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  1. #1
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    Anticipation Anxiety

    For the last few years, I have been in therapy and learned many many things about myself, my behaviour, and others also. I have worked very hard at it and have made a lot of progress. But, just when I feel like I know most of it, something else comes to the surface and a new breakthrough is formed.

    My most recent breakthrough had to do with anxiety. In some situations (not too many, but enough), I've noticed a pattern: someone gets upset or angry, or asking pointed questions in an aggressive manner, and I instantly go into the (intense) fight-or-flight mode, my heart rate goes up, my breathing becomes more shallow and rapid, and I feel like I just drank 100 pots of coffee. Sometimes, depending on the person and the context of exchange, my hearing fails me (sounds all blend together and I have trouble differentiating what is being said), and my vision is odd: I can see things around me but it?s as if my eyes never rest on any one thing in particular (overlook details). But, if a push came to shove, I?d know my way to the nearest exit. I think that?s my brain plotting an escape. Thoughts in my head resemble the ?What now?? or ?What am I not seeing?? pattern. (this is also the reason why I get irritable when watching horror films and generally avoid them...lol)

    I know where this comes from and that it?s a deeply rooted conditioned response to stress: anticipation anxiety.

    If I would only hold still and not panic, I?d probably see the solutions in front of me. But, situation being what it is, sometimes I have to take my time to see the resolutions. I have to take time out and just wait until I?m no longer reactionary and can be rational. And there are times when there is no luxury of time where I can sit back and say to myself, ?You?re just reacting. Let it pass? and then consider the situation.

    I was curious if anyone experiences anything similar and what methods have been used that worked in such situations?

  2. #2
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    Re: Anticipation Anxiety

    Heh. This came up recently, for me, during a meeting at work. It seems there had been another meeting elsewhere in the organization that was conducted by someone we all know to be arrogant and aggressive. This person was true to form in the case being discussed, and was intimidating and aggressive to other attendees of the meeting he was conducting. I found myself wishing I'd been at the meeting myself because I have learned something that will almost always work to stop the aggression and dissipate the anger and tension:

    If someone gets in my face (close up and finger-pointing or speaking loudly), I simply stand up (if I'm sitting) or move toward that person a pace or two while holding eye-contact. I remain completely calm in appearance and don't allow my face to reflect my feelings (I'm usually pretty darned mad on the inside!). It's normally not necessary to say anything. The person will almost inevitably back up and shut up. They're not accustomed to having someone come toward them while they're being "intimidating". They know what they're doing and they expect a certain response. When they get assertiveness in response, they don't know how to handle it. The result is, they stop. I'm always surprised at how well this tactic works; at least, on workplace bullies.

  3. #3
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    Re: Anticipation Anxiety

    Hi Lana and TL

    I just thought that I would share my own experiences with a specific workplace bully and people that are right up in your face. I am normally a non-confrontational person when it comes to others but there is one specific person that I can think of this minute that is basically a jerk. I know the feeling of anxiety rising because when he says that he needs my help I just feel my heart speed up and my defences are up before I even know what I need to do for him.

    He is a very condisending man and treats everyone like they are a 2 year old with even putting his hand up near your face as in to say shut up. I took this from him for numerous years until finally I had had enough and I just said if you are going to treat me this way because I am trying to HELP you then you can do it on your own and I walked away. I think that this was probably the best think that I could have done because now he knows that I am not going to put up with his childish games and him treating me badly.

    I have to admit that I still find my anxiety spikes a bit when he comes to me for help and I think that is a fight or flight response to him personally.

    Anyway, just thought that I would share that story. Thanks

  4. #4
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    Re: Anticipation Anxiety

    I think it's perfectly normal to feel a spike of anxiety when someone is aggressive and challenging toward you. That's how we're made. If we can learn to control the outward evidence of the anxiety long enough to either say something to the individual, or confront them in an assertive manner, the person can usually be defused. Most people who are aggressive toward others have learned that they can intimidate, thereby "winning the day" for themselves. When they encounter someone that is not intimidated by them, it throws them completely off balance. It's something they're not used to dealing with.

    I think saying something to the person works well if you can do so in a private situation. It doesn't work as well in a public setting, like the meeting I described. I've found that just looking at them and either standing or moving toward them works better when others are about. Most often, no words are necessary and your action can save everyone a great deal of misery and discomfort.

  5. #5
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    Re: Anticipation Anxiety

    Thank you, TL and Nancy! Those are excellent suggestions and I'll be sure to give them a try when an opportunity presents itself.

    But how do you manage the internal havoc that anxiety causes? I am not anxious enough (or anxious on regular basis) to warrant medication, so the only way (I think, I could be wrong) is to find some type cognitive restructuring that, in the least, minimizes this awful feeling of dread I call anxiety. It's kind of odd but generally, I don't get shaken up. When I do, to others, the event may appear quite innocuous, but to me, it can be quite debilitating. I am even hesitant to tell others how I feel because often, in their attempt to help, others invalidate me by saying something along the lines of, "Oh, you're just imagining it", "Let it go", "You're over-reacting", and even "Oh, stop it!" Needless to say, that sends me right back into that anxiety...LOL

    Right now the only thing I can think of and do is shut down and detach. But it doesn't seem very healthy and definately not assertive.

  6. #6
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    Re: Anticipation Anxiety

    For me, the answer was practice, Lana. I held dialogues with myself, often in front of a mirror. I practiced different scenaria, and the use of various facial expressions and eye contact. I'd come up with what I felt might happen, recreate it for myself, and react to it in a way that I felt would disarm the aggressor. With a bit of work, I came upon the correct series of actions to make things work the way I wanted them to work. I didn't want to start an all-out war, but I did want to stop the intimidation. The method I described is the one that works best in public situations. Speaking to the individual, as Nancy describes, works very well in private situations.

    I think you have to realize that you're absolutely right in what you're feeling and what you're doing about it. There is no excuse for bullying. Therefore, if you can disarm the bully, you're doing the right thing for everyone. Then, it's just a matter of practice, practice, practice. I will say that the first time you actually take on a real-life bully (not the one in the mirror that looks, disconcertingly, like you) it's a bit scary. Still, if you've practiced enough, you'll know your game plan and know in your heart that you're doing what's right. It only takes one success to make each effort that follows easier.

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