When I treat anxiety in others, and when I encounter it in myself, I find that anxiety is always rooted in a sense of helplessness. It’s as if our unconscious believes that we truly have no power, that we are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t, and that we are powerless to affect change. Our prefrontal cortex responsible for logic and reasoning, knows this powerless thinking spiral is not completely true and accurate, but the primitive brain is so busy reacting to anxiety provoking stimulus, the logical part of the brain is overridden. The times we feel most powerless, are the times we feel most anxious.
Figuring out how to make yourself feel stronger, more in control, and more powerful is key. But how?
How to Treat Anxiety
Anxiety is rarely a problem that exists all by itself. Anxiety exists in environments where it can grow. Chronic stress, toxic relationships, power imbalances, and poverty are all things that cultivate anxiety and make it grow. There are common ways to treat anxiety like therapy, meditation, relaxation techniques, exercise and cutting down on stimulants (caffeine.) Any and all of these things can be helpful, but I have found one thing that helps immensely.
Make Small Choices for Big Power
Taking back your power is the solution to the anxiety problem. When people find small ways to feel powerful again, they start to feel better.
Anxiety often is a result of feeling trapped in a box of “I can’ts”; feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place; feeling damned if you do, and damned if you don’t. Anxiety’s root is powerlessness. To strike back at anxiety, taking small steps to gain back your power make all the difference.
- Brainstorm all the options you have, even the crazy ones.
- Make small choices on how you spend your time.
- Make small choices on how you will reframe or think about your current situation.
- Make small choices on how you respond to others’ dysfunction.
- Set small boundaries on time, duties, space you share with others.
- Set small boundaries on how much you allow yourself to think about bothersome worries.
- Own mistakes you’ve made and commit to making amends. Say yes to things you want to do, and no to things you don’t.
- Invite help.
- Invest in a trainer, a consultant, a coach, a counselor, a psychiatrist, an attorney, or an assistant.
- Off load emotional vampires, time-sucks, and the self-absorbed.
- Cut your losses on unlucky investments and one-sided relationships.
Taking back your life from the anxiety, isn’t done in one fell swoop. It is done by making one small decision after another, until you feel stronger, more confident and more positive. Psychologist measure remission and success by decreased frequency, duration, and severity of anxiety episodes. With each step toward empowerment and positivity you make, remission from anxiety becomes possible.
One major tactic narcissists use to get their way is making other people feel inferior and stupid. Imagine opening up about a problem to a person you love, and then hearing, “Well you should have seen that coming,” or “Why in the world did you do that?” Ugh. Right to the gut, right? You hoped to receive some support or sensitivity, but instead you felt stupid, like you did something wrong.
People everywhere experience similar feelings when dealing with the narcissistic personality. Maybe you have a bright idea that will solve a current problem. Sharing that bright idea with a narcissist will leave you feeling dumb for ever having the problem in the first place. Maybe you feel great about a recent decision you made. Sharing it with a narcissist will beg the question, “Why did it take you so long?”
Self absorbed, narcissistic people have a way of stealing your confidence and joy right out from underneath you. They use patronizing put-downs so they can be in control. They minimize your needs, concerns and rights in order to promote their own. Having an intelligent conversation with a narcissist ends up as a one sided lecture or rant, with you on the wrong end. Disagreeing will get you attacked. Offering other perspectives will get you belittled. Having your own opinion will get you sidelined. If he can get you to feel stupid, or at least not as smart as him, then he has disabled your power and influence, and bolstered his own. He’s one step closer to getting his way, whatever that is.
In order to stay the “smartest person in the room,” there are key phrases narcissists use to manipulate you into feeling stupid. When you hear these things, you know you are getting played.
- Let me tell you how it is.
- You don’t understand.
- You need to … (fill in the blank.)
- You’re wrong, and let me tell you why.
- I know you better than you know yourself.
- You should have known better.
- I told you so.
- You’re misguided (uneducated, misinformed, etc.)
- I know more than anyone about this.
So what should you do when you think you’re being played as a fool?
- First, remember that YOU ARE NOT STUPID. You may have felt “less than” at the time, but you are not “less than.” You are “equal to.”
- Second, state your own opinion or need with confidence. It may not be received or respected by the narcissist, but that doesn’t matter. You are enacting self-respect by voicing your own needs and opinions.
- Third, avoid engaging in arguments or debates with a narcissist. Wrestling with pigs just gets you dirty in the end.
If you are living with or married to a narcissistic person, your life may feel like a never ending battle. A battle with him, and a battle to keep what is left of yourself in tact. It’s important to invite professional support to help you navigate your next steps. Dealing with this toxic personality is extremely frustrating and anxiety provoking. You shouldn’t have to do it by yourself. Sign up to take this Relationship Survey that will help you see your relationship more clearly, and get the help you need.
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