With General and Social Anxiety, our mind is constantly trolling us
If you are at all familiar with your own anxiety, you know that your mind can often be your worst enemy
I was reading an article the other day on ‘Shitposting’, and it struck me how similar the phenomenon is to the sort of thing that can go on in our heads every day. It got me thinking about the effect this can have on us. Constantly dealing with the noise of worry or negativity can be exhausting.
If you are at all familiar with your own anxiety, you know that your mind can often be your worst enemy.
General Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and Social Anxiety generate an enormous amount of negative and anxious thoughts. Much like the trolling, clickbait, or shitposting on the internet, it seems to be a constant stream of disruptive chatter. It causes us to lose concentration, feel anxious or bad about ourselves, or try to escape through unhelpful behaviour.
If you are unfamiliar with it, clickbait is a term used to describe a type of link on a web page that entices you to click to continue reading an article. Its main goal is to get your attention which is usually done “at the expense of quality or accuracy, relying on sensationalist headlines”.
This, to me, is a pretty accurate description of unhelpful GAD thoughts. Our mind is always telling a story, and it isn’t always great. It certainly isn’t always beneficial, and it’s almost always at the expense of quality, helpful thoughts. And guess what, these negative thoughts grab our attention.
Like much of the clickbait, our anxious thoughts present themselves as significant, or interesting, but they really aren’t. Our thoughts seem important. They emanate from us. They are ‘our’ thoughts. They must be significant, right? Relevant? Accurate? How about urgent? We certainly seem to treat them that way.
“What if the project in work goes badly wrong and it’s my fault?”
Oh, that looks like a story I might be interested in…CLICK!
“What if I don’t have the answers in today’s meeting, and I look incompetent “…CLICK
“What if everyone thinks I’m not able for the job“…CLICK
“What if my…“…CLICK
“What if “…CLICK
….CLICKITY, CLICKITY, CLICK
Shitposting is the posting of content completely random or unrelated to the discussion, intended to derail a conversation off-topic. It typically is designed to make the viewer uncomfortable in some manner.
And it works…like a charm.
This is how general anxiety can look like at times. It can be so random. You could be walking down the road having a great day, then whammo… “what if my father gets cancer”.
Wait, what? Where did that come from?
Next thing you are engaged with the thoughts and you start to worry. “It’d be awful if dad died, I’d be lost. I hope he’s ok”. Now that great day you were having isn’t so great anymore.
With Social Anxiety, the mind is more troll-like. It’s ready at any moment to take us down with a disparaging comment. An internet troll is someone who “sows discord by starting arguments or upsetting people…with the intent of provoking an emotional response”
Me: I might go visit my friend later
Mind: He doesn’t want to see you
Me: Looking forward to going out tonight
Mind: You look shit, people will notice and stare
Me: I’ll go talk to that person
Mind: You’ll look weird and awkward, they’ll think you’re strange.
Me: I think I’ll go for that promotion
Mind: Don’t bother, you’ll never get it. You’re no good at your job and everyone knows it
Me: Looking forward to seeing my work colleagues tonight
Mind: Nobody wants you there. They think you’re boring
Our mind is like the internet in so many ways. There is so much good stuff on the internet. So much valuable knowledge and potential for growth…but we are constantly pulled away by the nonsense. And there is a lot of it.
Don’t feed the Troll
They are fishing, and you have just jumped on the hook…again!
What’s the worst thing you can do with an internet troll?
They are craving your reply. They are dying for you to respond, because once you do, they have you, and the real work can begin. They are fishing, and you have just jumped on the hook…again!
What’s the best way to deal with a troll?
It doesn’t mean what has been said doesn’t hurt, or is taken back. It doesn’t mean you won’t want to jump in and defend yourself, or dispute the comment. It just means that it will end soon, and you can concentrate on something of value to you.
This is exactly how you should treat your anxious thoughts. “The What if’s”. The “you’re weird, not normal, not like everyone else, not good enough”. DO NOT ENGAGE. You can acknowledge it to yourself, “anxious thought”, and let it be, as it is, but when you try to resist, or fight the thought, it tends to grow.
We need to start treating some of our negative thoughts as we would a troll.