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  • Michael Philp

Navigating Anxiety: Beyond the arcade of avoidance


whack-a-mole game
Whack-A-Mole is lot like how we deal with anxiety

Lately, I've been thinking about anxiety and the ways that we try to cope with anxiety, and how it's strangely similar to that arcade game we've all seen - Whack-a-Mole. You know, the one where those little critters pop up, and you have to whack them with a hammer before they disappear? Well, stick with me, because this analogy might just reveal something fascinating about how we handle anxiety, both individually and as a society.

The Whack-a-Mole Tangle

Anxiety can be unpleasant.

Picture this: just like those moles in the game, anxiety symptoms tend to pop up, demanding our attention. The symptoms are uncomfortable and our first instinct is to try and get rid of them. We hustle to escape anxiety's grip through either avoidance of the things that trigger the anxiety or quick fixes. This is how anxiety is like the Whack-a-Mole game. We keep whacking these critters. But guess what? The critters don't go away and the game gets faster and faster. Much like anxiety, the more we try to get rid of the symptoms the more we're stuck in this never-ending cycle, feeling like we can't keep up.

Diving into Avoidance

Avoidance of difficult situations is something we've all done at some point in our lives. We're all guilty of it - avoiding situations that trigger anxiety, procrastinating to dodge making decisions, or trying our best to shove anxious thoughts out of our minds. It's a common tactic we use to feel better, like taking a detour to escape the unease. We believe that anxiety is uncomfortable and troublesome, so we must eliminate it at all costs. We "whack" anxiety out of sight, but little do we realize, we're caught in a loop, much like that relentless arcade game.

Deciphering Anxiety's Intent

Pause for a moment. What if, instead of treating anxiety as the enemy, we tried to understand its purpose? Think about when you're gearing up for something important, like a job interview or auditioning for a play. The jittery feeling you get? That's anxiety giving you a nudge, reminding you that this matters to you. It's like your internal GPS guiding you towards what's significant.

Finding the Just-Right Anxiety

Here's the scoop: anxiety isn't all bad. It's a bit like Goldilocks and her quest for the perfect porridge. Too little, and we're not motivated enough to perform well; too much, and we're overwhelmed and our performances dip. We need just the right amount of anxiety to hit the sweet spot. It fuels us to take action, propelling us towards our goals with just the right intensity.

Unmasking the False Alarms

Sometimes our brain's danger signals are like that overly cautious friend. We share exciting news with them, but they point out all the possible pitfalls. They think they are being helpful, but it's a tad excessive. Our brain does the same thing, flagging potential dangers even when they're not real threats. Take those social gatherings where you worry about not fitting in. Your brain hits the panic button, even though there's no genuine danger. It's part of our old brain system trying to warn us of the danger of being excluded from the group, which was really helpful thousands of years ago, but maybe not as helpful now, in our modern society. It's time to call out these false alarms.

Time to Flip the Game

Instead of chasing our tails like the Whack-a-Mole game, let's rewrite the rules. I've got a game-changer here - acknowledging anxiety's presence without giving it the steering wheel. I coexist with it, accepting that it's not necessarily a foe. It's more like a GPS voice giving me directions, even if it's a bit too cautious at times.


Wrapping It Up

It's time to break free from the arcade mindset and embrace a fresh perspective. Anxiety isn't the enemy; it's a guide. It's our brain's way of trying to warn us of potential danger. But it does this in an unsophisticated way. The more we try and get rid of these thoughts and feelings, the more we engage in the Whack-a-Mole game. However, by understanding its purpose and learning to manage it and bringing ourselves back to the present moment, we can navigate life's challenges while staying true to our values. So next time anxiety pops up, remember - you're not playing a game of whack-a-mole; you're on a journey of self-discovery and growth. Check out our video on this topic on our YouTube channel https://youtu.be/csusdUHKboE


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