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Brene Brown: Anxiety, Calm + Over/Under-Functioning

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Anxiety is a growing epidemic in our culture, it's even proven to be contagious. Mental health researcher and professor, Brene Brown, breaks down how anxiety is presented in patterns we developed early in life. For some, anxiety promotes over-functioning, for others, it encourages under-functioning, and all reactions are natural. They're a symptom of anxiety rather than a character flaw.
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So before we get into Harriet's work on over and under functioning, I want to talk about anxiety in general. It's important to note that today I'm talking about day to day anxiety, not diagnosed anxiety, which is pervasive in our culture. In fact, I just read a recent study a 2015 study that said that one third of all U. S. Adults will be affected by an anxiety disorder in their lifetime and that the prevalence of most anxiety disorders are twice as high in women as in men. So if you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, know that you're not alone and also know that today we're going to really focus on day to day anxiety when we think about kind of general day to day anxiety. I have found it incredibly helpful to develop himself awareness about how we show up in anxiety and how we move through it. And let's start with what we know about day to day and anxiety. First thing. When I first learned this, it made so much sense, but it was new data for me. First anxiety is one of the most contagious emotions that we experience and many mental health professionals and researchers believe that because anxiety is so contagious, it's rarely a function of individuals. It's normally a function of groups. For example, have you ever been in a situation at work when things are stressful, but your team is doing okay? Everyone's holding it together until one person's anxiety just flares up, and within minutes it spreads like wildfire through the team. That's the contagion of anxiety. We even see it in our families. We even see it in groups of friends. When everyone is under pressure and things are hard, like dominoes, what's one person's anxiety flares up. It's really hard for it not to spread its just the contagion. The other thing that I think is really important to understand in addition to anxiety, being incredibly contagious is that we all have habitual ways of managing anxiety that often stem from when we were kids. These are patterns of dealing with anxiety that we developed in our first family. So in Harriet Lerner book The Dance of Connection, Dr Leidner explains that we all have these pattern ways of responding to anxiety that she calls over functioning and under functioning. And if you're a student, of Bowen Family systems. A lot of the origin of this work came round of Bowen Family systems, so you'll recognize it there, too. So let's talk about over functions and under function. Urz over function Ear's tend to move quickly to give advice. Rescue, takeover, micromanage, get in other people's business. Rather than looking inward under function, Ear's tend to get less competent under stress. They invite others to take over and often become the focus of family gossip. Concern worry they can get labeled as irresponsible or the fragile ones, the ones who can't take the pressure. Harriet explains that understanding these behaviors as patterned responses to anxiety rather than deep truths about who we are can help us understand that we can change. This is where my shame research really comes into play. For many of us, the descriptors people used to label are patterned Responses to anxiety can be incredibly shaming. You know, shame is all about unwanted identities. I don't want to be perceived as shame is how we see ourselves through other people's eyes. So, for example, Hi, my name's Bernet. I'm an over function, er, a serious over function. Er, I don't want to be labeled or thought of as the micromanaging control freak in times of anxiety. Those are shame triggers for me and for almost all the people who under function and anxiety, they don't want to be known as unreliable or flaky. This is what's interesting to me. I don't think we have enough data to talk confidently about birth order theories. But I will say that in rooms where I ask people to raise one hand if their firstborns, then I asked them to raise their other hand. If they're over function Ear's. I see a lot of folks assuming the double hands up roller coaster position. I'm an over function er, the oldest of four code named Sister Superior. The same is true for youngest in birth order. You know, when I ask, people raise your hand. If you are the youngest or the baby. Sometimes even if you're the middle child, raise your other hand. If you under function under anxiety, you see a lot of people saying Yes, that's me. It doesn't always follow that pattern. We mostly have anecdotal evidence here, but I can tell you in my family that's absolutely how we functioned until we all gained awareness around it and started naming it. I want to drill home this part, Break this sentence down. We have patterned ways of managing anxiety that we developed in our first families, possibly around birth order. But it's how our families function. It's how, even if it's not birth order, it's certainly our roles. And of course I'm an over function. Or like I am the oldest of four. When you grow up hearing things like Brain AA, don't leave the toilet lid up. Your little sisters could drown or burn a pick up that piece of paper. Your little brother could fall on it and break his neck, which is that emotionally flammable language is what I heard. A lot growing up. Worst case scenario language. You grow up with an inflated sense of trying to control everything, take care of everyone and jumping to the in charge mode. I think when you're the youngest and you grow up getting a lot of reinforcement, don't worry your sister get it. Don't worry, your brother can handle that. Oh, you know, you don't need to take care of that. I think birth order and no birth order, family roles and family functions play a huge part in this