illusion of control

When I am alone or with one or two people who I feel comfortable with, I am at ease. My body and mind are calm. I can loosen up, be myself, and have fun. Why would I want my body to be in any other state? Why would I want to insert uncertainty into my life? Why would I want to relinquish control? I don’t, and so anxiety comes into the picture, which says–

“Why would you want to be anywhere else but where you are now? You don’t know these people or the situation. They may make you feel bad about yourself or inferior. You have no idea what’s going to happen.”

So, my anxiety is trying to protect me from uncertainty. Anxiety is really on my side. When looked at it like this, anxiety is just my rational mind trying to convince me to stay put, to not change, and when I listen to it, there is a payoff: I stay in control. But this also reinforces the anxiety and makes it harder the next time around to go into the social situation.

Anxiety is a logical response to the world. No one wants to feel unconformable, no one wants to be put down or hurt, and anxiety manifests to help protect us from that.  What our anxiety doesn’t know and what we sometimes forget is that anxiety is always going to be there no matter how much we isolate ourselves. For example, when I used to be more isolated and not leave the apartment. I would feel in control most of the time, but every now and then I’d hear my neighbor walking up the stairs, and I’d think- Maybe he’ll stop at my door and knock. What will I do then? I could ignore him, but maybe he knows I’m home. I’ll have to answer. Then, he’ll see what a mess I am.

Control is an illusion. I have very little control over my own life or the outcomes of specific situations. Yet, I’ve convinced myself that I do. Throughout my life when I didn’t have control, I gave power to my anxiety. I’m slowly taking the power back by not giving into the anxious thoughts as much and telling myself that I do not have total control–and never will.

It’s not that people don’t like me–it’s that they don’t know me.

7 responses to “illusion of control

  1. Hi Mike,
    I could have written this post.
    Anxiety has been with me so long that it is a normal state for me and unfortunately, part of my identity. Whenever I go through a really deep depression and I am unable to feel nothing at all, in a strange way I am relieved when I am finally able to feel anxious, because it’s a return to normalcy.
    I’ve been through the whole anxiety as control thing with my therapist and he’s asked me what would happen if I just let go of it and I can only imagine chaos and a lot of pain and unpleasantness…everything just going to hell. At the same time, I realize that I’ve lost so many opportunities and experiences because of anxiety. I’ve always figured that the loss is preferable because it keeps me safe. However, I’m beginning to resent this safety and the anxiety that has caused so many things to pass me by. I guess it’s not worth it to me anymore, but I don’t know how to stop relying on it. I guess just ‘doing’ is the answer, but it is no less terrifying now, just because I’m aware of it.
    My first instinct when the doorbell rings is to hide and be quiet. When the phone rings, I tense up, my stomach turns and I look to the caller id to dictate whether I’m answering it or not. It’s amazing how it manages to creep into the most banal aspects of our lives.

  2. Hey there,

    Anxiety has been with us for so long, it’s hard to do anything or go anywhere without it. Awareness is a start, but it’s not enough. The second the phone rings, the anxiety is there. It’s automatic. How can awareness help when my “normal” reaction is to feel anxiety? It’s a safety net that has served its purpose, but no matter how many times I tell myself it’s just a crutch and it’s limiting me, I can’t break it.

  3. Hey Mike,

    I really enjoyed reading this post because my anxiety has been pretty intense these past several weeks. I can relate to many of the things you and Miserable Liar wrote above – I always knew as a child that there was this part of me that tried so desperately to protect myself from negative things like rejection when I was interacting with people. That’s why I really can’t recall times when I was happy with anyone and, most of all, me.

    I see my phychiatrist every two weeks, and I always call my boss after an appointment. He sounds nice over the phone, but I always shake like crazy when I do have to talk with him. The mere act of talking with someone from my workplace is just terrifying. In fact, I’m going to have to call him tomorrow because I had an appointment with my psychiatrist Friday. I have gotten used to the calling routine, but it’s never been fun. I just hope I won’t shake so much tomorrow when I call him… Anyway, thanks for your comment on my blog earlier today! 🙂 I hope you’re doing well.

    • Takashi,

      Anxiety is so powerful. Every time I talk to anyone on the phone I tense up, even the people I call frequently. One friend in particular I talk to like once a week and each time it goes fine. Yet, on my end, I’m a mess. I’m tense and nervous and usually sweating. It really doesn’t matter how the conversation will go, good or bad, because I expect the worst. I assume I’ll fail.

      I’m not doing very well; my depression has intensified, I think. But hey, it’s raining here so I hope you’re getting some of that sun I had yesterday. 🙂

  4. I just wanted to comment about the lack of control in life. I definitely understand how you feel, but you are getting out and living life – anxiety or no anxiety. I think getting out is so important. You’re so much further ahead than me and set a good example!

    • Thanks for the positive comments. I usually lose sight of the good things in my life. I’m feeling mighty depressed right now, though, so your comments are going in one ear and out the other. I’m going to come back to them once I start feeling better. Thanks again! 🙂

  5. Really nice post,thank you

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