I’m so damn glad you are here at my blog! I’m assuming you’re here because you feel, well, stuck, and that’s the entire purpose of this blog – to help you get unstuck. I have a LOT to say about getting unstuck, but first, let me tell you a little bit about myself.
I did a lot of time stuck myself. I was stuck for what seemed like a lot of reasons. I was stuck because I didn’t think I had it in me to chase down my dreams (even though my dreams refused to go away). I was stuck because I didn’t think I measured up to other people’s expectations or demands, and that was really challenging for me. Don’t think I didn’t TRY to measure up – just the opposite. I spent blood and treasure trying to make the grade in their eyes. But success was fleeting…
I was stuck because, I would learn, I was dealing with some pretty fierce anxiety. I attacked that anxiety back in 1995 and got a measure of freedom – I had actually become all but house-bound, and in that year got my freedom back – but still found myself feeling stuck, acting stuck in my life. I moved to San Diego from Reno, NV, something I had always wanted to do, but almost the entire time I was there I felt like an imposter, like somebody was going to show up and say “hey, buddy, you know you don’t get to live here, right?”
I finally left, chasing down a long-time dream of teaching college, and found the love of my life in the process as well. But I was still dogged by a sense of frustration, of a growing awareness that I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do, and a sense of dread and even fatalism about ever getting there. I was still stuck.
I finally moved back to Southern California, with the previously-mentioned love of my life, and together we built a home and a place there (and it’s where I’m staying – I love this place). But after we moved here I began what might be the most important learning curve of my life - the understanding of the connection between anxiety and it's opposite.
The Opposite of Anxiety
This blog post is the start of a slew of blog posts about the principal reason most of us get stuck, in my humble opinion. OK, it’s not that humble. I’d LIKE to think I’m humble, but on this topic I’m pretty confident I’m right.
That reason is anxiety. Anxiety is a very scratchy topic in the best of times, and here in the midst of the Covid Thing of the last several months it is especially scratchy. We have a cultural thing about anxiety that’s hard to explain. We're not really supposed to talk about it. People that deal with anxiety are weak, or pathetic, or just admitting to failure in their lives. That's nonsense - all of it. But we still, many of us, think it in the back (or the front) of our minds.
We know, most of us, that anxiety is a regular companion in our days. But we’re not crazy interested in talking about it, or even looking at it squarely in the eye. It makes us damn uncomfortable.
You, dear reader, would be an exception to that rule, because you’re HERE, now, reading this blog. You’re here because you want to shake loose, get unstuck from what’s holding you back. So I’ll say it again: the reason the vast majority of us get stuck is we are, in one flavor or another, dealing with some degree of anxiety.
Think about it. When you are not anxious about something how do you roll? Do you hesitate? Do you second-guess yourself? Do you stall and rethink and over-analyze? No. Of course you don’t. You just charge in and do the thing that you want to do.
But when we’re anxious, even if we haven’t said to ourselves “hell, I’m anxious about this thing”, then we can wind up doing all those things. It gets more frustrating. We’ll start avoiding the thing or issue that makes us anxious. We’ll shelve it, park it, cover it in the dirty laundry, push it to the back of our mental closets and try to act like it isn’t there.
But brains don’t really work that way. There are no closets in there. We develop elaborate ways of skating around the thing/things that stress us, make us uncomfortably anxious, but it/they are still there.
I’m going to do a fair amount of time in this blog explaining both that avoidance process and how we stop avoiding, effectively, and in the process start getting unstuck. But this blog post is about the opposite of anxiety. If you asked a random sample of the people in your world what they thought the opposite of anxiety was they might say fearlessness, or calm, or peace, or courage, or hope, or even confidence.
Those are good words, but I’m going to argue in this blog that those are all outcomes of the real opposite of anxiety. The opposite of anxiety is agency.
Agency may seem like an odd word to your ears. Let me resort to my trusty online dictionary to give you the technical definition of agency: “action or intervention, especially such as to produce a particular effect.” The opposite of having anxiety is having a sense of agency.
I’m going to give you a much more nuanced sense of agency in my next post, but here’s the thing to focus on today: anxiety is the corrosion, over time, of our sense of agency. Maybe we lost that agency a long time ago – when we were little kids. Maybe some setbacks in our adult lives eroded our sense of agency. Doesn’t matter.
Don't think I'm trying to oversimplify the effects and burden of anxiety. Some of us are really burdened with it. Others are only occasionally harassed by it. Anxiety is hard, and debilitating, and we wrestle with a lot of information and misinformation about what it is.
But at the end of the day the entire mission of getting unstuck is getting back a sense of agency. And that’s what I’m here to help you do. Wherever anxiety is messing with your sense of personal agency, however much it is limiting your sense of agency, you can get it back.