I have been thinking about this next piece for a while now. You might say I am actually having some true anxiety about writing it. I wrote a first piece on some options for dealing with fear (see Cycle of Fear). In this segment I will talk about the next stage, anxiousness.
There is a difference between being anxious and suffering from anxiety. Anxiety is very close to fear. In fact it is so close that it is hard to distinguish between them. Where fear is generally irrational, anxiety is more analytic. Fear is a primal emotion and it is hardwired into our psyche. It is meant to protect us from harm. Anxiety is a modern emotion and comes from our experiences. Anxiety is understanding that we are about to do something that needs serious consideration. I want to look at being anxious. Being anxious is different from suffering anxiety. Being anxious can actually be something good, as in “my child was really anxious to open her Christmas presents”. It is at the stage of anxiousness that we can begin to rationalize that though fearful about our challenge, we can convince ourselves to continue forward if we can identify some safety nets.
I am going to use the paragliding adventure my daughter talked me into attempting. We started the adventure by having our lunch at a cliff side cantina where we could watch the gliders take off from the cliff above us, pass over our position and then soar out over the valley. The thought of running off a cliff had definitely brought on a heavy dose of fear. The next step in the adventure would be a hike up the remaining several hundred feet of the mountain to ready ourselves for the flight. For me, sitting there watching the gliders ahead of us strap in and then head down the short run to the edge of the cliff, brought me one step closer to realizing that I was going to have to overcome my fear if I was actually going to go through with this. At this point there was very little difference between my fear and my anxiety. As we waited, it became obvious that there was clearly a process and in fact everyone who left before us returned smoothly back to the cliff at the end of their flight. I think that had they landed somewhere else, out of my sight, I may have had a much harder time moving from being fearful to being anxious. I was now in the analytic phase of this whole thing and I was one step closer to the point of no return. I could still back out, but instead of fear I was actually feeling anxious to get me turn.
Fear and anxiety hold us back. Either one can stop us in our tracks, but if we can reduce fear down to being anxious, we can begin to accept the risk. Anxiousness puts us in a position that having reduced our fear, we are ready to move into a state of anticipation for the next step. If we can reduce our anxiousness by analyzing the risk and identifying the safety nets, we will hopefully move into the next stage. But more on that next time.