For many years, one of my areas of specialty has been anxiety disorders. I have spent over two decades educating clients and students alike on the ins and outs of the signals and triggers of anxiety. I've found that through education and practical explanation, many of the common daily symptoms of generalized anxiety subside by demystifying the mischievous miscreant of the mind.
I explain that anxiety is merely a signal of conflict lurking beneath the surface, insistently tapping on the door of our psyche, demanding to be acknowledged. The more we turn him away, the louder his knocks and the more frequent and intrusive his visits...
Be warned that eventually he'll pound the door down with a heart-racing panic and likely over stay his welcome!
Prevention or Reparation?
I have always reminded my clients that the key to a crisis-free life is prevention. (After all, there's a reason we clear fire roads before fire season). That means paying attention to the signals and cautionary warnings when conflict is afoot. However, it requires self-awareness, presence and a pinch of self-control to heed the warnings life offers us...
Much like the warning lights on a car dashboard, our essential task is to pay attention immediately and take every sign as a helpful hint for some necessary trouble shooting.
No one should presume the oil isn't running low or the check engine light faulty just because you don't hear a knocking sound under the hood and no steam spewing from the radiator!
It might be a raging temper, a nasty outbreak of hives or a panic attack that unceremoniously sends you to the ER... no matter what your conflict - it's all preventable!
It's merely a matter of knowing thyself. Like developing the tolerance to manage agitation before it swells into a storming gale of rage. The patience to quietly listen to your partner as they mirror your misgivings and foibles, or risk the wrath of their frustrated outburst. Their curt retorts are but flashing lights on the marital dashboard!
Learning to drive in England in the late 70's, I will never forget my strict instructor's admonishment to first check the mirror, then make my signal and only when safe, make my move. How profound that so many of life's challenges and conflicts might be addressed through this sacred sequence...
So here's my 3-step instruction for those of you behind the wheel of life's strife:
- When conflict strikes - first look in the mirror. What is being triggered deep inside that has you so upset, hurt or agitated?
- What are the signals of conflict that you've been overlooking that demand your attention and care? Go there first. Be willing to look under your own hood and be prepared for grime and debris awaiting you.
- Once you've safely regained control of the wheel, move gently into traffic, but keep to your own lane!
If you're willing to follow these 3 steps to an accountable self, there is no fight, disagreement or misunderstanding that can derail you.
It also couldn't hurt to pay attention to the way you're driving... just saying!