You’ve just been hit with a tsunami. At least that how it seems now that you’ve been told that your “services are no longer needed.”
Alternating between anger, discouragement, perplexion, and panic you ask: How could this have happened? How can I make it until I find another job? How I do pay that upcoming bill? What do I tell my family and friends? What do I do now?
Each question spawns another, painfully reminding you that normal was so yesterday. What excitement for the future you do muster up, dissipates under the weight of persistent doubt; doubt provoked by anxiety.
It’s as if the bass dial on your amplifier is turned way up, drowning out the quieter treble notes.
In fact, according to renown family therapist, the late Edwin H. Friedman, there are three factors involved in any survival situation: the physical reality, dumb luck, and our response to it. He likens each of these to dials on an amplifier. “Whenever the first two dials—physical reality and dumb luck—are turned up to maximum volume, the third dial will not make any difference,” he says.
Suppose you fall out of an airplane and forget to bring a parachute. The physical reality and dumb luck (perhaps “misfortune” would be a better word) dials are at full blast. In that situation, it really doesn’t matter what your response is (the “response dial”), your predicament will soon be over when you hit the ground.
The good news is that we are rarely in such dire situations where the third dial can’t make a difference. The problem is that our anxiety about the situation rivets our focus on the wrong dials. Anxiety suppresses our creative thinking about how to respond to our situation and amplifies the things we can’t control. It’s as if we turn up the dials we can’t control and turn down the one we can.
As Friedman puts it, “Our response is always far more influential than our chronically anxious society leads us to believe…Those who are less reactive are more self-contained, less blaming, more imaginative, less anxious, and more responsible. When they do seek help, they generally can hear suggestions well, offer less resistance to suggestions for change, and treat their consultant [advisor] as coach rather than a savior.”
The tsunami struck. You can’t alter its course now. But you can keep anxiety from drowning out the music you create in response.
For suggestions on next steps, you might find the following posts helpful:
- A prayer for the anxious
- When anxiety flattens you
- Lost your job? Don’t make that call…just yet
- Leaving your old employer? Five tips to detoxify.
How has anxiety affected your ability to see opportunities?
[Quotations taken from Edwin H. Friedman, “Failure of Nerve: Leadership in the age of the Quick Fix”, Seabury Books, 2007, p. 154-155]