The Anxiety Problem

2014 January 26
by Dr. Zachary White

Anxiety is a challenge most of us experience.  Caregivers, in particular, are prone to anxiety because we are reminded everyday that life often feels just beyond our control.  Anxiety can be experienced in all forms and shapes, but solitary anxiety is an especially virulent strain that few people talk about but most of us experience.

Solitary anxiety isn’t just about feeling alone. Solitary anxiety is what happens when we convince ourselves that we would rather choose to be alone than be in the company of others.  Those of us who experience solitary anxiety usually come up with some remarkably creative reasons for maintaining faithful to ourselves and rejecting the company of others:

  • “I just don’t feel like being with others right now. I’m not in the right mood.”
  • “I don’t have the energy to answer the questions I know are coming.  They wouldn’t understand my responses anyway.”
  • “I don’t want to be a downer for others. I’ll just do others a favor and stay home.”
  • “I’m not the same person I used to be. My friends will expect me to be the person I used to be. I don’t want to have to tell them how I’ve changed.”

Let’s face it, at times, some of these reasons sound remarkably persuasive.  In fact, many of these self-talk statements may be accurate. But this is exactly why solitary anxiety is so alluring—it deludes us into believing that we can and should isolate ourselves to protect ourselves.  Here’s the catch, though—this kind of anxiety gains strength when we say no to social opportunities. Solitary anxiety is most likely to fade into the background when we are in the company of others. When we say no to our own voice and begin listening to others, solitary anxiety is drowned out, at least temporarily, because:

  • Hearing others’ voices mutes our own private voice that, left alone, is often mistaken for the truth.
  • Being around others allows us to momentarily take a vacation from ourselves. Too much of anything, especially ourselves, isn’t a good thing.
  • Laughter doesn’t usually happen when we are by ourselves. Yes, we may chuckle a bit, but deep laughter is a social phenomenon that can best be experienced when you’re with others, living a shared moment that only those present can experience.
  • Peace (at least temporary peace) doesn’t happen in silence.  There is a time and place for silence but peace also can come about when movement and voice and thought are mixed together with others, jumbled up, reshaped, reshuffled, so that when we do return to ourselves, our state of mind is different than when it was kept apart from others.

Every once in a while, silence your own solitary anxiety by allowing yourself (and yes, persuading yourself) to join with others to help you return to yourself more ready to know that the best protection from yourself is the company of others.


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