What role do your family play in your anxiety disorder?
With respect to our families, there are an unlimited number of ways that they can help us overcome anxiety and an equally high number of ways that they may (knowingly) or unknowingly perpetuate, or even fuel our anxiety. Their actions tend to fall into a few main categories:
Do they suffer from anxiety themselves? Therefore;
- Try to protect you from things that actually make them anxious.
- Do they make big issues out of small things.
- Have they unknowingly ‘trained’ you to be anxious?
Does your anxiety frustrate them? Therefore;
- They may get angry and shout at you
- They may try to control you and tell you what to do
- You feel guilty about making them angry and try to hide it from them
- Does their discomfort make your anxiety worse?
Are they just ignorant as to how anxiety feels? Therefore;
- They don’t take you seriously
- They give you silly advice like “It’ll be fine.”
- They joke about your anxious feelings and controlling behavioural responses
Are they overly caring and protective? Therefore;
- They mollycoddle you and try to do things for you
- They try to ‘protect’ you by not telling you certain things
- They sacrifice their needs to help you (making you feel guilty)
Are you a parent? Therefore;
- You are afraid that your children will adopt your irrational fears
- You feel guilty that there are some things you can’t do with your children
- They can push your buttons to get their way (or just annoy you)
There are many configurations, however, only one truth – you have the anxiety, you need to change it, you need to control your own life, you need to do this for yourself, not them!
We all handle anxiety & depression differently
When you are ready to overcome feelings of anxiety and depression, one of the most important lessons to learn is “We are not all the same!” Often, it is because of the ways that some people treated us as we grew up or the beliefs we (currently) have about what we should (or shouldn’t) do, that have us feeling trapped!
We need to step away from thinking that everybody else has got life right and knows what to do – we have worked with enough clients who on the surface look happy and contented, yet beneath it all are miserable and seem to make themselves feel (superficially) better by telling everybody else what to do!
What works for one person may not work for you, you are an individual and need to live your life in a way that is aligned with who you really are once you can see this many new doors begin to open.
Treating yourself in effective new ways
So, when it comes to your family (except children) how they behave, what they say, what they do, is up to them and not necessarily you! You may not agree with them and you may need to put up some boundaries to protect yourself, however, with respect to anxiety, it is of paramount importance that you begin to do what is right for you – not them.
We call this period of inner reflection being “selflessly selfish” it is a time where you find out who you really are, and how you would like to be in this world. This is important because once you have recovered from anxiety it will probably come back again in the future – unless you are thinking, behaving and communicating in new ways that are more appropriate to who you really are.
Your beliefs about who you are, what you want, that which you can and can’t do – all need to be updated and enhanced with new strategies and helpful advice which enable you to be yourself and let your family members be themselves. You can love a person without agreeing with them and you can listen to a family member without having to agree (or react) with them.