Dissecting an Anxiety Defense Tactic
My 'Anxiety Auto-Responder'
My anxiety cannot be defined by one trait, one habit or one pattern. In fact, it is the combination of a multitude of defense tactics designed and deployed to fend off specific threats I have faced before. This week, I was able to dive a little deeper into one aspect of my anxiety. My ‘Anxiety Auto-Responder’.
Anxiety Builds a Barrier
One of the most difficult things about anxiety is its innate ability to take precedent over your own thinking. It can often make me abandon reason, rationality and even my own beliefs. Developing as a defense mechanism for my brain, it acts as a barrier for information. Waiting for a glimpse of anything offensive, disruptive, or overwhelming. Often times, finding those feelings in meaningless things. Yet, when it picks up those signals, it can conjure up and spit out a response in an instant. These quick responses, often masqueraded with panic, frustration and confusion.
I have struggled for a long time to work n this part of my anxiety, and was finally able to frame it in a context my brain could process. If there is one things my wacky brain loves, it’s a good analogy.
My Anxiety Auto-Responder
I equate this anxiety defense mechanism to something I encounter often at work. An email auto-responder. If you work in an office setting, or rely on emails to communicate, you have probably come across these dreaded auto-responses.
A very typical
I am out of the office right now. I will be returning on ___. If your matter is urgent, please contact ‘X’.”
This loosely translates to “I’m probably on a beach, and the last thing I am thinking about is your email. You can pass this along to someone else, or wait until I am back.”
This is the exact system my anxiety has instilled. These frustrated, often misplaced reactions are really relaying the message that I am just not able to deal with what is being said to me. My brain is on a beach somewhere, getting away from the stress of its theoretical cubicle.
When these email responses go out, they send out the exact same message every single time. Regardless of what it is receiving, and the urgency of the message. The same thing happens with my anxiety auto-responder. However its responses are veiled in panic, frustration and confusion.
Returning From Vacation
This auto-responder was built when my brain desperately needed that vacation. Unfortunately, I stayed on that beach for too long, and relied on the automatic responses to divert my responsibilities. Recognizing the pattern is only the first part of the battle. Now it is time I fully return from vacation.
It is now my responsibility to clock in, and take down the auto-responder. I cannot rely on it any longer, and need to begin thoughtfully crafting my own responses. We can’t hold a job if we simply let an auto-responder pass off all responsibilities.
This is a monumentally tough change to make. It is pulling me out of my comfort zone, requiring me to make useful responses in the moment. My brain likes to move fast. See an issue, resolve it. Hear what is being said, and immediately respond. That may need to change in order to ensure my responses are crafted to properly convey my messages.
Slowing Down is Okay
I believe that the reason my brain checked out was because it was simply burned out. I had spent a very long time moving fast, working hard, and acting swiftly in every situation. As more trauma, abuse and critiques piled up in my theoretical ‘inbox’, I just simply didn’t have the motivation to keep up manually.
Fast forward to today. I have a much clearer sense about my anxiety, especially this one aspect of it. But like any vacation, our first while back may be an adjustment period. I need to retrain my brain to react a little differently. I need to learn that it is okay to slow down to allow myself time to think, research my internal archives, and craft a helpful response.
When met with serious questions, I don’t need to frame my response as a defense strategy. I can take a moment to let things permeate, act with intellect and respond to situations in a proactive way. A good email response not only answers the question of the moment, but provides a plan forward.
Continue Dissecting My Anxiety
Being aware of my own anxiety, and the effect it has on me and my relationships has helped me grow as a person. I am not perfect by any means, and that pesky auto-responder still pops up every now and then. At least now I have the tools at my disposal to recognize it, and rectify it.
Look out world, I’m writing my own emails now.