This article first appeared in my newsletter October 27, 2016. Click here to sign up to receive my online newsletter.
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So there I was, on the way to a couple of simple errands in a shopping mall in December, feeling completely neutral. I began to feel twinges of anxiety in the pit of my stomach.
Instantly I thought of several things to be anxious about. (Never a shortage of those!) At the same time, none of the things I thought of seemed like what was causing the anxiety.
The feeling of anxiety grew more intense as I carried out my errands. I wondered if I was forgetting something I ought to be concerned about. When I returned to my car, I had to sit for a few minutes and take a few deep breaths before I felt ready to drive.
By the time I returned home, the anxiety feeling had diminished, but the whole experience seemed odd.
The next time I had a conversation with my mentor, I mentioned the experience. My mentor suggested that I ask myself, “How much of this was mine?”
What popped into my mind was, “Thirty per cent.”
“What does that mean?” I asked.
She said, “About thirty per cent of that anxiety feeling was yours.”
She explained. Some of us (possibly most of us) – whether we’re aware of it or not – are affected by the emotions and thoughts of people around us. We take in the energy of others’ emotions and thoughts. It feels like our thoughts or emotions, but really it’s not. We’re feeling the impact of what others are experiencing.
She also pointed out that, at a shopping mall during holiday season, it’s possible many people were feeling anxious.
This was a new concept. It took a while to absorb. But I remembered a couple of other experiences.
My work as an organizational consultant took me into many workplaces. Sometimes a staff room or a board room would feel awful whenever I entered it. One staff room felt “irritating” and I always wanted to get out of there. A board room felt oppressive and I’d begun to take “happy objects” to place unobtrusively when I had to work in that board room. It was like the complaints or the conflicts expressed in those rooms were still hanging around. The people may have left the room, but the energy of their thoughts and emotions lingered.
The phrase that popped into my mind was “generic fear.” It’s not personal. It’s not about me or anything in my life. It’s just generic fear energy. Rather than try to understand it or resolve it, just clear the energy.
From that insight, I learned from my mentor to ask, “How much of this is mine?” when I began to feel any sort of discomfort. I also learned techniques to “clear the energy” of a room or a situation. (If either of these topics interest you, send an e-mail to Bonnie@BonnieHutchinson.com and I’ll send you more information.)
Earlier today, I was reminded of my “generic fear” experience when I read an article called “Are You Feeling the Free Floating Anxiety?” by David Emerald and Donna Zajonc in their Power of TED* newsletter (link at the bottom of this article). The term “free-floating anxiety” is used to describe a feeling of anxiety that doesn’t come from a specific event or cause but seems to exist for no apparent reason.
The authors say a lot of anxiety seems to be floating around these days, and it’s affecting many of us, possibly more than we know.
Four things they suggest that may help are:
- Recognize that “free floating anxiety” is real and may be affecting you.
- Schedule time for breaks to replenish and disconnect from stressors; that will help dissipate anxiety.
- Know you’re not the only one feeling this way, and let go of trying to figure it out.
- Consciously choose to redirect your focus. Thinking about things you’re grateful for is a fast way to redirect your focus, which interrupts the anxiety.
P.S. If you send a request to Bonnie@BonnieHutchinson.com (my private direct e-mail) for more information about “How much of this is mine?” or “Clearing the energy of a space,” I’ll e-mail you more information.
P.P.S Here’s a link to the article called “Are You Feeling the Free Floating Anxiety?” by David Emerald and Donna Zajonc: http://campaign.r20.constantcontact.com/render?m=1102424221153&ca=b578ca74-4dd4-4676-bfaa-703ac9a5f93b