Making a choice and being committed to it can lead to incapacitating anxiety. Some avoid going to a job interview. “What if I don’t get the job?” Some avoid flying because something highly improbable might take down their plane. Or, so they say. There is another way of looking at anxiety.
People who are secure have little anxiety. They regard improbable risks as not worth thinking about. When they make decisions, they know people they depend on will be supportive. This lets them get on with their lives. But an insecure person needs proof that the bad things they imagine cannot happen. Instead of taking action, they wait for their proof. But is uncertainty the real problem?
We humans need relationships. When people we depend on are supportive only when we follow their agenda, acting in our own best interest puts us at interpersonal risk. Psychiatrist James Masterson believed many of us give up living on our own terms because we fear others will criticize us, withdraw from us, or abandon us. Since we need people, it is difficult to face down emotional blackmail from people who are important to us.
This conflict between living on our own terms and having the approval of others led Masterson to write a book called The Search For The Real Self. If we can’t move forward because of interpersonal conflict, we may pretend it is due to lack of certainty.
I’d like to point you to an article by Jonathan Alpert, the author of Be Fearless: Change Your life in 28 Days. He points out the need to have a clear vision of what we want, and dare to carry it out, even if it is different from the agenda others have for us. It isn’t easy. These feelings can be intense; Masterson said when the going gets tough, the weak unconsciously cover up their distress, often by some form of socializing. Socializing can be calming. But going for calming when we need to be going for our goals, is a trap. Alpert writes, “Don’t socialize until you have finished all your tasks for the day.”
What would it be like to grow up in a family where others support – rather than squelch – your true self? When the real self is supported and real feelings are shared, the family is an emotionally and physically safe to grow up. Fears and anxieties are a normal part of life, and in a family that recognizes that, dealing with – and regulating – these feelings is a lot easier. When that isn’t how things work out, we need to learn on our own how to find our genuine identity and how to regulate our fears and anxieties.
If anxiety about flying is a problem, get a copy of my brand new book, SOAR, The Breakthrough Treatment for Fear of Flying. While you are at it, also get the free app at http://www.fearofflying.com/app