I am often talking with my clients about their experiences with what I refer to as “anticipatory anxiety.” This is the anxiety that you experience when you are anticipating an event. In my experience, it typically is worse than the event itself. My inspiration for deciding to write a post about it this week was from a personal experience I had over the past weekend. I had my first (and most certainly not my last) Escape Room experience right here in Patchogue.
Let me explain how the two correlated for me. A couple of my friends who were invited refused to participate in what the rest of us thought to be a really exciting and new experience. The reason for their unwillingness is because of their anticipatory anxiety. One of my friends backed out completely and immediately, would not even entertain the idea of being “locked in a room.” I have to give credit to my other friend who did a little more research before deciding it wasn’t right for them.
My friends who were on board (including another therapist) tried to convince this friend that was on the fence to try the experience. We explained that the room is really not a room that you couldn’t get out of if you really wanted or needed to. Now in her defense, I think we all had a perception of the room being much more tech savvy, you know? Like I thought we would be removing books from a bookshelf to reveal a secret room. It wasn’t as savvy as we anticipated, which is by no means saying it was a disappointment, but saying that it wasn’t as intimidating as we had thought. Everyone who went had a lot of fun even though it was different than what we had anticipated.
We all thought it the room may seem intimidating, claustrophobic and give us the impression that we were really locked in. Side note: I’m sure it helped that we decided to do an Escape Room that was set up as a bakery (didn’t want our first Escape Room experience to be too scary like the zombie one they also offered!) What we noticed when we were in the room was that we did not feel at all confined in a tight space, we didn’t feel we were trapped in a room or concerned about whether we’d get out. We were given a walkie talkie to communicate with the worker, so how trapped could we really be?!
We all had some sort of expectations for what it would be like and wondered if any of us would react negatively to the concept once we were in there. What we found was that it was nothing like we expected. It was so much fun and it is a shame that our other friends were unable to make it. I do know them very well and know that if they gave it a chance, they would’ve really enjoyed the experience. Unfortunately, anticipatory anxiety really can inhibit us from engaging in certain experiences that are good for us and fun. I want to make note that people’s experiences with anticipatory anxiety are valid. What I am suggesting is that perhaps the anticipatory anxiety is worse than the actual event itself. I see this often with my clients and in many who struggle with anxiety. By avoiding the situations that make us anxious, it feeds our anxiety and makes it even more difficult to confront the situation next time. If we want to work on getting past anxiety, we need to face those situations. Please know that you do not have to do so alone! A therapist can help you face those anxiety-provoking situations which, with consistency, help take away the anxiety and allow you to live a more free life.
I hope you found this post helpful! Please share with anyone else you think could benefit. If you have any questions, concerns or requests for future posts, please leave a comment or message me privately!
I wish you wellness and peace on your journey to finding your State Of Balance!
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Eating Disorder Specialist
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