To the anxious person the idea that there is simply a potion to quaff to give confidence is a compelling one. There are also ideas of potions of strength, luck and of invisibility. There are actually drugs that you can take to temporarily achieve changes in mental states. Often the anxious person feels trapped in their anxiety while ‘normal’ people seem to get on with their lives in a permanent state of self-confidence.
However anxious people are not permanently anxious and neither are ‘normal’ folk permanently confident and never anxious. It’s simply that anxiety seems the default setting, yet anxious people still experience the occasional short euphoric bursts of confidence. At such times I’ve often wondered what are the conditions that cause me to feel confident and could I replicate them regularly.
There is no complex alchemy involved. At a very basic level, it’s simply when you are enjoying yourself, or even more simply just happy. However such occasions are relatively rare. The real trick is make this enjoying yourself the default setting. This is perhaps a little more complicated.
That default happiness perhaps requires a couple of things to be true. You have to live somewhere you like, in surroundings and a community of people you like. You also have to work somewhere you like, somewhere you feel you are making a valued contribution and are relaxed doing whatever mundane tasks are part of doing that work. Whilst this sounds simple it can be very difficult to achieve. Very few people achieve this absolute dream situation, most of us have to make compromises somewhere in the attempt to be as happy as we can be.
It’s not that simple as we are social animals, we need to be told from time to time that what we are doing is worthwhile by people we respect and not have lots of people continually telling us that we are not doing anything worthwhile. People need affirmation.
Often it seems that the economy, our families and restrictions in how much money we can make all conspire to thwart our simple aim for happiness. As anxious people continually over-think things and have a negative outlook as they gather data and understandings of what is going on around them.
I felt rather depressed and lethargic last Sunday. It seemed crazy as I’d just spent a week working at the Urdd Eisteddfod in Cardiff. A week where I enjoyed myself, working at an event I have huge regard for; and basically trying to make up for missing out on it when I was a child and I was a very anxious child. Whilst I’m still not fully fluent in Cymraeg, living in the language somehow makes me feel more confident as I’ve written about previously. I caught the anxious me coming out to ponder why I was feeling bad after a happy week. Of course, it was just a come down and I needed rest and some me-time. I suspect most people who had lived on the Urdd Maes for the week were also feeling similarly down.
My point is that the difference between the anxious is that the feeling down and worried is the usual position and the happy worthwhileness of the Eisteddfod is the exception, while for the normal folk, this is the normal situation. Basically I think I suffered from anxiety for so long as I simply wasn’t doing something worthwhile, somewhere i liked with people thanking me for what I was working on.
Overcoming anxiety for me was realising that when you get everything right, you can be a normal confident person for sustained periods. During that period of revelation, there was a time when things hadn’t worked out well and I was feeling down. Everyone else in my group was feeling down too, it was strange to me to be in-tune with how everyone else was feeling and I perked up when others started to perk up. However the rest of the time I was exerting energy on finding solutions to the problems we faced, rather than dealing with my anxiety.
It’s like football. Part of the reason I like going to football matches is the tribalism, being in a team of like minded people, sharing the ups and downs together and the feeling of confidence of feeling accepted for who I am. Trying to match that situation in real life is a challenge to find, especially in a world where so many people seem to end up happy without any seeking of it out.