Have you ever noticed that, while focusing on dynamically streaming visual information, you are less able to simultaneously think about other things? In a sense, our brains are similar to our laptops in this regard. Our computers have a limited RAM capacity, and I believe video graphics are still one of the most voracious consumers of its variable space. Our shades of gray matter are similarly inclined. Many of us may already know this about the human brain, or may find this concept easy to digest; but did you know that anxiety can be an even hungrier ramivore?
In my healing practice I have been privileged to work with many experiencing this challenge. Although the causes of their angst vary, the general outcome, pursuant to their capacity for attention and concentration, is similar — it is situationally decreased. Often they feel stupid, as if this is a measure of their intelligence; and develop issues and defenses around this tendency. Such issues often include inadequacy, fears of rejection, or fears of losing control. Related defenses may include distracting humor, manipulative avoidance, being a know-it-all, being nice to someone’s face and then shredding them behind the scenes, doing whatever others ask even when it takes away from higher priorities, and a highly controlling style. Many believe that, when they draw a blank and then panic, they are moronic or somehow lacking; and seek to compensate for this perceived insufficiency through tactics such as those mentioned above. Often the cause of the pause or lost clause is the angst and its quivering jaws.
This phenomenon is particularly heartbreaking when observed in children. When a little boy or girl is put on the spot; at school, church, or a family gathering; and draws a blank when asked a question; they often feel stupid, or are left with a variety of less-than-encouraging comments. Because of their anxiety they cannot think in the moment. Even though they usually know the anser, or could typically reason it out; in such situations their conscious minds are consumed by anxiety, and so there is not enough attentional capacity left to process the question/answer. Some kids seem to have a harder time understanding the question, and others finding the answer. This is probably determined by the point at which the anxiety peaks (if if peaks sooner, then they would fail to understand the question, etc.). When such children, who may already think they are stupid, are responded to with laughter, ridicule, belittling comments, or judgmental rhetoric; they may slip through a crack in their crushed and broken hearts.
Acceptance, of self and others, is the first and most important step in overcoming this tendency. Whether you are the one with the anxiety, a contextual participant, or both; acceptance of self and others will significantly decrease the anxiety and its adverse effects. With children, unconditional love and acceptance, expressed through words, attitudes, and actions; will help decrease their anxiety and encourage them to believe that they can do it. Sometimes taking a brief break, such as visiting the restroom or stepping outside to get some fresh air, will be enough to calm the anxious heart and free the mind. Normalizing the experience, with yourself or another, can promote acceptance and mitigate those misanthropic murmurs. Anxiety reduction methods such as meditation, tapping, 4-7-8 breathing, exercise, music, gourmet sex (adults only), yoga, essential oils, refocusing thoughts, perspective broadening, herbal remedies, genuine smiling, writing, and reading inspirational texts can decrease the angst and restore the mind for functional pursuits. For children, if they froze and could not produce an answer, immediately create another opportunity for them to have a success experience by asking them something they would easily know the answer to (so their experience of the situation is resolved with effectiveness).
Have you ever experienced this phenomenon? How did you feel? What things have help you overcome it?