Anxiety and Worry

Cutting Through the Haze of Doubt

  We all have 'em. "Should I go to the gym or lounge on the couch tonight?" "Does it makes sense to tell my mother to give me some space or will she totally freak out when I do?" "Is it better to invest in a class or save my money?"

Very often, we have way too many options. That makes the confusion even thicker. How are we to decide what's right and what's wrong for us?

The Gentle Self is frequently plagued by doubts. Always having the needs of other people on their minds, it's difficult to know one's own desires. "Sure, my mother would like me to call her every day, but it gets to be too draining for me. Do I have to courage to face her, or is it going to be even harder for me to deal with the consequences of telling her off?"

When in the grip of indecision, we have to make room for ourselves. There are many ways to look inside and ponder what you need. It's often enough to just sit down for a couple of minutes, close your eyes and shut out the wolrd. What is your mind obsessing about? Give each option some mental space and observe what feelings come up.

Anxiety and Worry

Extend Yourself

The half life of an average new year's resolutions is about a day or so. Just my guess, since that's what this type of resolution usually looks like in my mind. "Tomorrow I'll start to diet." "Come Monday I'll plan to go to the gym three times a week." "I'll meditate every morning." "I'll call one of my old high school friends once a week." Blahblahblah.
It's not about planning to get started. It's about doing it. Right now. There is no time like the present time.

Our self improvement culture is relentless. We all get caught up in those muddled thought loops about what we should do and how to be a better person. It takes up an enormous amount of time and space - energy that could be spent to get up and just engage in whatever you think is good for yourself.

Engaging is not always easy for the Gentle Self. We get self conscious and are plagued by self doubts. It's very tempting to just withdraw and avoid what makes us uncomfortable. We come up with all kinds of deals that we try to make with ourselves. Ok, I hid away all day behind my desk at work, but tomorrow at the family party, I'll finally talk to uncle John. I'll think of something to say, other than the weather...

Never mind that these plans mostly go unrealized, so we feel bad about it, and we come up with a plan how to make up for our failures. And fail again.

Anxiety and Worry

Do What Is Required

Andrea couldn't make up her mind: She was supposed to go to this party that was organized by her new sports club, but she wasn't feeling up for it. She had been planning to go, really wanted to, and not let her social anxiety get in the way. She was well aware that she had to push through the temptation to just avoid uncomfortable situations if she wanted to have a more active social life. This time she was going to just go and have fun.
It was the end of the year, and Andrea had been thinking about what 2011 had brought. She felt a strong sense of loss. A close friend of the family had died earlier that year. She had moved across the country and lost touch with most members of her former basketball team, whom she felt very close to. To add to her stress, she was worried about losing her job after her company threatened more layoffs.

Andrea felt torn and didn't know what to do. Push through her anxiety and just go to the party, or honor her feelings and her need to take care of herself.

Anxiety and Worry

Make Friends With Yourself

One of the hardest things for the Gentle Self is to let go of the harsh and critical thoughts in one's own head. The self-imposed reprimands usually pile up high. Often we don't even think as "Me," but we take on the voices we internalized from others who have made us feel inadequate in the past: You are a nuisance... You should be working harder... You are too fat... You are a loser... Nobody is interested in what you have to say...
Sometimes we aren't really aware of the thoughts that put us down that way, but they're there, running somewhere in the background, and impacting everything we do. As soon as you hear yourself say "I suck," "I'm not good at this," chances are that your inner critic is at work.

Lots of people struggle with this kind of sel- blame. For some, the voices are devastating and pervasive. What we automatically do in this situation is to try to tune them out. To get rid of them. Out with the negative thoughts.

Unfortunately there's no way to control them. The harder we push them away, the more likely they come back, and sometimes with a vengeance. Just like we can't tell our bodies to stop hurting, we can't command our mind to quit worrying.

Anxiety and Worry

To Quit or Not to Quit

How to Sustain Friendships

One of the big challenges The Gentle Self faces is how to sustain friendships in the long run. We get hurt by inconsiderate people and careless remarks and feel quickly tempted to quietly abandon the offender, making up all kinds of excuses why we don´t want to see them anymore. But when do you give up on a friend and when do you try to work things out?

I see it over and over in my psychotherapy practice, how people attempt to cope in the midst of this struggle. Ive been meeting with a young man, let´s call him Michael. He grew up in a family that forced him to continuously attend to the needs of the parents and siblings, without getting a chance to learn much about his own identity. As an adult he continued to do the same with his friends. It was always about everybody else and what they wanted. Most of the time, he didn't have the slightest idea what his own preferences were.

That has changed over time. Little by little, he is learning to stand up for himself. One of Michael´s childhood friends likes to remind him how he´s always been a clumsy driver, who gets nervous crossing a busy intersection and once had bumped into a parked car. One day, when he teased him that way again, Michael cleared his throat and responded calmly: "Actually, that was ten years ago when I first got my license. I drive very differently now."

The Power of the Gentle Personality

The first thing that absolutely must be said about introverts and gentle people of all kind is that we have a lot to offer. Many of us walk around with the nagging worry that being aggressive and flamboyantly extrovert is the way to go. That we have to change at all costs in order to be successful, noticed, appreciated and so on.

We don’t.

Gentle people can have very fulfilled lives. We find meaning and confidence in working hard at what is important to us. We crave connection with others and want to lend a helping hand. We are empaths, people who have the ability to put themselves into another person’s shoes, and thus create loving and harmonious relationships.

Most of us, in fact, have an artistic streak. I am thinking about the legions of young actors and artists who come to New York City, enduring rejection and discouragement seemingly without end, but they keep plugging away at their goals. They may not always end up becoming big movie stars. But they find the self-exploration that comes with the job rewarding and meaningful.

The sensitivity we possess may sometimes feel more like a curse than a blessing. But when employed skillfully, it enables us to create powerful relationships of mutual respect and inspiration.

Welcome to the Gentle Self

We've all met people who are gentle, kind and generous souls who often don't seem to fit in as well in a group of people, who keep to themselves with only a few close friends, and who sometimes don't have that great of...