I used to be afraid of a lot of things in life. Fear seemed to have consumed a large portion of who I was; and it hindered my progress in almost every aspect of my life, from pushing to be better at sports in fear of self injury (okay that one is reasonable), fear of progressing at work, and even fear of relationships and commitment. Some times I was afraid that some stranger would attack me in a dark alley. My fear controlled such a huge aspect of my life that it pushed away almost everything that was good for me.
When we are afraid, our fight or flight response is activated. We will either want to fight the situation at hand, flee from the situation at hand, or… worst case scenario, accept certain death. My fight or flight system was out of whack. I would flee from things that I wanted most, like progressing at work to be a supervisor, and even wanting to get married and settle down. When those things were leaving, I would fight for them. This may sound like a crazy person but our fear plays an important role in our lives.
Our fear defends us. It helps us create an appropriate response to threats by heightening our awareness. It has been used for millenniums and bred into us. We all have this emotion and will need it. Some of us may, in some cases, be more rational and others may let the fear get to the best of them.
Researchers have done many studies on fear and have found out that we are only born with two fears: fear of heights and fear of loud noises. So, would it not make sense that the rest of our fears stem from our society and cultural morals? We need to survive in today’s culture. As our culture changes so do our fears, but what make us afraid?
Our brain gets a thought that makes us afraid, causing us to think with the amygdala portion of our brain (it is located near the deep center of our brain). The amygdala then releases hormones to the hypothalamus, the primitive portion of our brain, which then regulates our fight or flight response. As we get this surge of hormones our senses become more attune to our environment. Our eyes widen, our nostrils may flare; and not only this, but we get quick images or flash backs to previous situations in our lives where we've had to choose to fight, flee or just accept death.
Looking back, I now know what fear is and what it does to us. We have developed social and cultural norms. We may sometimes fear we cannot reach those norms, and that may bring us some social repercussions. We want to be accepted by those around us because ultimately that is what helps all of us survive. So what happens when our fears conquer our bodies and minds and become addicted to this thought process?
When fear takes over, anxiety erupts. We begin to panic about pointless things in our lives and we may make rash, compulsive decisions. As we stimulate our senses to gather information our heightened fear causes an intellectual person to improve performance; if you, however, have anxiety disorder like me, it causes mayhem in your life and relationships. You make decisions that may harm you even further creating even more fear. Have you ever wondered why you may make such stupid decisions? Or have you ever known someone who makes the worst life decisions? This may be a result of their behaviour. Some times anxiety can make us do some crazy things to make us feel better.
Anxiety is suppose to serves as a corrective protest to help us go back to authenticity and to become more of a stable person. Our anxiety is often used in the wrong ways. Here are some common protest behaviours of anxious people in relationships to help identify, so we can all cope and grow for stronger relationships:
- Withdrawal: They may withdraw from the situation they are in. They may literally turn their back on their partner and not help them when they are need. They instead may go on their phone, aimlessly surf Facebook and talk with others.
- Keep Score: Do you let your partner know how long it took them to respond to a text? Let's say it takes an hour for your partner to respond, if you are anxious you will wait another hour - or, worse, two!
- Threaten to leave: I fall under this category. I would threaten to leave. As I do so, I may leave the door but stay close in hopes that my partner comes close to me and comes back. You may also say things like we aren’t right for each other. All the while wanting your partner to prove you wrong.
- Hostile actions: You may roll your eyes, speak over when your partner is speaking, get up and leave the room as your partner is talking (again wanting you partner to chase you).
- Manipulate: You may tell your partner that you are busy when in reality you are just laying in bed wanting your partner to come to you.
And perhaps the most notably sign of an anxious person:
- Excessive/ Compulsive attempts to reestablish contact: Or crazy ex syndrome. One may call many times, time after time, loiter by a partner's place of work or their home; and, at the worse, stalk.
Alright! Let’s recap! Anxiety is created by fears. Fears are needed for us to survive; both to meet our basic needs, but also to function in today’s society. If left uncontrolled, our primitive functions of our brain will take over and cause us to have extreme anxiety that will ultimately create a disorder to our lives. This disorder may lead to compulsive behaviour, and compulsive behaviour may lead to bad decisions, bad decisions may lead to depression. Whoa! Everything is interconnecting. Furthermore, we looked at some signs of anxious people in relationships. While looking at these signs we can ultimately understand what our partners, or even ourselves are doing. As well, we will be able to create mindful strategies to help stop some of the above protest behaviour, but that is for another post.
Don’t worry I will blow the lid off being a stable person; and how it's not only their greatest benefit, but their greatest downfall in later posts as well ;)