Many years ago, I was sitting across from a therapist who asked me to describe how a specific event made me feel. To my astonishment, I was UNABLE to put a descriptor to my own feelings. Then the look of shock on my therapist’s face made me feel like a disappointment, and somewhat of a freak. But the bane of being a codependent and longing for approval and acceptance is for another article.
Codependents, through childhood conditioning, learned to keep a strong pulse on the moods and feelings of those around them, as a means to securing their own safety. But codependents are loath to acknowledge, much less understand, their own feelings and emotions. Growing up the child of narcissistic parents or caregivers meant that expressing or having needs and emotions separate from the narcissists, resulted in punishment.
On one occasion I took myself to the doctor because I was having difficulty breathing. It’s rare that I take myself to the doctor, as codependents suck at all things self-care related. But the labored breathing had been happening for several weeks with no signs of letting up. After a battery of tests, it was determined that I was the paragon of physical health, and that my struggle to breathe was caused by… ANXIETY.
I was prescribed some anti-anxiety meds and some more for sleeping. They worked, but I was so drugged up as to not be allowed to drive or operate heavy equipment or to type a coherent sentence on social media.
The obvious long term solution was for me to face my own anxiety. But first, I needed to understand what anxiety is. This is the definition of anxiety according to Webster:
Anxiety: A feeling of worry, nervousness or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.
I have on several occasions, asked a person who professes to be suffering from anxiety, to put into words, what it feels like to have anxiety. And I am apparently not alone in this quagmire. Anxiety is difficult to describe from an emotional perspective.
I think Lao Tzu describes it the most succinctly with the fewest number of words:
If you are depressed, you are living in the past.
If you are anxious, you are living in the future.
If you are at peace, you are living in the present.
In other words, depression is an inability to move on from past failures and traumas. Anxiety is a fear of having more failures and traumas in the future. And while it is quite possible and common to be suffering from depression AND anxiety simultaneously, it is not possible to suffer from depression or anxiety while living in peace in the present.
I know this is easier said than done, but try this:
- Acknowledge those people you feel you have grieved and offer them a sincere apology. Whether they accept your apology or not is up to them.
- Forgive yourself for not knowing what you didn’t know. Life is a growing experience. Everyone makes mistakes.
- Recite the Serenity Prayer daily: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.