ACCEPT YOUR EMOTIONS
In this blog and our previous books we are generally guided by a couple of major themes. First of all we constantly warn about the dangers of avoiding challenges when they come your way. Getting into the habit of turning away from confrontation inevitably will get you into trouble psychologically. Secondly, we repeatedly emphasize the idea of acceptance. That is, you need to be more accepting of certain realities in life that simply can’t be changed. For the next few blogs we want to apply those themes to a general consideration of emotional life, and then look closely at ways of dealing with anxiety.
We bet there have been times you have told yourself, “I should not be so anxious (or afraid, angry, sad, etc.) in this situation.” Maybe so, but your self-criticism misses the point that you are anxious and you need to do something about it. Anxiety, like grief, anger, sadness, and other emotions can be crippling and a major cause of avoiding facing challenges in your life. You can, however, learn to put emotions to good use.
Doesn’t it make sense that your emotions are quite natural? Shouldn’t it be normal to be anxious about being evaluated, grief-stricken when losing a loved one, fearful when confronting others, or sad after being rejected? Is it not reasonable to assume that normal emotional states can be used to your advantage? For example, anxiety can motivate you to prepare for tests and emergencies, bring you closer to significant others, confront criticism, work harder to improve performance, and a host of other effective actions.
Suppose you find yourself in a dead-end job but are afraid to look for a new one because you feel you will be anxious during the job interview and just experience rejection. The safe thing, of course, is to quit looking for a new job, avoiding the interview and all the other stresses that go along with a job search. In the long run, however, this strategy puts your life on hold.
Instead of quitting the job search, you could be empowering yourself by developing strategies and practicing actions to prepare yourself for interviews. First of all you need to remember that you have no control over the interviewer and the types of questions you will be asked. That being the case, it’s reasonable for you to assume and accept that you will probably be anxious during any interview you get. So prepare! Learn about the new company and develop knowledgeable questions to ask during the interview. Evaluate how your skills will mesh with the stated job requirements. Prepare to be honest if you fall short in some areas, but also prepare to describe how you can compensate. (See August 22, 2016 blog.) And remember, your anxiety is a natural emotional state that can be a positive motivator for you. It need not be your enemy.
The same can be said about other emotions. How about intense grief after the loss of a loved one? Depending on the circumstances of the death, you can become quite debilitated as a result of grief. Usually, however, intense grief signals how important others were to you, and how much they taught you about living. Wouldn’t the best way to honor their memory be to demonstrate that they left you with an inner strength that allows you to honor them in positive ways? So seek out those positives that will allow you to honor them: Share with others what they taught you; establish a memorial to them; write about them; find their influence manifest in your life.
Our next three blogs will discuss anxiety in more detail, and will be devoted to presenting specific actions to take when dealing with anxiety.