Johnnie Moore

Meeting anxiety

Finding ways to meet anxiety in ourselves and in each other
Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

Can we meet anxiety without avoiding or escalating?

Transcript of this video:

So I was watching the Star Trek series Picard slightly absentmindedly because I wasn’t really getting into it until there was this one scene. And in it, a young woman has fled to the vineyard to which Jean-Luc Picard has retired.

She arrives in a very anxious state because she’s being pursued by some evil force that are going around the planet vaporizing things. And they’re coming to vaporize her or Picard or possibly both of them.

I’ve slightly lost track of the plot, but because she’s so upset, she’s finding it very difficult to communicate the threat to him. And then he does this thing, which really struck me.

He extends his hands and holds the tips of her hands on the tips of his fingers and says something to her like “can you try to calm yourself?” And he says it with great calm and kindness.

I remember being really struck by it. I mean, other people might interpret the scene in different ways, but for me it felt like a rather lovely reaction to someone who is in a state of panic and anxiety.

And I thought to myself, when I’ve been in a state of panic, and I have been many times in my life, I’ve very rarely been met by that kind of well-pitched response that hits a sweet spot where it’s not feeding my panic any further.

And it’s not. And it’s not trying to say, stop panicking. So he’s not saying, don’t panic and he’s not being dismissive. He’s being present to the anxiety.

I think that’s a tremendous skill. And I think often in our friendships and in the teams we work in we are not terribly good at meeting each other’s anxiety in that kind of quite level and compassionate way. Sometimes we present our anxiety in such a a poorly concealed form that people basically they don’t want it, they’re not able to respond to it.

I know that’s often been the response I’ve had when I’ve been anxious. It’s like people don’t really wanna deal with that anxiety and so they distance themselves which is obviously quite maddening from my point of view.

Or, and this will often be the case if we are in power in the organization, we are feeling anxious, but we don’t pass it on honestly, for what it is, we just start making demands on people as if we are not anxious but the situation demands a great deal of work.

And that I think that’s another way of kind of displacing our anxiety onto others in an unhelpful way. So maybe what we need to get better at for ourselves and then I think for extra credit for each other is finding the capacity to be present to the anxiety without either trying to repress it or deny it or the one hand or let it get completely out of control on the other.

Photo by James Allen on Unsplash

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