Emotional Tailspins: Calling Ourselves on Our Own Shit

Like the tide, this is a theme from which I can never fully escape. Over and over it crashes down around my ears, reminding me that more than anything else, I need to get out of my own damn way. As much effort and energy I expend on devising better strategies for dealing with the world, what would help most of all is to find a better strategy for dealing with myself! Despite all the work I have done and all the progress I have made in cultivating a more mature outlook, my worries and insecurities remain ever present. Intellectually, I understand how ill-founded and unhelpful they are but that doesn’t convince me to stop fretting. No siree, it does not. In fact, worrying these things to death the way I do never makes me feel better. Alas, so many of the things that trigger this personalized form of self-torment are molehills! They’re things we’ve fabricated in our heads, catastrophizing future events that may never come to pass.

Any of this sound familiar? What needless torture do you subject yourself to?

Not only do we burden ourselves with our worries, we burden those around us. Whether it’s our constant need for reassurance or our tendency to withdraw into silence or our all too frequent benders or whatever other way we find to drown our worries, when we pull this shit it hurts more than just us. We try our loved ones’ patience. We drive them to distraction. We provoke them with our incessant insistence that something’s wrong. They’ve got their own issues to manage and carrying on the way we do certainly makes it no easier. A glaring example can be seen in the sort of “clean up” work a spouse or family must do when coping with an addict. The addict makes a mess of sorts and the family cleans it up, covers it up, and tiptoes around hoping it doesn’t happen again. But it always does. Our insecure, needy, or distancing behavior isn’t too dissimilar on a psychic or emotional level.

And for what? Why do we do this to ourselves? What does this anguish achieve? (There’s got to be some satisfaction in it or we wouldn’t keep doing it.)

Over the past several months, I’ve been working with a career coach whose Sisyphean task is to help me untangle myself from my web of worries and formulate a rational plan to move forward with my goal of becoming a self-sufficient writer. As my coach points out, the conclusions I draw and actions I take when drowning in a sea of anguish are very different from the ones I make when thinking clearly. None of us will ever see the full path before us, but inventing possible future distress does nobody any good. So, the first thing I am learning to do is to recognize when I start to “go there” and try to put on the brakes. No easy task, I assure you! The fear or guilt that lies at the base of such “thinking” is hard to neutralize, but neutralize it I must. I really hate not having any answers, of not knowing what will happen, of having to figure all this shit out and then be responsible for making it work. Can you see how fast that line of thinking and resentment gets me into trouble? Yeah, that’s how these things go…

How often do you do this? Do you recognize it when you start down that virulent path?

At a certain point, all the navel gazing in the world is no replacement for some good old, practical tough love. Nobody can do this for us. We have to reign ourselves in—we’re the only ones who can. So, in that spirit, I recommend you watch the following:


Stop it


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One Response to “Emotional Tailspins: Calling Ourselves on Our Own Shit”

  1. Jim Patterson Says:

    This is good Chrisanna. The first step is to always see the issue, the fact that we have insecurities, self doubt etc. I have found that just saying “stop it” was a good first try but did not work for me. The inner critic and hurt part of me did not respond well to this—it was like yelling at a little kid—they just become more isolated. Instead I had to listen for my unmet needs and then respond as a loving parent would to a child. This takes time as the hurt part of us is afraid of further rejection. However with time it can be coaxed out and then better integrated with the wise part of us that knows how to better manage life.


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