Try defining anxiety out loud. Then
explain the difference between anxiety and
fear. Would you say that worry is
different than anxiety or apprehension? All these
normal emotions fall on a spectrum of terror to serenity. They each describes a reaction to
possible or certain pain, injury, or death.
Timidity is a symptom of personal
self-doubt (low self-confidence). Ambivalence
suggests a mix of confidence and self-doubt.
Fear blooms when you imagine or perceive
major discomfort or pain that you may not be
able to prevent or control. Fear can be amplified by
not knowing what may happen,
how, or when. "Fear of the unknown" can raise
the heart-rate of the toughest person.
Besides their words, how do you judge when
someone feels "significantly" anxious or
fearful? Their facial expression? Eye movement?
Voice dynamics? Body posture? Timidity?
Stuttering? All of these? How do you
display anxiety with friends and
How do you usually feel with a notably anxious adult
or child? Uncomfortable? Sympathetic? Detached?
Concerned? How does their anxiety affect your
behavior? Do you feel responsible for making
them feel better? That may be a way to reduce your
discomfort if you doubt the other person's
ability to manage their worry or fear.
feel unsure, anxious or worried, what do you need from other people? Reassurance?
Listening and empathy? Suggestions or direction?
Information? Explanations? Confrontation?
Physical comforting? Prayers? Solitude?
Optimism? Attentiveness? Sympathy? Something
else? Do your needs depend on the situation? Do
you assume other people need what you need?
Have you ever been told...
"Oh don't worry,
It'll be alright."
"You're upset over nothing!"
"Keep a stiff upper lip!"
"It's no big deal!"
look at the bright side!"
be such a worrywart!"
"Put on a happy face!"
get over it!"
"C'mon - lighten up!"
"It could be worse!"
These are well-intentioned but disrespectful
discounts. They imply "You shouldn't feel
what you're feeling." Do you ever use these to
make yourself feel better around an
Another common response that can feel
disrespectful is "I know just how you feel!"
That is rarely true, because we're unique people
with unique backgrounds and perceptions.
better option is to use respectful attentiveness
Option: look at an excessively or
chronically fearful person with compassion. A
Self, and they are (a) unaware of that, and (b) how to free
it and regain appropriate self-confidence and courage.
People with vague personal boundaries can become
over-empathic to another person's fear - i.e.
they can feel anxious with the other person. This
is specially likely if they don't trust the
other person to manage their fear well enough.
If you sacrifice your needs "too much" to
protect an anxious partner, you risk
their fear, and discounting yourself. "Too much"
depends on the person, your relationship, and
Stay aware that a valuable way to respond is to
help the person master their own doubt and fear
- which can mean
best way to help is by not helping."
Recall the ancient proverb "It is better to
teach a starving person how to fish than
to give them a fish."
A challenge here is to keep your Self in charge, respect your partner's feelings, and not try
him/her, dictate what
s/he feels (or should feel), or persuade him/her to discount
their emotions. With this in mind, how can you
respond effectively to a significantly-fearful
Appropriate responses depend on a mix of
degree of anxiety (low to high),
(local or ongoing),
how stable and grounded the
what resources they have,
of the situation, and...
and role - i.e.
mate, relative, parent, child, friend, co-worker
or classmate, acquaintance, or stranger.
us haven't learned to consciously assess these factors. We
react instinctively in important situations, which
may cause ineffective
or even harmful responses. Options:
these basic options
until they become habitual;
allow, pause and reflect on...
what do I
feel around this
Your emotions point to
what do I
now? Are my
needs as important a the other person's
new? Caution - if your
answer is "I'm not sure," or "No," be
alert for a well-meaning
what does this person need now -
in general, and from me?
what am I responsible for in this
situation? Who determines that - me, the
other person, someone else, or "society"?
is this an emergency or
If so, who is in what
Depending on your assessment, choose among
options like these:
To validate the person's feelings
you look (or sound) anxious now."
learn and/or clarify
"I wonder if something
is worrying you. Can you say what you're feeling?"
"Is there something you'd like to talk
"Is there anything I can do to help you feel
better?" Be careful not to assume
responsibility for the person's
name what you're anxious about / scared
Sometimes identifying specific fears can
make them seem more manageable.
worst that might happen, in this case?"
Sometimes identifying the worst allows
brainstorming what to do about it. That
often reduces anxiety.
you handled situations like this in the
"(Name), is your true Self
you through this?"
can often reveal a way to manage the
current anxiety well. The anxiety is
secondary to freeing the Self to lead.
If the person denies feeling anxious or
scared, s/he may send a
implying at least two subselves
are in control - e.g., a
who don't feel safe to disclose.
You aren't responsible for this, and
you can't "fix it."
Try something like this:
confused. Your body and voice imply that you're worried
about something, yet your words say "No, I'm OK." Then be quiet, and observe with
an open mind.
To Reassure the Other Person
There are many verbal
and nonverbal options here. The best ones
avoid claiming something that the person
doesn't believe, like "It'll be all
right, you'll see!", or "Trust me -
that (fearful thing) will never happen !"
Tho well-meant, assurances like these aren't
helpful unless you have special knowledge
that the other person doesn't have.
Consider appropriate touching, hugging, or
holding, and/or more factual reassurances
you're not alone. We'll (all) go through
go of feeling guilty about asking for
help. You're not imposing on me
(if true). If I'm not able to listen
or be with you, I'll tell you honestly.
Do you trust me on this?" Caution
- be clear on your responsibility here,
and avoid enabling.
(else) do you have to talk to about
knows about your situation?"
like me to pray with you?"