- Someone in your church is upset. “Isn’t it awful about what they are doing in that ministry! Oh it is terrible! What are we going to do? (Then here comes the kicker.) You need to do something. You must do something. If you don’t fix this, things will be even more awful than they are now.”
- A parent from your children’s school approaches you. “Can you believe what they are doing? That administration doesn’t know anything. Some of us are really upset. You need to help us deal with them.”
- A family member wants you to share her anxiety. “I can’t believe that my sister wants to cancel our July 4 trip. What is wrong with everyone? We have just got to take this trip. Mother and Daddy will be so disappointed if we don’t do what we planned to do. You are the only one who can fix this. You have got to do something!”
The challenge is to recognize others’ anxiety without getting sucked into that anxiety. Others may be anxious. In fact, they may be very anxious and their fears may spill over into your conversations. That does not mean, however, that you and I have to take on their anxiety. I can recognize their anxiety and even acknowledge it. However, I don’t have to make what belongs to them, a part of my life.
What has been helpful to me:
1. Keeping on top of my daily devotional time in the mornings. Such a time each day helps me maintain clarity about who I am and what my purpose in life really is. Sometimes I read through the Psalms. At other times, I have worked through a fine prayer-book such as Phyllis Tickle’s The Divine Hours . Right now, I am working through Mindy Caliguire’s, Discovering Soul Care . I am working through a chapter a day, journaling through the questions that are raised in each chapter.
2. Being aware of where I am emotionally. Some days I feel really great! There are other days, however, when I just don’t feel on top of things. I may even feel a little down. I want to be aware of what I am feeling and some of the factors that may contribute to such feelings.
3. Attempting to stay aware of my environment. Are there certain people who are bringing lots of anxiety into our conversations? Do I sense these people want me to take on their anxiety? As I talk with them, I want to create enough emotional space that I can see what is happening (emotionally) instead of just falling into a black hole of emotional anxiety that really belongs to someone else.
4. Trying to manage myself in relationships so that I stay connected with people without losing a sense of what I am thinking and feeling. The challenge here is that there are others that might really want me to be anxious like they are. “I can’t believe that you don’t feel any stronger than this over the way these people are acting.”
What has been helpful to you so that you avoid taking on someone else’s anxiety?