Recently I find myself discussing the important distinction between fear and anxiety with clients.
Fear is present-focused, and involves being in the presence of something that is experienced as life-threatening. Imagine this: you’ve just woken up from impeccable sleep, prepared your warm lemon water to wake up your digestive system, learned that new TikTok dance (no judgment), and are now journaling all the ways you’re grateful for your life – you’re feeling damn right fabulous. Then you look up to find a raging BEAR a few inches from your face. Now you’re kicking yourself for not purchasing that special door lock you saw advertised on “Shark Tank” for $199 the night before. Paralyzed with fear, you’re in the face of danger.
Anxiety is future-focused, and involves being launched to a place where your feet are not. That upcoming exam, that future date with that sexy someone, that (possible) promotion at work… these are some things that keep us up at night. Though our brains often can link this anxiety back to some truth, there is at least a part of this experience that is not fully based in reality.
COVID-19 has profoundly impacted our lives – some far more disproportionally than others. I have been heartened to see this collective narrative pivot in many ways, from one of fear to one of anxiety. At one time, we feared every cough by someone standing too close at the grocery store and every surface that hadn’t yet been sprayed or wiped clean, because these were experienced as life-threatening and dangerous to our self-preservation. As we return to a maskless world, we are anxious to reconnect with loved ones, anxious to learn if/when we will return to the office, and overall anxious for our “new normal.”
Returning to “Normal”
As we approach Pride Month, I can’t help but reflect on its roots and how this story of protest and unrest evolved into one of celebration and liberation. The removal of masks has not fully liberated us from our fears and anxieties surrounding what is here and what is to come (and that is OK!). Your “new normal” isn’t supposed to look a certain way. But what we can be assured of is that when we are where our feet are, when we root ourselves in the strength that helped us to persevere and keep safe, we can come back to the present to take pride in being stronger than the problem led us to believe. Now, who does something about this bear…