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Reflections: Vicarious Anxiety (the Anxiety Series)

August 28, 2012

I became aware that I experienced anxiety that didn’t belong to me as I waited my turn at an Advanced Training for Feldenkrais practitioners. We sat in a circle and took turns telling why we had come to the weeklong class.

I waited my turn, occasionally peeking inside myself to see what my story would be. I wasn’t rehearsing, but I was curious if what was inside me at the moment jibed with why I had signed up for the class.

As the story-telling went on, I noticed myself becoming anxious as it neared my turn. At first, I chalked it up to performance anxiety kicking in but by the time the woman before me began to speak, I had convinced myself that some deep-seated inner issue that I hadn’t admitted to myself was cropping up. I was certain that I must have been ignoring my emotions in avoidance of some real problem, a habit I perfected as a kid.

Then, the woman took her turn.

As she spoke, anxiety radiated from her hands and her voice. She flushed, she shook, she spoke quickly and looked away. Watching her, I immediately recognized the real owner of the anxiety and my inner turmoil drained away.

Anxiety is exhausting. It is demanding and, like a body guard, it pushes other things away. Anxiety makes sure there’s only the one agenda, being anxious.

  1. Just what I needed to hear after I picked up on another’s anxiety (and anger) last night at an annual condo association meeting. But I didn’t deal with it as gracefully as you did–I spoke it into the circle, bringing it voice, letting it churn me up inside, and now know that because I carried another’s anxiety and anger I didn’t speak what was mine to speak as clearly as I otherwise could have done.
    Perfect timing for this posting!

    • Thanks for sharing that, Nancy. Whenever I get caught up in it as you described, I find there’s as much to deal with in the reaction about the reaction as there was in the reaction itself. Whew, more on that aspect another day!

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