Anxiety – 85% of it wasted?

According to change theory (Kurt Lewin), learning anxiety and psychological safety are two of the biggest resistance issues in navigating change. Why? Fear. Change involves as much unlearning as learning. It is painful, and it threatens our identity. We can often feel incompetent as we engage what we do not yet know.

Attractive woman in pain

I have been engaged in grad studies once again. I wrote my prof to discuss the painful experience of adapting to language that I do not use every day (in truth, never). She put forward a helpful metaphor: “…let’s say that you have taken a few weeks of piano lessons, and that you have attended a concert pianist performance. You cannot expect to play at that level immediately…moderate your expectations…”

No circumstance has a direct link to the emotion of fear or anxiety. There is ALWAYS a thought (s) held in between. What are the thoughts?

Now, truthfully, what was really assaulting my mind was a threat to my identity. I felt overwhelmed and despairing even, for not understanding the terminology.  The thoughts driving this feeling of being overwhelmed where of “being found incompetent…rejected…” etc. These are not logical…but present nonetheless.

In another arena, I have been observing the impact of cutback announcements at the University of Saskatchewan. It seems many are terrified that they will lose their job. Circumstance: cutbacks…Feeling: fear…Thoughts:…??? What thoughts are creating the fear? Is it that people will not find work? In Saskatchewan at present, that may not be a reasonable fear. Is it that people think they are being personally rejected? Given the nature and impetus of the cutbacks (budget overspending) it may not be reasonable to assume that a dismissal is personal.

When the dust settles post-change, some will indeed have lost their job…but MANY who have worried intensely about being dismissed will still be there. Dr. Robert L. Leahy suggest that “85% of the things that worriers worry about have a positive or neutral outcome”.

Is it reasonable to invest so much negative energy into fear, with a 15% chance that we have anything to fear at all? Are we so sure that the thing we fear will not ultimately work out for our good? Example: A layoff becomes the doorway to a better paying position in a job we enjoy more. In my case: The pain of learning new language serves to grow my capacity to communicate.

We cannot get where we are going if we do not let go of where we are, and the fear that keeps us there.