Inside Able: A New Way to Look at Anxiety, Anger, Depression, and Change
Jeana Webster, LPC
Sometimes we need a redirect in our lives. We work hard for things. Things we believe we want and need. Or things we thought we wanted and needed at one time. Only now we aren’t so sure. Once caught up in the execution of what it takes to maintain a lifestyle, relationship, family, career, cause – maybe now we just aren’t so sure it’s worth it after all. We’re tired. We’re bored. We’re overwhelmed. We’re uncertain. Sometimes all at the same time.
As it turns out, you may not be so far off the mark. You may just need some calibrating experiences to regain your sense of being the owner of your life. A life you are proud of. A life you want to get up and experience on most days (and on the days you don’t, it passes). A life where you’re working toward something that brings joy, challenge, gain and even loss sometimes – but in all cases a sense of conviction that this is your good life regardless of what is presented and what is not.
Many of us may experience anxiety, anger, stress and depression because of things that have happened to us (rejection, divorce, loss of any variety, job stress, family shortcomings, infidelity) or because of things that have not happened to us (a promotion, recognition, approval from someone who is important to us, fulfilling relationships, financial success by our definition). You can probably fill in the blank with other events past and present that understandably create emotional discomfort in your life. If there are external levers you can pull to change or realign your life in a way that is healthier for you, do it now. Otherwise, let’s look at this from another direction.
Inside Able is a path to the realization that your good life doesn’t have much to do with what’s on the outside of you. What’s on the outside of you is uncertain at all times and control is a myth for the most part. So, it may be time to look elsewhere, especially if what’s going on around you is impacting how you think, feel and behave.
When something happens to us that is different from what we expect, hope for or want, it creates a gap. In that gap things accumulate like frustration, depression, anger, jealousy, disillusionment and fatigue.
But what if we looked at our lives differently? And as a result, we experienced our lives differently. Instead of being tethered to expectations and allowing them to whip us around whenever someone doesn’t act the way we want them to act or something doesn’t turn out the way we expect…
…what if we could realign and regain our sense of peace instead of allowing our feelings to take us on a grand tour of expression?
This tour of emotions typically leads to one of two things:
- You work hard to stuff them down (which is exhausting and emotions always manifest again usually as something more damaging), or
- You allow them to take you from one toxic destination to the next.
In the movie, Thanks for Sharing, Mark Ruffalo plays a sex addict. In one scene where Mark’s character is struggling, his sponsor tells him “Feelings are like kids; you don’t want them driving, but you don’t want to stuff them in the trunk, either.”
It seems our emotions are either occupying a place in the trunk or in the driver’s seat. We stuff them, and people call us passive aggressive or we feel chronically anxious or depressed. Or, we stuff them and then our anger comes out in a volcanic force over any little trigger and we feel ashamed of our behavior. Or, we let them drive and we get angry in a way that makes those around us feel uncomfortable. And then, we lose our voice. Have you ever noticed when you get angry, it doesn’t matter anymore what the other person has done? All the focus is on your anger (and what a jerk you are)? Basically, no matter what the other person has done, they get off the hook and you don’t get heard at all. It’s interesting how your rage causes you to be silenced. This is what happens when emotions are either in the trunk or in the driver’s seat. We become perpetually unsettled. We continue to look outwardly at people and situations often lashing out or retreating – trying to bring about a change in them, so we can feel better – more loved, more validated, less angry, less anxious. Only this is a fool’s errand for sure and leaves us at the mercy of all that cannot be controlled.
Viktor Frankl, neurologist, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, said so many things best in his book Man’s Search for Meaning including “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”
This realization? Well, it’s the beginning of your good life.