No, you don’t have an anxiety problem. You don’t feel jittery or get sweaty palms every day. How could that be true? Well, a life lived from a base of anxiety and fear might look different than you’d expect. And you might be surprised by the impact your fears have on your family.
When you operate out of your anxieties and fears, you may not see the whole picture. Since you don’t seem to have obvious symptoms of anxiety, you might very likely brush this off. But here’s the key to understanding this viewpoint. People with a perspective largely influenced by fear and anxiety often live life in a tiny “box”. They cut themselves off from most things that could provoke their anxiety. And if they successfully avoid these opportunities, they may not feel classic anxiety symptoms all that often.
They have missed the whole point that their life is lived to avoid feeling anxious whenever possible. They trade interest and excitement for feeling comfortable and safe. If this person’s true anxiety problem isn’t addressed and treated, they may live many years before they understand the bigger impact of their behaviors and choices.
When you have a family, everything you do could potentially impact someone besides yourself. Life is no longer just about you and your absolute comfort level. Marriage pushes you to go beyond yourself and think of your spouses needs and happiness. Having kids presses your boundaries of patience, learning, and maturity. And these are good things, things that can help you develop into a more well-rounded fulfilled human being.
If you regularly refuse to visit family, turn down your kids’ invitation to visit them at school, avoid going to social events, and say no to travel opportunities with your family, start thinking hat that’s about. You know your own life better than I do, so I’m not accusing everyone of having an anxiety problem if they really don’t like their mother in law! No, I’m asking you to consider the bigger pattern. And if you think this might describe your spouse, think about how they generally approach life.
Living life to avoid anxiety is like playing not to lose. You try to keep yourself so safe, you might really cut yourself out of real life. Your kids start getting used to you not being involved in family activities. Your spouse might start assuming you are MIA when it comes to holidays and social gatherings. Your withdrawal creates exactly what you hoped for – distance and low expectations.
Your attempts to make yourself feel safe and unthreatened may actually be the moves that further cut you off from everyone. And when you realize how lonely you are, it may be hard to reconnect. Your spouse and kids may become very frustrated with their hopes to connect with you and your continued efforts to stay safe. And when you do try to connect, they may or may not have much hope it will last.
By withdrawing into a tiny box, you pull away a piece of each family member’s soul with you. This is what untreated anxiety can be like. And without very many obvious symptoms of anxiety – silently pulling the family apart.