Hello, Anxiety. Who are you exactly?

I read an article recently that suggested that when anxiety appears, you have a conversation with it.  Being the eager guinea pig that I am, I decided to give it a try and it was really helpful.  At the risk of revealing my inner crazy, I’m sharing it here.

Me:  I think there are two voices here.  The first is the Judgmental Older Sister.  You obviously need to go first. 

Judgmental Older Sister:  You know when all of this ends badly? I’m going to say I told you so.  I’m going to look at you with disgust and remind you that you knew better.  I’m going to be sorry for you that you are hurting, but I’ll remind you that you could have avoided the pain if you only did the smart thing. 

Disclosure: I have two older sisters and, for the record, neither of them talk in the voice of the judgmental older sister.  It’s just the way I picture this particular voice. Love you, sistas!

Me:  I think what I am unsure about is how will I know when it’s time to REALLY let go?  And will I be able to do it?  That’s the deep essence of my hesitation.  I am not sure about that.  I guess I can say this.  I knew when it was time to let go of my marriage.  And I was able to do it.  Why the hell would that not give me all kinds of confidence about this?  I just made it through the divorce finalization which was hell.  I did it.  I made the decisions that got me through it.  I did it with my eyes wide open.  It wasn’t perfect but it was pretty damn good.  So how can I be unqualified for this?  I  AM smart.  It doesn’t mean I always do the smart thing, because who even knows what that is?  Certainly not me.  I spent a long time doing the “smart” things and it was totally stupid.  It was my best, but if I had to do it over again, I would totally do it differently.  So I’m not looking for the smart thing anymore.  I’m looking for the precise thing.  That’s all I can do. Because smart is too subjective.  It’s too hard to call.  So, Judgmental Older Sister—you are ego personified.  Ego is the real fear—that I’m going to look or feel stupid.  That’s the worst case scenario.  I can handle that.  I do stupid things all the time.  Let it roll.  I can get through that.  Okay, let’s hear from the second voice.

Fear-of-Pain: I just don’t want us to hurt anymore.  Haven’t we been through enough?

Me:  You mean well.  You really do.  I get where you’re coming from.  Pain sucks.  It hurts.  Sometimes it comes and stays a while.  It makes me cry in front of people which can feel awkward.  It makes doing little things seem hard.   But it’s also where all the growth is.  And avoiding the right thing or the true thing to avoid pain never works because pain is there either way.  Pain shows up in the avoiding and it shows up in the embrace.  Pain is on either side of the equation.  It doesn’t matter how you solve it, pain will be there in some measure.  So, my dear Fear-of-Pain voice, you can be present, because, you’re right—pain hurts.  But you can’t drive the car.  You can’t run the show because pain is coming along too, at least for part of the trip, and we have to make room. 

Then I wondered… could I have a dance party with Judgmental Older Sister and Fear-of-Pain?  Is that possible? Does Judgmental Older Sister dance?  She can sit on the side and watch with mild loathing.  Fear-of-Pain will probably only safely sway in the background.  It’s okay—I will dance for all of us.

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