse that had come in by the dishwasher. So whether it was my own fear of mice or I picked it up environmentally, mice became my “Thing”. Fortunately my dad was always around to take care of the little critters. That is until I lived on my own. My journey toward dealing with my “Thing” about mice started when I lived in an old apartment and over one week at Christmas time we caught 13 mice (a family that had taken up residence in our kitchen) 😬. When I say “we”I really mean my father, brother, my roommate’s father and brother, and at least two of our male neighbors and friends 🙄. I stayed out of the kitchen that week. The living room seemed like a good place to hang out and make phone calls when I would hear the trap snap 😳
Fast forward to me buying my first house, finding the pantry to be party central for mice, and having a heart to heart with my Anxiety when I finally decided that I was a Big Girl and that calling my daddy every time I found a mouse in my house seemed over the top ridiculous. If I could own a house, I could figure out how to deal with my mouse “Thing”! So I got started. I bought a plastic trap so I wouldn’t snap my own fingers in it (OK, truth be told I started with having a conversation with the mice about how I was totally cool with them living outside, but that they just were not welcome inside…), and put peanut butter on the trap. When I came home that day it took me at least an hour to decide to look in the panty. Yep, there was a mouse in the trap. It probably took me another hour to decide I was ready to deal with it. I think the first trap ended up in the trash along with the mouse (there was a thick plastic bag involved in the picking up of the mouse and trap). At some point buying new traps got expensive, so I finally dealt with picking up the trap and just letting the mouse drop into the bag. Eventually (there were a lot of mice who wanted to party in my pantry until I met my husband and he figured out how to insulate it better!) my mouse “Thing” was reduced to just and annoying “thing” that I had to deal with every once in awhile.
On some level I appreciate all of the mice who sacrificed themselves by not listening to my plea to just live outside. They helped me to deal with my “Thing”. Do I still do a little dance (which is sometimes accompanied by a little bit of a scream) if a mouse comes within a 10 foot radius of me? Yep. Am I thrilled that my 15 year old car has, on occasion, been party central for our woodland mice when it is cold (and my daughter has left food in the car)? Nope. I don’t have to like mice, I just have to deal with them so that they are no longer a “Thing” that gets in my way of living my life on my terms 😊
What is one “Thing” that you are ready to demote to just a “thing” in your life? You can do this! You don’t have to like it and it will be uncomfortable AND you can have a heart to heart with your Anxiety and start taking the steps to demote your “Thing” back to just a “thing” 😍😘
The voice behind Auntie Anxiety is Lynn Dutrow, Courage Coach and Counselor