Social Anxiety – linked to fast-paced living?
Social Anxiety? How does it develop?
Example: Imagine a child admonished for his behaviour. Any associated anxiety is uncomfortable but with adequate parenting, he develops sufficient strength to survive. His actions are separated from who he is and he continues to feel loved despite reasonable levels of anxiety. What if he was unable to sufficiently tolerate his distress and tries to distract himself from experiencing any anxiety? In other words, he ‘does’ something rather than ‘experiencing’ and surviving his discomfort. If successful, distraction by ‘doing something else’ then becomes a valuable strategy in managing anxiety.
Do strategies learnt early in our lives set the pattern for ‘doing’ or ‘overdoing’ to avoid experiencing anxiety? Might those strategies actually increase our anxiety, become a more debilitating anxiety disorder? Might it become more intense and present as panic attacks? Anxiety is often considered negative but what if it has the power inform us of what is or is not working in our lives?
As a psychologist, I see many clients saying how busy they are and how little time they have for the things they really want to do. Without generalising, I believe our ‘busy-ness’ results from a fundamental splitting within ourselves, in the main between ‘being’ and ‘doing’. I use the term ‘splitting’ in a more existential way as a tendency to focus more on one aspect of being than another. This results in attempts to alleviate the anxiety that inevitably results from living.
This might seem a simplistic interpretation of our societal tendency to ‘overdo it’. What if it held the key to why we find it so hard to develop fulfilled lives? Distraction and ‘doing’ things distances us from listening to ourselves. We then apply more logic and planning applied to achieve satisfaction rather than listening to our true desires. This leads to imbalance in our lives with limited ability to survive our existential anxiety – the anxiety that results when we take real responsibility for our lives – especially if it involves choices contrary to the norm.
Self Reflection Exercise
How do you respond to feeling anxious? Do you look to your current situation to inform you about its source? Do you avoid anxiety by becoming busy or do you take time out to reflect on its meaning? Learn how to determine what your anxiety is really telling you – it might be existential in nature, offering you the opportunity to become more aware of your life choices and direction.