Being faced with a tough break up in a past that I was working on resolving, put me through an awkward situation of meeting with my ex and her fiance. Logically the meeting was a right decision however for the days leading to the event I was floating in the sea of anxiety. I felt dizzy, had a constant headache, strange sleeping patterns and nausea. I was not familiar with this experience. Sure I felt anxious before meeting a new client before or doing a solo sky dive back in 2007. This experience however was different in its longevity and seemingly endless qualities. It reminded me a combination of withdrawals from a big drinking weekend mixed with a mistake of 2 large lattes in the afternoon. The trouble is though that I have not been drinking or had a coffee.
My curiosity always brings a sense of an investigative journalist in to life experiences and this was no exception. I explained my symptoms to a close friend over Facebook chat and she responded with – “welcome to my world”. In the sentences to follow she described her days filled with this experience and this was the face of clinical anxiety. My heart goes out to people that are affected by this. It is absolutely crippling to function in this cloud and I found it hard to empathise because I have not experienced this before. Working as a coach taught me a valuable lesson of what we call a reality map. The reality map is a representation of the physical world with emotions and meanings attached to it. It is a mental construct and is essential for human and other beings to function in this world.
Perceiving reality as is and especially decision making and communication would not be same efficient and fast without having your own version of it in your head. This way a person does not need to rely on sensory input to take action. I hope you can see the negative impact in that when applied indiscriminately to events and your thinking. One of the dangers that we tend to believe that people perceive the reality in the same way we do. It causes all kinds of misunderstanding, name calling and disappointment. And it all stems from the same wrong assumption that if the share the same reality then people who commit actions that go against “common sense” are doing in on purpose. I heard too many times that people with depression and anxiety should “just not worry about it”. People that are going through a break up “should get over it”. A child not doing well on a particular subject in school called “stupid”. And the list goes on.
Its only when we accept that people around us have a different world representation in their mind you can let go of this. It is absolutely real to them as it is for you only they are different “reals”. The way to handle this is to seek to understand first before coming up with advice based on your experience or whats even worse on a luck of it. When you hear that little know-it-all voice giving their best advice instead ask yourself a question – how does this person feel, what got them on this path and learn about their version of the world. I promise you one thing – this will not be either quick or easy. This will also cost your friendships because you will no longer want to associate with people who make generalist bigoted remarks. The great news is that in this process you will expand your awareness, find new friends and will live in a more compassionate world.