Why do I get such severe anxiety when I have to be somewhere on time, even if I am not really running late?
This was a question someone posed to me the other day. The first thing I told them was that I do the same thing. Then I tried to picture what happens to me in the same circumstance.
What happens is that we go through a series of “mental doors.” These are doors that will open to something bad on the other side of them. The doors are in succession; if the first one opens, then it is very likely the next door will open. Once that door opens, the next will open and so on.
In the scenario that plays out in our minds, the worst possible thing will happen behind each and every door, ultimately ending in a catastrophic event. Each of the events will cause us severe mental torment and pain and put us in a situation we have no way to save ourselves from.
We are very sure these things will happen basically in the order we picture them. Sometimes we have a very clear picture of the succession of events in our minds, and other times it is more subconscious. If we stopped to write down what is behind each door, we probably could.
Usually what awaits behind the doors are things we have a general fear of happening. They are things that haunt us and control our behavior. We are so afraid of these things happening, that our lives are ruled by these fears.
What am I really afraid of ?
The fears are different for different people. Personally the things I fear are as follows:
losing my job
the house burning down
having my children taken away from me
fear of abandonment
losing my mind
You can make your own list. You may share some with me and you may have many of your own. The fear of losing the job is probably the easiest one to use for an example. This one begins with running late for work and has many other nasty doors after it.
I am running late for work.
I will arrive late and the worst possible supervisor will be there
I will be scolded and humiliated
The confrontation between the supervisor and myself will be overwhelming
I will not be able to deal with the anxiety of it
I will either quit, be fired… OR …
be too upset to work and screw something up at work to get myself fired… OR ..
.the result of the confrontation will be an unbearable increase in the anxiety level at work from now on that will make me physically ill, more mentally ill, and will end in my losing lob soon
What is the worst thing that could happen?
The loss of my job will be devastating
I will not have enough money to eat or feed my kids, or pay the rent
I will be thrown out of the house by my ex in-laws either with my children or they will keep my children
Any hope for a future will be lost
I will not recover
Where did these fears come from and why do I constantly feel in danger of them?
Most likely these fears have root in our past. There is something about ourselves or things we have experienced that make us believe that these things are chasing us. We are in constant danger of these things happening to us. If we are not careful and always worrying about them, then they will sneak up on us and destroy us.
It could be that some of these fears are due to our present living situation. If we are in a mentally abusive situation, then the fears that other people would consider made up, are actually part of our lives. If we actually have to fear things that other people do not, because of who we are living with, then we are being manipulated by others with fear, which is mental abuse.
Once we think we might be running late for work, our minds go into the mode of opening all of these mental doors. It is not a clear thing in our minds. There are just flashes of thoughts, pictures, scenarios and overwhelming emotion. We actually experience the feelings of fear , as if these situations were occuring right now.
We suffer the mental torment of the bad experiences we fear, even though they are not actually happening to us at this time. This is part of the anxiety disorder and we cannot just shut it off. The brain goes into this mode on its own.
The obsessive thoughts running through our heads when we are afraid of being late for work, are all about these doors, we fear opening against our will. It is a fear of the future and our mental / emotional inability to handle it. The thing that would help would be strengthening our general mental state. But we are in the lace we are in at this time.