anxiety therapist dc

Seeing Patterns Instead of Personalities

My toddler daughter loves to press her face against translucent Tupperware lids. Suddenly the whole world becomes red or blue. Everything is the same, but different.

I think anxiety works in a similar fashion. Anxiety is a lens through which we see the world, and our families. But an anxious focus on those we love limits our ability to see reality—all the colors, complexity, and capability of others.  

As a therapist, I try to pay attention to the adjectives that people use to describe their family members. Words like critical, lazy, sensitive, emotional, toxic, or overbearing are commonly deployed.  I try to challenge people to consider what gets lost when we view people through the lens of an adjective. When we say to ourselves (and our therapist), “That’s just the way they are.” (more…)

Becoming a Responder in a Reactive World

It has been a week.

As I was thinking about how to write this newsletter, a few thoughts poked at me. Will people think it’s not my place to speak right now? Will people think I’m complicit by staying silent? Will people be more reactive in their responses than usual, or more positively engaged?

Do you see the trend in my thinking? When anxiety is high, relationship pressure (aka the reactions of other humans) tends to become our compass. We begin to mimic the actions, the emotionality, and the urgency of those around us for fear of being called out. We are keenly aware that responses that deviate outside the norm will not be tolerated. So we comply to avoid conflict, or we rebel to invite conflict. Or we do nothing, and hope no one notices.

Conforming, rebelling, and distancing are all just anxiety wrapped up in different packaging. They are signs of how little “self” a person brings to a crisis. This week I noticed how little self I was bringing in my response to national events. I was genuinely concerned and motivated to act, but many of these actions were emotional and rooted in relationship pressure. The perfect recipe for burnout.

Have you engaged in any of these behaviors in the last week? (more…)