overcoming anxiety

You Already Know What You’re Going to Do

I was watching a television show the other day and at one point in the episode one of the characters went to therapy. During the session, the therapist looked at the character and said, “You already know what you’re going to do. You’ve already made up your mind and you know what you’re going to do.”

This stuck with me—even after I binged a few more episodes.

It made me think of those mornings you wake up in a bad mood or with a bad outlook, and you more or less decide that you’re going to have a bad day.

Or when you are obligated to go somewhere but you’d rather stay home because you won’t know anyone or will know too many people, etc., and so you decide that it’s going to be awful.

Or, on the other side of things, when you are so excited about something and are so determined for it to be as wonderful as you hope, that you can look past almost anything in order for it to live up to your expectations.

There are many days and even moments when we decide how the future will play out far before it ever happens. I think we do it as both a defense mechanism, to protect us from being disappointed, or sometimes just because we don’t have the energy to change our way of thinking. It’s hard to wake up in a bad mood and then convince yourself that your day will turn around and be great. It’s way easier to settle into that grouchiness and ride it out until tomorrow (or beyond.)

The same goes with taking risks and stepping out of your comfort zone. I think with most things that scare us, especially things we’ve never done before, we have a tendency to believe that the end result is going to be bad or humiliating or irredeemable, and so we talk ourselves out of the risk all together. Sometimes, even with the best intentions, we set goals that we know we are going to quit, either because they’re too big, too hard or too scary.

But then, sometimes we find something that makes us keep going. We find something inside us that gives us an extra push, an extra burst of courage and suddenly we are farther than we thought we could be.

This is why I think the therapist’s words stuck with me. Because on the one hand, I agree. I have seen firsthand my half-hearted attempts to try something new that I never actually wanted to try, or to do something brave that I’ve already decided I’m too scared to achieve, or to set a goal that I know I’m not motivated enough to complete. I’ve gone into situations, desperate for them to work out, and all but convinced they are the end all be all try for me to move forward with my life, all the while knowing that I don’t have the passion, motivation, or courage to carry them through to the end.

BUT.

I have also gone into situations with the same fears, obstacles and doubts, and I have found the will to overcome them. Even on days I woke up feeling foolish for even trying, even on nights I lie awake wondering how I could ever achieve what I’d set out to do, even when it would seem that I already made up my mind and I already knew what I was going to do. Somehow I did the exact opposite. And you have to.

We are a resilient bunch, us humans. And while our minds our powerful tools, they aren’t fortune tellers. Our fears can’t predict the future. Our doubts can’t predict the future. But our hope and determination can change it. So, when we are able, let’s not settle into autopilot, let’s dare to work against our assumptions. Let’s reach down deep and find that extra something and go places we never thought we could.

What Dumbledore Taught Me About Anxiety & Other Crippling Emotions

When I was little I had an intense phobia of being kidnapped. Every evening I had a routine that I had to complete before I would feel safe enough to get in bed. Then, once I was under the covers, I could not and would not even consider getting up before morning. I’d lay awake, convinced I heard sounds of an intruder, quivering in fear.

Eventually I grew out of it, and now I often find myself joking, playing it off as immature paranoia, however I can still remember the fear I felt every single night; the paralysis I could not overcome until the sun came up.

These days I often experience anxiety in waves. I have a “worst case scenario” state of mind when it comes to new experiences and I tend to get overwhelmed in certain social situations. However, I’ve been working hard over the last few years to overcome the fear that bubbles inside me, and recently I found inspiration in perhaps the most unlikely of places: the mouth of Albus Dumbledore.

Now, if you’ve read any of the Harry Potter books you’ll know that Dumbledore has a knack for inspirational quotes. He likes to drop them on Harry and walk away, leaving his wizard’s mic on the ground. In doing so, he often leaves the reader speechless and Harry confused and longing for a straightforward answer.

If you’ve never delved into the Harry Potter world, neither in books or movies, let me give you a minor background before I continue.

Harry Potter is a wizard whose parents were killed by an evil wizard named Voldemort. Before he was born, it was foretold that Harry would become Voldemort’s greatest threat, so just after Harry’s 1st birthday, Voldemort hunted him down in order prevent the prophecy from coming true. Voldemort killed Harry’s parents, but Harry survived, and it blew everyone’s mind, including Voldemort’s.  Oh and Dumbledore is the head honcho at Hogwarts, a school for young wizards and witches. He’s the only other person Voldemort has ever feared, and he’s a low-key badass that has a pet Phoenix.

Okay, now that we’re all caught up, back to Dumbledore’s mind-blowing rhetoric.

In the second to last book of the series, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, there is a moment when Dumbledore is explaining to Harry how the prophecy affected Voldemort; how his fear of defeat got in the way of his quest for victory. He explains that Voldemort himself created the enemy that was now equipped to defeat him. After hearing the prophecy, he had taken matters into his own hands, assuming he could vanquish its foretellings by killing Harry before he had the chance to grow up. But in doing so, he unknowingly set the prophecy into motion.

In our every day lives, an assumption or a rumor can present itself as a prophecy of sorts. We hear of something that might happen or we take a guess based on the circumstance, and we send ourselves into a frenzy of panic and anxiety. And this works for any emotion that controls our actions: anxiety, fear, addiction, depression, low self-esteem. They all act as our own personal Voldemort living inside our head. They react quickly and rashly, neglecting to pause and let other opinions be heard. They look at the smaller picture, the one stop solution. They act to prevent bad, while also deflecting the possibility of good.

Luckily we all have the power to be our own Harry Potter. Granted we don’t have the whole wizard thing going for us, but Harry learned that magic wasn’t the biggest weapon he had against Voldemort. Love, selflessness, bravery, trust, joy. All qualities Voldemort could never possess. All qualities our own Voldemorts shy away from when times get hard.

In the Harry Potter series, Voldemort is the most feared wizard of them all. The things he can do, the way he uses people to get what he wants, the paralysis he inflicts upon entire cities at the mention of his name. Anxiety, fear, addiction, etc. all have the power to do the same to each of us if we give in to their grasp. And while our attempts to grapple with our own Voldemorts might be feeble at times, it’s the resistance that counts. No tyrant lasts long when the resistance starts. So I encourage you to fight, in whatever way best suits you. If it’s simply taking a moment to breathe or seeking a doctor, take the steps necessary to start your own fight against the dark wizard inside your head. You never know what you’ll find within yourself when you take the time to start digging.