Serpentine.

In times of fear, have you ever found yourself losing interest in your goals and chasing new ones?  Some people think they have ADD or shiny ball syndrome, always chasing the next new thing, never sticking with one course of action but, instead, chasing every new dream that comes along?  Do you not stick up for yourself, but divert your anger into something trivial or more socially acceptable instead?   These are but a few of the ways you can avoid the hard stuff, the stuff you may believe, you just can’t handle.

Have you ever found that you cannot settle into one vision, one goal or one thing? Instead you keep losing interest, repeating patterns and running all over the place in a seemingly chaotic fashion?

Perhaps author, speaker and research professor Brené Brown (Rising StrongDaring Greatly, The Gifts of Imperfection etc.) can shed some light on your behavior.  Brown introduces us to the idea of “serpentining” as a protection strategy we use to avoid vulnerability.  Borrowing from the 70’s movie, “The Inlaws”, Brown describes a scene in which one of the characters tries to dodge flying bullets by moving in a serpentine fashion – zigging and zagging rather than moving in a straight line in order to avoid being an easy target.

As a protective strategy “serpentining” can be exhausting because, in the end, more energy is expended “serpentining” than facing the fear head on.   It may be helpful to examine your own places of resistance and invulnerability and notice where you find yourself doing the serpentine shuffle.  If you are truly dodging bullets, “serpentining” may have its place, but when facing up to challenges in our life, it is a protective strategy that requires closer examination

For a visual example and a bit of levity, you can view the ‘serpentining” clip from The InLaws here:

4 Types of Survival Patterns

Okay, I am cheating a bit with this post, but because it hits home on so many levels for many of us, I thought it was important to post.  Read the content that follows and see if you can identify your survival pattern, your go to safe strategy.  Except, there is a trick to it – these patterns don’t actually work long-term and may make your anxiety worse.

In case your wondering, I am the AVOIDER.  I have used the others on occasion too.

The following content is a direct quote from Dr. Friedemann Schaub, M.D. author of The Fear and Anxiety Solution a book I highly recommend.  I have spoken before to Dr. Schaub and he is a very kind and humble man.  His work is worth checking out at http://www.cellularwisdom.com

“When was the last time that fear and anxiety made you feel vulnerable, unsafe and out of control? Being anxious can feel so intense and overwhelming, that all you want is to suppress or get rid of it. But how do you that? Chances are that neither your parents nor your teachers in school showed you how to deal with anxiety. And like most of us, you had to figure out on your own, how to respond to being anxious or insecure. The problem is that you may have become so good in managing your anxiety, that you don’t even realize that you’re just surviving every day, rather than finding joy and purpose in your life.

There are 4 major survival patterns, through which most people try to consciously and subconsciously control their fears and anxieties. If you are finding yourself using one or several of these survival patterns on a daily basis, you know you have an anxiety problem.

 The Avoider

If you are an avoider, you are probably very sensitive to criticism, rejection and failure. You try to escape potential hurt through making yourself smaller or even invisible. You hide in a small and controllable comfort zone and preemptively loath and criticize yourself, before anyone else can do this to you. Outside of your refuge, you vigilantly scan your surroundings for any signs of judgment or danger. As an avoider you deny yourself any sense of empowerment, because in your mind feeling confident and positive only increases the risk of getting hurt.

The Pleaser

As a pleaser you believe that your best chances to avoid painful rejection or abandonment, is to make sure that everyone is “ok” with you. You may be the care-taker, who feels overly responsible for others; the chameleon, who is able to fit in everywhere; or the jokester, who tries to win people over through being the life of the party. In pleasing mode you try to manage your anxiety by not being alone, which is why your sense of safety and worthiness depends on the approval of others.

The Controller

If you have the constant need to control every aspect

of your life, you may not realize that all you are doing is to manage your fear of being powerlessness. You may even take on the role of being the authority and strictly enforce your ideas and rules through anger, threats and punishment, just to avoid feeling exposed and unsafe. By controlling others through instilling a sense of insecurity and powerlessness, you feel more empowered and secure. However, underneath this dominating behavior often reside profound feelings of inferiority, vulnerability and pain, which stem from traumas and confusion from your childhood.

 The Achiever

Are you known as a go-getter, who always exceeds everyone’s expectations? Do you continue to strive for the next achievement, never taking the time to enjoy the one you just reached? Or maybe you call yourself a perfectionist, who can’t accept mediocrity. As an (“over-“) achiever, failure and second-place aren’t an option, because your identity and worthiness are defined by your successes. However, although this form of drive and competitiveness may have got you far, deep inside it is still the deep-seated fear of not being good enough, which keeps you running and striving.

All of these survival patterns have one thing in common: they don’t lead to a true sense of inner peace and happiness. As you become more and more dependent on these strategies to cope with your anxiety and insecurity, you drain your energy and power, which only increases the likelihood of feeling stressed and anxious. Because no matter how many people you have avoided or kept successfully at arm’s length; and no matter how many you have “wowed,” made happy or controlled – in the end you may still end up feeling powerless, because you have been defining yourself through circumstances and people around you, and thus making them more important than yourself.”

See yourself here?  What style do you lean on to manage your fears?  Come on, it can’t only be me 🙂

A Taxing Day and One year Later.

Yesterday was a bit challenging for me. First, it was tax day and like a good procrastinator I kicked the can down the road until the very last minute. I spent 3 days doing last minute scrambling to get it done. Tax prep is sort of like colonoscopy prep and, yes, I did procrastinate doing that too.
Procrastinators are often deadline sensitive people and they don’t get enough motivation to tackle unpleasant tasks until the threat of a deadline moves them. It is a habit that I am working on. Fear and perfectionism are often hiding in the shadows of the procrastinator’s psyche and we avoid dealing with either of these gremlins until panic takes over.

Yesterday was also the 1 year anniversary of the Boston Marathon. Here in the Boston area, it was a time to reflect upon the tragic events that took place. Much has transpired in that year and the survivors and their rescuers have demonstrated courage and perseverance in the face of tragedy.
Though most of us have not faced such tragedy, can you think of a time in your life when you failed or suffered a severe loss or set back? Have you been able to recover from it? Did you do so with the support of others or did you manage by yourself?

Resilience is the ability to bounce back quickly from a loss or setback. Healing is faster when the pain is not hidden and you keep your heart open, but it is not easy.

The late Elizabeth Edwards who faced her own challenges very publically said:
“Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before. You can fight it, you can do nothing but scream about what you’ve lost, or you can accept that and try to put together something that’s good.”

Do you have an inspirational story to share? I’d love to hear it.

The Invisible Fence.

After today, I am going to break from discussing shame – it is a very large topic and one we will revisit many times. The reason that I feel we must keep chipping away at shame is that shame is “A Master of Disguise”. Shame has the ability to create limits that are actually lies as it covers its own stealthy tracks. More importantly, Shame like fear, anxiety and other affiliated emotions are self-sealing. That is that they engage in behavior that reinforces and seals the belief inside where it grows unchallenged. It seems that even our feelings like power and will run rampant when we do not challenge them. Logic is often used by such feelings to justify keeping them in place. “I would feel good about myself if only ______.”

Shame, fear and anxiety are deceptive to us at times. They are protective in nature, but can grow to be more punishing than the original intention – they take on a life of their own and begin limiting our behavior creating an invisible fence in our minds. Much like those cruel shock collars, shame, fear and anxiety take on the same methodology – when we get too close to an imagined boundary, we get zapped! Some people suffer shame attacks, others anxiety attacks and still others over-reactive fear responses that are grossly out of proportion to the stimulus.

Why do I write about these emotions and limits? Because like all humans, I have had my share of afflictions and I believe that we must use the latest knowledge and tools to hack out way out of the limits that impose smallness and limited lives upon us. Each and everyone of us has a right to be here and to grow in the direction we choose. To do that requires removing a lot of invisible fences.

Much of the time you will not see your invisible fence for what it is, you will need help. That help can come in the form of a friend, a support group, a great coach, a good therapist. The point is you must know it is there in order to challenge and remove it. Sometimes, you will just have to jump the fence take the shock and realize it did not kill you, then do it over and over again – a process of systematic desensitization.