The Traffic Light

Our anxiety does not come from thinking about the future,

but from wanting to control it

Kahlil Gibran

 

If you live in NJ and commute you know that you will drive in traffic. You will stop and go and stop and go. If you have to do one of those jug handle turns in order to turn left, you typically race to make the light. Did you ever think what would happen if you didn’t make the light? What would you miss? Would you get a better song to listen to, would you make one more phone call?

One day I got stuck at the traffic light. (For the record, I listened to more music) I waited and waited and waited for the light to change to green. As I made the turn on to my next street, I saw a police car, lights flashing, zoom past me. I kept on driving. I saw where the police car ended up. There was a serious car accident right down the street. I thought, “Wow if I had made that light could that have been me in that accident?” The thought shook me and I continued my commute.

After arriving at my destination, I began to think about recent world events. What would have happened if I was on that New York street the day the bombs went off in Chelsea, or I had been on the platform the day the NJ transit train crashed in Hoboken? How do you explain the randomness of these bad things happening? How do we deal with this? If you think too much about these questions, you will never leave your house again. Your motto will be “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home.”

Staying home however isn’t the answer. I mean bad stuff happens in people’s homes everyday—accidents, falls, fires, robberies. That doesn’t sound any better, in fact it sounds worse.

What is the answer to the craziness of our world, a world where tragedies happen to both good and bad people? I mean we smile and smirk when karma comes back around and the bad people get it, but at the end of the day it’s hardly a victory. When the tragedies happen to good people, we are stuck, we are without words, we are without anything. There is nothing left to say or do.

Our lack of control in our life is frightening. We desperately want control. We want to know when people will die, so we can say our goodbyes at the right time. We want to know when we will be laid off so we can get our resumes out to land that new job. We want to know when our houses will sell so we can find the new house that we want. We never know any of these things in advance. We get upset, we get frustrated, and we get angry when we have no control.

We need to figure out how to handle our lack of control and how we can live our lives in a healthier, less anxious way. Here is a musical example of our fear and anxiety. The band Incubus, released the song “Drive” in 2000. It appears on their third album Make Yourself. Enjoy the song.

“Drive” gives us a clue for handling this fear and anxiety “I should be the one behind the wheel”. We’ll address this topic in greater detail in part 2 of this blog.

Remember change is possible.

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Fog Closing In

Here is a gem from the Alfred Hitchcock Presents series. Note this is October 1956. It is 4 years before the film Psycho is released.  Note how the husband tries to investigate the wife’s anxiety(5:00).  Pay attention to her reaction to his comment”maybe you need to go to a Psychiatrist ”  Thankfully  the mental health field has progressed since 1956.  Enjoy!

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Stuck in a Moment

You’ve got to get yourself together
You’ve got stuck in a moment
And now you can’t get out of it
Don’t say that later will be better
Now you’re stuck in a moment
And you can’t get out of it

                 Bono

 

Royce White is a professional basketball player.  At least he and his current employer, the NBA’s Houston Rockets want him to be one.  Royce has yet to play a minute this season in spite of the fact that he was their number one draft pick.  You may ask why is this?   Royce White is challenging the Rockets and ultimately the NBA’s way of looking at mental illness.  White has both Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Obesessive Compulsive Disorder(OCD) and wants to have his own mental health Physician to determine if he is fit to play on game days.  White sees mental illness and physical illness as the same and has asked the Rockets to see things his way.  The Rockets just want him on the floor to shoot, rebound and score, the same traits that they saw in him in last year’s NCAA’s basketball tournament.  The conflict between the Rockets and White has led him to be suspended by the team.  Mr. White is stuck in a moment that he cannot get out of.

My definition of anxiety is that people with anxiety issues think way too much about things that most people don’t think about at all.  On HBO’s Real Sports, White showed us his excessive thinking.   He was obsessed with other people’s driving and texting.  He shared about his fear of flying, and showed us his excessive organization of his closet.  It’s very clear, after the Real Sports segment, that although White may be a great basketball player, it’s his anxiety that has placed him in his current position.  This does not make him unique at all.  Many clients that I’ve seen over the years are stuck in their anxiety.  They have irrational thinking, avoid scary places, and feel terribly out of control.  In addition, they are constantly having “what if” thinking about everything.  The amazing part about my anxious  clients is not their disorder, but how they change.  Whether challenging their perceived “safety zone”, changing their thinking, or by taking healthy risks, they manage to step by step feel better and get better.  It’s a fascinating journey from stuck to free.

Although he is stuck in a moment that he can’t get out of with his career, Royce White has great goals.  He said during the interview that he wants to be a good person because he knows that anxiety can lead to alcoholism, drug addiction, homicide and suicide if not properly treated.  I too have seen this  phenomena about untreated illnesses leading to bigger problems.  Perhaps Bono knew this as well since “Stuck in a Moment” is written about the deceased INXS singer Michael Hutchins who committed suicide.   The Royce White’s of the world or any of my clients,  need to know that if you are that stuck there is hope. The last line of the song gives us this-   “It’s just a moment, this time will pass”

 

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