There are many things your doctor might not tell you about anxiety.
In this series, we will be examining the top three.
#1: Guilt can cause anxiety and actually is a leading culprit.
As women, we are socialized into being givers and pleasers. Remember the adage “sugar and spice and everything nice” or “pretty is as pretty does”? We learn early on how to intuitively read the emotions of others and seek their approval.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s great to give and to please others. We receive a lot from the smile on someone’s face when we give a gift they love or do something special for them. Yes, it’s great to give because it feels great, and lets face it, we are very good at it. But being a giver can have its down side. We can feel obligated or like we don’t have a choice because we feel bad when we set boundaries and say “no”. This bad feeling is generally driven by our desire to avoid feeling guilty. And being driven by guilt leads to anxiety.
Guilt is such an awful feeling. Guilt keeps us focused on others vs. ourselves and it’s easy for us to get stuck in unhealthy patterns when trying to avoid it. It seems easier. If we take a time-out or don’t fulfill someone’s expectation, we can feel “less than” – like we ought to be able to be all things to all people.
It’s a vicious cycle that takes us further and further away from who we are naturally – what we believe and want. Sometimes we get so far away from ourselves that we don’t even recognize what we need or want anymore. Or if we know what we want, we can feel hopeless to ever having it.
But there is an upside to guilt! Yes, I know you’re thinking how can there be an upside? Guilt keeps us safe because it doesn’t think that we have the strength to:
- face conflict
- be criticized
- let someone down
- discuss problems without taking on blame
- avoid being stuck in feelings of worthlessness or failure
Guilt is the voice in our head that wants to keep us safe. It knows we may fear disappointing others or addressing conflicts, so it helps us to avoid those situations. It causes us to say yes when we mean no because we fear the consequences of saying no.
We feel if we don’t comply we may risk rejection or won’t be loved. Leading us to become even further from ourselves and more and more in tune with the needs of others. Guilt can drown out our own inner voice, our true self, and over time it creates anxiety.
The treatment for this is to go back to the root causes of your guilt. Doing things you might not be comfortable with is a learned behavior and therefore can be unlearned. But the key is to go back to how the pattern was set up – usually specific events in childhood where you were shamed for speaking your mind, wanting something, requesting a need that was denied, etc. Find the part of you that learned these behaviors and begin having compassion toward it and listening to its fears. I know this is easier said than done, but it’s a journey worth pursuing because at the end of the road there is peace. And a new found ability to be true to yourself and become your true self.
If you have anxiety or chronic stress, call Margaret Ann at 972-768-4795 — or use our contact form — for an appointment to discuss your personal circumstances, because Freedom from Anxiety is possible!