Tuesday, June 21, 2011

On Being a Non-Anxious Presence

This is something I"ve been working on for a long time! Bart is the master of it, but I still have a long way to go. Here is some really good stuff taken from the book, "Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times: Being Calm and Courageous No Matter What"

Even though it's written for pastors it has incredible implications for us as adoptive parents not only in controlling our anxiety but helping our kids do the same.

Congregational Leadership in Anxious Times: Being Calm and Courageous No Matter What (Peter L. Steinke)

The nonanxious presence responds (exercises thoughtfulness), instead of reacting (not thinking about anything); that is, response, not reaction, informs and shapes our behavior. Under conditions of extreme anxiety, most people become an anxious presence, lacking restraint and acting on impulse. The over-excited sympathetic nervous system can cause the body to collapse, the mind to dwindle in effectiveness, and feelings to spill over the banks and flood. At the same time, an adrenaline surge sweeps over the body. Once it floods the brain, our attention is focused solely on the threat. We concentrate narrowly on something and are unable to process other stimuli or to shift attention. When obsessing about danger, our capacity to see or hear other information is nearly impossible. However, the person who can more readily control anxiety is always more aware of its presence. To be a nonanxious presence means to acknowledge anxiety but not let it be the driver of behavior. Being aware of it, a nonanxious person says to herself: “Anxiety is there. Yet, now it is where I can see it. I can keep an eye on it. I won’t let it slip back into unconsciousness. With anxiety upfront, I can tame and harness it. While I may feel like losing it with someone, I choose not to submit to my instincts. I have good access to my thinking facilities. My emotional state is not in overdrive. I’ll survive this; I can take the sting out of anxiety and be a calming agent.” With this kind of thinking, a leader can bring more imaginative approaches to bear upon the congregation. The leader is not in the clutches of tunnel vision and the instinctive forces of self-preservation.
(page 36)

And in regards to Self-Management -

To work on your capacity to regulate your own anxiety and reactivity -- to be a non-anxious presence -- think about these things:

  • Knowing your limits and the limits of others

  • A clear understanding of where “I” end and someone else begins

  • A respect for the rights of others to be the way they are, yet refusing to allow others to violate or intrude upon your own rights

  • A readiness to define who you are from within, rather than adapting to please others or defining yourself over against others

  • Having a clarity about what you believe

  • Having a set of convictions, values, and beliefs

  • Knowing what you would “die for” and what’s important

  • Recognizing about what you are certain and about what you are not certain

  • Taking stands with courage

  • Defining where you stand and what you believe in the face of disapproval

  • Refusing to give in for the sake of harmony when it is a matter of principle

  • Standing firm in the face of strong reactions (such as, “You can’t think, act, or feel that way and be part of this community!”) 

  • Staying on course

  • Resolving to follow through, in spite of reactive opposition or sabotage

  • Exercising emotional and spiritual stamina to follow a vision, not allowing reactive forces to change your course.

  • Staying connected to others, despite it all

  • Maintaining a nonreactive presence with people who are reacting to you (by verbally attacking you, avoiding your presence, minimizing your viewpoint)

  • Resisting your own impulse to attack or cut off from those reacting to you, or to appease them to dispel their anger or frustration

  • Managing your own anxiety, not others’ anxiety
(Page 44)

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