Anxiety and excitement are like the tail and the nose of a skateboard
There is something exciting and fulfilling about pushing through your limits, being bold and finding an expression of what you feel in your body. It goes well if you can bring some calm into the madness with enough sanity, if you can take the signals of your anxiety seriously when you are about to push it too far and do a stupid thing, if you can bring yourself from recklessness back to courage and the healthy dose of adrenaline. But there is also that point where the anxiety is making you freeze and avoid any challenge alltogether.
So we’ve got a big range of (quite close!!) feelings between anxiety and excitement from completely freezing, structural avoidance, gentle challenges with a minimum of risk and a little pleasure, bigger excitement with manageable risk-taking that gives you a boost of adrenaline, and huge rushes of adrenaline that often come at the cost of some kind of damage. Everyone has more or less of all these feelings (and everything in between). And we all constantly deal with them in ways anywhere between acceptance and (illusion of) control, usually more towards the control end of the spectrum: Consciously avoiding challenges, being overly protective, drinking to shut out the unease and engage in some anxiety-provoking situations, using coke to stop the thoughts and help us take a bigger risk, or even overdoing it with the coke (or, for the same reason, instead talking ourselves into an overconfident “superperson”) and ending up paying for the brief high with damage to ourselves.
It’s often all about rejecting, reducing or numbing some sort of feelings we think are useless and negative.
If you have ever tried to learn to skateboard – like I’m doing in this photo – you know that this sort of behaviour doesn’t help much. Not doing it at all clearly helps to avoid bruises or broken bones but not to skate. Taking the edge off your anxiety with drinking will get you on the board but even an amount of alcohol so small you don’t even notice it while walking will make your balance on the board unpredictable. Then you’ll either become even more anxious, or you‘ll fall on your nose while apparently doing nothing.
And coke (or your otherwise created overconfidence)? That might help you get some speed on the board and decide trying some of the more difficult moves too soon, but your movements are going to feel out of control, you’re not going to have patience with your body and you’re going to end up taking stupid risks before your body has learned the necessary skills.
And even without the drink or coke, the exact same thing could happen if you don’t listen to the waves of anxiety-to-excitment going back and forth. The fine changes in your experience of those very similar feelings are the guidance you need for a stable, controlled, safe but challenging ride (and fall!) on and off your board – regardless of the level of your skills.
Making friends with your feelings is like inviting them to balance with you onto the board: instead of wasting your energy trying to push the anxiety away or giving in to its overworries and stopping skating, you let it just be with you and focus on the “risk-taking tail” for a while. When you go a step too far the anxiety will push the other end down and bring your board back into the balance. The same way when the anxiety seems not to let you try anything it’s about inviting your excitement onto the skateboard and leaning a little more to its side.
Life is a dance and without ALL our feelings we’re out of balance.
How do you learn to make space for, listen to and befriend all your ‘negative’ feelings? Come to my practice for a cup of coffee and see what I do.
I’ll tell you even more about it when I’m getting better at skateboarding and can balance there my anxiety with my excitement 🙂