Could your “story” early in life actually affect why you experience anxiety as an adult?
Today’s expert says that the answer to this question is most certainly YES.
In this interview, we caught up with Los Angeles therapist and life coach Todd Deutsch. Todd believes that the key to managing anxiety lies in understanding your story -and in facing fear on a regular basis.
Following is just what he had to say.
Welcome, Todd. What a pleasure to speak with you today. First of all, what do you believe is the driving force behind anxiety?
Self-sabotage and victimization are the driving force behind anxiety. That’s because individuals feed off of their failures- and then use them to remain stuck.
Interesting. So is there a way to avoid this trap?
I go by the motto “the more you scare yourself, the more you grow.” This is why I encourage every one of my clients to scare themselves daily and sit with the fear that comes up. I call this the “Leap of Faith.”
You see, the more you can experience the vulnerability of fear, the more likely the chance that you will not experience the anxiety related to it down the road. Each time you face your fears, you gain more confidence. And this confidence is the key to everything.
You have said that a story or script developed early in life is the central theme surrounding anxiety. Tell us more about this.
This is what is called the Life and Relational Dynamics therapeutic approach. It refers to how we apply our history to how we relate to others and the world around us.
At an early age, we develop a story/script of how we react/behave based upon our connections with key individuals like family, friends, or teachers. This affects how we react later in life. For example, if I was unable to feel sad or express fears to my parents (as a result of them not being available), then I would ultimately bottle up that emotion internally, and in time feel shame for feeling that way. This is the central theme around anxiety, as anxiety is a fear-based emotion.
Imagine if you were to enter into a new relationship and didn’t accept the pain or failures from previous relationships. By not acknowledging this pain, you would manifest avoidance behaviors to escape the hurt. This pain reflects feelings of worthlessness, which you would attempt to suppress.
In short, as hard as we try to avoid pain, it never eludes us. That is, IF we don’t grasp the awareness of what has hindered us in the first place. So we have to know our stories and scripts.
So what is your take on failure?
Our failures in life are the path to fulfillment. First, we need to face that which we fear. And then, if we do fail, we need to learn from it instead of living in the fear of possible negative outcomes.
The premise of anxiety is that it is a stimulus that creates fear, and ultimately, self-doubt based upon experiences of negative outcomes or avoidance. When we avoid fear, we begin to view ourselves as incapable and lacking worth. The way out of this trap is to fail-and then learn from it.
You talk a lot about self- awareness on your website. How does this pertain to anxiety?
There are two ways to manage disappointment and hardships in life. The first is to blame yourself or others for a particular failure. The second is to accept the situation or personal fault and use it to learn for the future.
The fundamental difference between self-awareness and self-victimization pertains to our acknowledgment that we have been hurt.
Self-awareness is the ability to formulate a summary of our behaviors based on past and current thoughts and emotions. It allows us to understand what’s going on in our heads and why. However, self-victimization does the opposite. It prevents us from accepting what we’re responsible for, and from accepting what we do as a result.
Being self-aware is the ability to see our true self without blinders. This is the first step in being true to ourselves. It requires empathy, patience, strength, humility, and love. One of the hardest things to do is to see ourselves as fallible- but that is what we are. We all make mistakes; and we all have triumphs. Our goal is to develop the capability to see both polars through self-awareness.
If you could share one life changing thing about anxiety with our readers, what would that be?
Practice mindfulness on a daily basis. Most people live either in the past or the future, attempting to avoid emotional distress. As a result, they rarely live in the present. The concept of mindfulness is the state of living in the moment. Mindfulness is essential for happiness and confidence.
About: Todd Deutsch is a licensed marriage and family therapist as well as a life coach. He is a former athlete, coach, & academic principal. His private practice, Complete Game Plan, focuses on adults and couples exploring diverse issues with an emphasis on communication, coping, and management skills of relationships and life transitions. In addition, Todd has a great passion for working with athletes, helping to merge athletic on-the-court training with an off-the-court regimen to minimize distractions and obstacles that could limit success on the playing field.
To learn more about Todd, please visit his website: www.CompleteGamePlan.com