Anxiety sucks. Not many will argue with that.
Because of how scary anxiety is, it’s hard to believe it is anything other than something to avoid. But beyond its very real terror, anxiety is trying to tell us something important.
Anxiety is an internal storyteller who believes its story is so important that its chosen genre is horror. Scary stories are hard not to listen to. Anxiety does this to get our attention—scary stories work. Anxiety is our internal storyteller who tries to keep us afraid of life in order to keep us safe.
But there is another storyteller in us too, the one who dreams of adventure.
Both storytellers speak of what our lives will be like if we follow their lead. It’s like the old cartoons when a character has two angels on his shoulders. Anxiety whispers Voldemort’s line to Harry: “You’re a fool Harry Potter. You will lose everything!” If Harry believes Voldemort’s words, he will give up and never lead a rising against him.
While on the other hand, our adventurer, our inner Indiana Jones, says: “Come with me into the uncharted!” Following our inner Indiana means going to find the treasure despite Voldemort’s stories.
While listening to both characters is important to live fully, we get stuck in an anxiety story when we become too convinced that it’s the only story in town. Great stories are always a mixture of safety and risk, love and failure, pain and pleasure.
Tennyson Dodd is the director of Business Operations at Sage Hill Counseling. Tennyson earned his BS in Psychology from Lipscomb University and his MTS from Vanderbilt Divinity School.