Anxiety is a normal part of the human condition and, in most ways, is very adaptive. If we think in terms of the evolution of the human species we see that it is adaptive. In fact, our species would not have survived without anxiety. Too much anxiety, of course, can make living uncomfortable at best. The following is a discussion of anxiety, where it comes from and what you can do to manage it. Understanding anxiety is a significant part of the cure. In addition to this document we suggest you order the corresponding TherapyWorks Workbook Mastery of Your Anxiety and Panic-Second Edition. (To order: 800-211-8378 ext.95780)
Relationships are one area of living where anxiety frequently arises. Knowing how to deal with relationships in a positive and centered fashion can be a significant step towards anxiety prevention. Here are some general ideas for dealing with relationships and emotions.
Once we realize we are angry, we need to have a way to communicate about it. Many people who experience anxiety have difficulty expressing their emotions in an assertive way. Instead, they either become aggressive and lose control or they are passive and say nothing at all. Therefore, learning to communicate assertively is important for increasing coping with anxiety.
Passive Assertive Aggressive
Communication includes not only what we say, but also how we say it, volume of speech, eye contact, body language, facial expression, tone of voice, speed of speech, etc.. Communication occurs on a continuum. On one extreme, there is Aggressive Communication, which means that we are expressing more than what we really need to be expressing. When we are aggressive, we are protecting our own rights and expressing our own feelings but in the process of doing so, we violate the rights of the other individual. On the other extreme there is Passive Communication, which refers to expressing less than what we need to be expressing. When we are passive, we protect the rights of the other individual, but in the process of doing so, we violate our own rights by not expressing our feelings. In the center of the continuum, Assertive Communication lies. When we are assertive we are saying exactly what we need to be saying; we protect our own rights and express our own feelings as well as protecting the rights of the other person. There is one other dominant communication style which does not appear at any one point on the continuum but rather is a fluctuation between the two extremes: Passive-Aggressive Communication. With this style of communication, we are indirectly aggressive. We may appear to be passive, but functionally, we are aggressive.
There are many different types of assertive communication. Four of the most commonly used types are Basic, Escalating, Empathetic, and I-Messages.
With Basic Assertion, we simply state the facts of the situation. This is the "no frills" variety; for example, "You are interrupting me. Please wait until I'm finished speaking."
If we have been assertive using the Basic style and the other person continues with their disturbing behavior, you now have the right to transition into Escalating Assertion, which involves moving up the continuum toward Aggressive. For example, "This is the second time you've interrupted me. If you do it again, I will ask you to leave the meeting."
Empathetic Assertion is nothing more than Basic Assertion with some words or phrases expressing understanding of the other person's position or current life situation and stressors added. For example, "I know how tough it is when your car breaks down. I've been there before myself I'm sorry I can't help your out by loaning you my car but I'd be happy to give you a ride." Empathetic Assertion softens the effect of turning down a request or giving negative feedback.
This form of assertion allows us to communicate assertively about feelings. "I feel _________ when you __________ I would like it if you would ______________ and then I would feel _____________." For example, "I feel unloved and ignored when you don't look at me when I'm talking to you. I would like it if you would look me in the eye when I talk to you and then I would feel loved and important." Using real feeling words like angry, afraid, disrespected is very important in I-Messages. Avoid saying things such as "I feel like you don't love me..." or "I feel that you don't listen" because "like" and "that" in an I-Message describes a thought, not a feeling. It is also important to describe the behavior that the other person is engaging in so that he or she knows specifically what you are talking about. Avoid attributing motivation, e.g. "I feel angry when you ignore me;" a better alternative is to say "I feel ignored and angry when you hold the newspaper in front of your face when I'm talking to you."