A while back my friend Bette suggested I write something about a phrase she had heard that day: hair-trigger anxiety. I Googled to find a definition and found this:
A heightened state of arousal, stress or sensitivity to certain sensory stimuli. It can cause intense emotional reactions, anxiety and impulsive patterns of behaviour. It makes us feel alert to hidden dangers - a primal sense of threat, a feeling of treading around on eggshells without knowing why. Or the belief that you need to remain alert in case an impending disaster. At other times it may be a sense of uncertainty that cannot be tolerated. Often, however, the source of the threat cannot be identified and your reaction to it feels disproportionate to the reality. It is as if you have acquired a feeling of unease that cannot be shrugged off, triggering alarm bells for no apparent reason – causing an atmosphere of tension. This is usually played out with a sense of urgency and causes compulsive behaviours that seek to avoid or escape the source of the perceived threat.
It occurred to me when I read this definition that this in something many people around the world are living with most of the time. The threat of Isis attack, the mass shootings that seem to be happening every other day, traffic jams and crazy drivers everywhere. These are just a few of the things that can set off some hair-trigger anxiety of any one of us at any given time. And it probably manifests in different ways in different people, even animals.
So I wondered how we can cope with this heretofore unknown (at least to me) malady. Breathing helps. Reminding ourselves that the world is evolving and getting more and more crowded. Everyone is feeling the stress of trying to maintain a sense of self and of territory. I remember many years ago in one of my college psycho classes we were shown a film (not video) which talked about an experiment that was done with rats as follows:
Some rats were put into an enclosed space just large enough for an optimal population. The rats went about their little rat lives, foraging for food (which was supplied by the scientists, eating, mating and sleeping...the usual stuff even humans do in a normal community. As time went on, even as the rats reproduced themselves, new rats were introduced. Gradually the population began to stretch the resources of the community. Overcrowding started straining the formerly peaceful ways of the rats. Fights broke out. Murders occurred. Cannibalism even happened. It wasn't pretty.
That little film has stayed with me in the back of my mind all these years.
What I try to remember is that it is important to not let the madness of the world impinge upon me to greatly. I need to detach and let the world go by. I stopped driving so fast, trying to get ahead. I found that I usually arrived at my destination about the same time as usual, or at least about the same time as others on the freeway who had jockeyed to be ahead of me did. It reminded me of the old proverb about the tortoise and the hare. I'm more of a tortoise these days.
So whenever I feel like the trigger on my anxiety hairs might be in danger of going off, I stop, think, and then move along...or not. Whatever is appropriate. The anxiety subsides and everything turns to lollipops and rainbows. Well, maybe not quite, but it does feel better, more relaxed and I do not engage in the madness around me.
Maybe we could start of HTA 12 Step Support Program? Support is a good things. At least, we should talk to someone. Human contact, which seems to be getting more and more less these days, is one thing being human is about. Aha! And then maybe we can enjoy a lollipop while watching for rainbows again.