Choose to Move Away From Anxiety Producers

Some people seem to specialize in passing on their anxiety to others.    worry2.jpg

Years ago, my dad had a heart attack and was admitted to Baylor Hospital in Dallas. His doctor did a coronary angioplasty on his heart, which is a procedure used to open blocked coronary (heart) arteries. The procedure greatly improves blood flow to the heart. The procedure had been done that morning. That evening, about 6 pm, a friend of his came into the hospital room. My mom and I were in the room. This friend was from their church and evidently had come by to encourage my dad.

The friend leaned up against the wall. He was talking to my dad, who looked rather weak after having had surgery that morning. The guy then said, “Oh I see you had the balloon surgery. Well I sure hope yours goes better than my brother-in-law’s did.” My dad said, “What happened to him?” The friend replied, “Oh his procedure didn’t hold. He’s DEAD!” My dad looked pale as he lay in the bed. At that point, the guy said, “Well I had better go.” He then left the room.

What a visit!

Encouragement? Not really. In fact, this friend dumped a load of anxiety in that hospital room and then walked away. Some people are like that. They have a way of leaving their anxiety behind.

  • Perhaps it is the minister who is always upset about something in the church. Yet this minister never goes to the person involved in order to deal with these issues. The minister typically goes to the office and bad mouths the church member.
  • Perhaps it is the mother who is always complaining to her best friend about her teenage daughter’s behavior. Yet, she never deals directly with this daughter.
  • Maybe it is the husband who is frustrated with his wife over her spending habits. Yet, he never deals with his wife. Instead, he constantly and anxiously talks to anyone who will listen about how little money they have.

Meanwhile, some people dump a load of their anxiety on those nearby, other people have a way of magnifying even the smallest anxiety. Perhaps you know these people. Maybe there is a discussion in a group or in a meeting. They have a way of magnifying and exaggerating the smallest anxiety, until it becomes huge. Consequently, they typically bring anxiety to a group instead of calmness.

The following has helped me with these kinds of people (those who pass on the anxiety and those who magnify it):

1. I have chosen to limit time with those who regularly want to dump their anxiety as well as those who seem to magnify and exaggerate anxiety. It just wears me out to hear someone go on and on about some person (not present in the room) and then gripe for a while about someone else. I can’t spend a lot of time with someone who has a way of blowing up the smallest anxiety into something large and overwhelming. Suppose someone makes a comment in a meeting. Later, a person who was in that meeting begins to rant and rave about how stupid the remark was. He tells the story again and again. Every time he tells the story, you can just see the anxiety in the faces of others.

I choose to limit my time with such a person. Yes, I want to love the individual and will spend some time with that person. However, I choose to not spend an extended amount of time with someone like this. When I have been around this kind of person too much, I become anxious and begin to process life through the same kind of filter as that person.

2. I have chosen to focus on managing myself. I want to bring to any group a sense of calmness and focus. For me, this means that I try to prepare myself early in the morning (See “Learning to Dodge the Anxiety Traps.“) This calmness is important in one-to-one conversations, meetings, and even in preaching. A long time preacher heard a person preach on the grace of God one evening. He said that by the time the sermon was over, he was a nervous wreck. Why? The preacher’s manner was so anxious. In fact, my friend said that he felt as if the preacher was looking for a fight. Yet, he was preaching on the grace of God.

I can’t overstate the importance of managing myself because to not do so, impacts not only myself but others as well.

Question:

Do you have someone in your life who tends to dump their anxiety? Do you know someone who magnifies their anxiety? What helps you in dealing with such people?



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  • http://www.redbrickroad.com/wpblog Roxie

    Yes, I do know people like that and I don’t deal well with them! I get anxious when I’m around them because of the stress of biting my tongue.

    • Jim Martin

      Hi Roxie. You express, very well, what it is like to take on the anxiety of another. Thanks very much.

  • http://ajesusmoment.com Steve

    Good advice. There seem to be a lot of people worked up over all the health care stuff going on. As soon as the conversation gets started you can feel the anxiety levels begin to rise. I tell people to take a break from it and to turn off the 24 hour news channels that seem to thrive on making people anxious.

    • Jim Martin

      Steve, glad to have you back. Good point, anxiety can become a real issue nationally, as a family, or between two friends. The Health Care issue is one where there has been much anxiety.

  • http://thinkingtoodeeply.blogspot.com Karin

    I’m probably not very skilled with people who try to dump their anxiety on me! Depending on who it is, I interrupt their tirade with questions or rephrase back to them what I just heard them saying. Especially with folks who use ‘never’, ‘always’ and other exaggerations. In a recent meeting it seemed that one of our staff’s anxious and angry comments were elevating her own blood pressure, she was turning red in the face, and I expressed my concern for her health in a very worried manner. In a few minutes she caught herself and calmed her speech down. It seemed to me that she didn’t recognize how she was magnifying things for others and for herself. Of course each person is different, but I’m not nearly so fearful any more to lovingly show people how alarmist they come across. These people need help! I once actually had a young pastor venting to me about his wife’s spending habits. The first thing I asked him was if he had talked to her about it and if not, how he was planning to discuss this with her. Then I suggested what I, as a woman, would like to hear if my husband had to have that kind of a talk with me. He thanked me and gathered courage to discuss things with her, reporting back how it went! They are doing great!

    Oops, sorry, I’m rattling on! Great post again!

    • Jim Martin

      Karin,
      What a wonderful comment! You said a number of things in this post. I like the emphasis on getting people to take responsibility for their own behaviors. I really like how you talked with that young pastor. What you did was not only mature but gave him the opportunity to act maturely and to take responsibility for his own behavior.

  • http://thebigpicmin.wordpress.com Glenn

    Sure we get stress from those around us, but what about your leader? According to the Bible this is a special case. If you are following a pastor who has jealousy and selfambition in his heart, you are putting yourself in harms way

    GWT James 3:16 Wherever there is jealousy and rivalry, there is disorder and every kind of evil. 17 However, the wisdom that comes from above is first of all pure. Then it is peaceful, gentle, obedient, filled with mercy and good deeds, impartial, and sincere. 18 A harvest that has God’s approval comes from the peace planted by peacemakers.

    A little earlier in the same chapter we hear: 1 Brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers. You know that we who teach will be judged more severely.[This whole chapter is a warning to these would be church leaders to steer clear of self ambition and jealousy - but they do not hear!!] 2 All of us make a lot of mistakes. If someone doesn’t make any mistakes when he speaks, he would be perfect. He would be able to control everything he does. 3 We put bits in the mouths of horses to make them obey us, and we have control over everything they do. 4 The same thing is true for ships. They are very big and are driven by strong winds. Yet, by using small rudders, pilots steer ships wherever they want them to go. 5 In the same way the tongue is a small part of the body, but it can brag about doing important things. A large forest can be set on fire by a little flame. 6 The tongue is that kind of flame. It is a world of evil among the parts of our bodies, and it completely contaminates our bodies. The tongue sets our lives on fire, and is itself set on fire from hell. 7 People have tamed all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and sea creatures. 8 Yet, no one can tame the tongue. It is an uncontrollable evil filled with deadly poison. 9 With our tongues we praise our Lord and Father. Yet, with the same tongues we curse people, who were created in God’s likeness. 10 Praise and curses come from the same mouth. My brothers and sisters, this should not happen! 11 Do clean and polluted water flow out of the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree produce olives? Can a grapevine produce figs? In the same way, a pool of salt water can’t produce fresh water.

    13 Do any of you have wisdom and insight? Show this by living the right way with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and filled with self-centered ambition, don’t brag. Don’t say that you are wise when it isn’t true. 15 That kind of wisdom doesn’t come from above. It belongs to this world. It is self-centered and demonic.

    So these teachers who are self centered and ambitious are demonic!

    This whole thing is explained in
    http://thebigpicmin.wordpress.com/2009/04/26/good-and-bad-preachers-know-gods-distinction/

    We really need to know who we are following:
    http://thebigpicmin.wordpress.com/2009/04/26/good-and-bad-preachers-know-gods-distinction/

    God Bless
    Glenn

  • Betsie

    I’ve been thinking about this topic…
    I find it hard to maintain a friendship with someone once I identify them as an anxiety producer. I just want to run the other way. Need to look for a post on loving the unloveable.