In these trying and troubled times, it can be difficult to get the feelings of “impending doom” out of your head. War, terrorism, the bad economy, you read about it in the newspaper, see headlines on the internet, and watch the war coverage on TV. It’s natural with this level of exposure to feel like your nerves are being tested; to wonder how you’re going to handle your own anxieties. The psychological community spends thousands of hours annually helping people learn how to cope with their anxiety. In fact recent studies show that upwards of 20 million Americans suffer from some form of anxiety. This number increases considerably when you consider all of the people who feel anxiety but are never professionally treated for their symptoms. Additional research also shows that between 30 and 70% of all people seeking medical treatment also have some forms of stress related illnesses.
What this translates into is many millions of Americans who are feeling additional stress because of the world we live in. It also means that it’s somewhat natural to feel increased stress. Big questions like: “How do I talk to my kids?” “What should I do if there is an attack on our soil again?” “How should I deal with my fear that something bad will happen?” “How do you really prepare for something like this- when you don’t know what is going to happen?” Each day the staff of www.marsvenus.com receives more and more questions wondering if these feelings are “normal”.
According to our readers, people are dealing with stress in many different ways:
“My wife and I have begun stock piling water, duct tape, and extra food. We talked with our family and have a plan if something really bad were to happen- including where we would meet and the route we would drive out of town. I know this may be a bit extreme but I don’t want to be caught unprepared again.”
“I have not been able to stop reading the news on the internet. I listen to the radio on the ride home from work, and I watch CNN every night. I’m worried that I may miss something.”
Other people are avoiding the issue all together:
“I just can’t watch one more TV show about ‘the war.’ I feel more depressed every time I turn on the TV- it’s like the whole world is paranoid about something that hasn’t even happened yet.”
All of the reactions are normal given the times we live in. What can become problematic for people is when the stress they’re feeling begins to impact their life. Everyday activities like grocery shopping or watching the evening news begins to make people nervous- giving them butterflies in their stomach. When taken to an extreme, people usually need to seek additional medical or mental health support. But the truth is, what most of us feel is a more mild version of real anxiety. While it is normal to feel this way, you would most likely be happier if you dealt with your feelings.
To begin dealing with this issue, ask yourself this question: “Do you feel like you are reacting to the stress more than those around you?” Really think about this. How often are you watching the news? Are you reducing certain activities out of concern that they may not be safe for you or your family? Our reactions to stress are often a reflection on how we dealt with the same issue in our past (perhaps not to the same extreme as we are witnessing now- but the same issue).
Take the following example:
One of the most common emotions discussed by our readers is the feeling of being out of control- that things are happening in the world we are unable to prevent or control.
• If you are feeling this way, can you recall another time in your life when you were unable to control something that caused you pain? Loss of relationship, job etc.
• How did you deal with this issue then?
• What are the similarities or differences compared to how you feel now?
Very often we will react the same way or do the exact opposite. These natural defenses against our feelings of being “out of control” are normal. Our emotions can be more extreme now if we were not able to get our needs met in the past.
• When you experienced this stress in your past, how did people react to you?
• Were they supportive, or were you alone?
• If you were a child- where were your parents?
• Did they help you or did they abandon you?
• How are you now trying to be a better parent to yourself and your own children?
This reaction to stress is called the 90/10 principal. Generally speaking 90% of the stress you are feeling is a reaction to a previous hurt. Only 10% of your feelings are truly about the current events in your life. To gain a better perspective on the stress you are now feeling you need to go back and examine the original hurt. To heal from the pain you need to process the four healing emotions discussed in the book Mars and Venus Starting Over. Whenever a person has a painful experience- in this case feeling out of control- to heal from this they need to process their feelings of anger, sadness, fear, and sorrow.
Your feelings act like the contents of a bottle of champagne. When any one of the healing emotions has not been processed, they act like the cork bottling up the other feelings. If you are angry about feeling out of control, you have most likely not processed the other three healing emotions. This is called being stuck in anger. The same is true for feelings of sadness, fear, and sorrow- or regret.
To heal this you need to first determine where you are stuck. A good gauge is to ask yourself which of these four emotions best represents how you are feeling about the impending war. Are you angry, sad, afraid, or regretful? If you’re stuck feeling angry, then you would benefit by beginning there.
You can begin processing your feelings in one of two ways. The first is by talking and expressing your feelings to a trusted friend, spouse, therapist, or coach. It is important that you find someone to talk with that you feel with not judge you. Sharing personal feelings can be difficult- you need the person you are sharing with to be compassionate and willing to listen.
The second way to process is by writing your feelings out. If you would like to learn more about this technique click here.
If you are talking about your feelings, you can talk about the “war” situation and in context discuss your four healing emotions. If you are writing about your feelings you can address a letter to the person you are upset with, or to a supportive person you want to really hear your message. This can be anyone, even God, if you feel like this will help you feel heard. If you want to change the order of your feelings, that is fine. Start with the feelings that you feel most strongly. Take a few minutes to explore each emotion. To really work on healing your feelings, imagine that the person you are talking to is really listening to you. Talk or write as if you were able to say the things you most need to get off of your heart.
MarsVenus.com… Remember, we’re always here for you.
John Gray, Ph.D. is the best-selling relationship author of all time. His phenomenal best-selling book Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus (HarperCollins 1992) has sold more than 15 million copies and is a best-seller in 40 different languages throughout the world. Dr. Gray is a Certified Family Therapist, Consulting Editor of the Family Journal, a member of the Distinguished Advisory Board of the International Association of Marriage and Family Counselors, and a member of the American Counseling Association. Dr. Gray has also authored 11 other best-selling books: What You Feel You Can Heal (Heart Publishing 1984), Men, Women and Relationships (Beyond Words Publishing 1993), Mars and Venus in the Bedroom (HarperCollins 1995), Mars and Venus Together Forever (Harper Perennial 1996), Mars and Venus in Love (HarperCollins 1996), Mars and Venus on a Date (HarperCollins 1997), Mars and Venus Starting Over (HarperCollins 1998), Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: Book of Days (HarperCollins 1998), How To Get What You Want and Want What You Have (HarperCollins 1999), Children Are from Heaven (HarperCollins 1999), and Practical Miracles for Mars and Venus (HarperCollins, 2000). Dr. Gray's latest book, Mars and Venus in the Workplace (HarperCollins 2002), offers a practical guide for improving communication and getting results at work.
An internationally recognized expert in the fields of communication and relationships, John Gray's unique focus is assisting men and women in understanding, respecting and appreciating their differences. For more than 30 years, he has conducted public and private seminars for thousands of participants. In his highly acclaimed books, audiotapes and videotapes, as well as in his seminars, Dr. Gray entertains and inspires audiences with his practical insights and easy-to-use communication techniques that can be immediately applied to enrich relationships. John Gray is a popular speaker on the national lecture circuit and often appears on television and radio programs to discuss his work. He has made guest appearances o such shows as Oprah, Good Morning America, The Today Show, Live with Regis, The View, Politically Incorrect, Larry King Live, The Roseanne Show, CNN and Company, and many others. He has been profiled in USA Today, Time Magazine, Forbes and numerous major newspapers across the United States. Dr. Gray's national syndicated column reaches 30 million readers in many newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, Atlanta Journal/Constitution, New York Daily News, New York Newsday, Denver Post, and the San Antonio Express-News. Internationally, the column appears in publications in England, Canada, Mexico, Israel, Korea, and in Latin America and the South Pacific.
Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus was transformed into a state version of the same title and opened at the Flamingo Las Vegas. The musical comedy review, written by composer Rita Abrams and directed by David Bell, features five couples of various ages and stages of relationships, and has received both audience and critical acclaim. The musical now is preparing for a national tour. Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Game, produced by Mattel, was the best-selling new adult social interactive board game of 1998. A new board game is due out in 2002. Dr. Gray lives with his wife and three children in Northern California.
To get more information about John Gray, please visit his website at http://www.marsvenus.com