I Think I Can Get Away With It
by Barnes Boffey, Ed.D
Director of Training, Aloha Foundation… www.alohafoundation.org
I know a relatively large number of people who are having trouble with anxiety as they move into their elder years. They are anxious about the future, anxious about money, kids, weather and just about everything else, and they spend a great deal of time acting as if it were not their fault that they are feeling this way. Like a compulsive overeater who continues to eat bread and sugar but seems continually dumbfounded that they are gaining weight, denial and “hoping we can get away with it” go hand in hand.
As the anxiety becomes more pronounced in their lives, they generally don’t want to hear that the state of anxiety they are dealing with now is a direct result of their not facing their fearing and anxiety in earlier years. Essentially they hoped they could avoid facing their destructive patterns; they hoped they could outrun it, evade it or deny it long enough so that the full force of the pattern wouldn’t catch them. They would then have gotten away with allowing themselves years of unchecked fear and anxiety without having to pay any price. Every emotion has a cost; some are very expensive (anger, resentment, jealousy) some have very little cost (generosity, gratitude and kindness), but there is “no free lunch.” Just as we can’t continue to spend well beyond our income, the cost of certain emotions can bankrupt us if we continue to create them over time.
We can get addicted to emotions just as we can to substances, and the root of much of this is the false belief that “I can get away with it.” We think we can stay angry at a spouse and not have it eventually cost us our relationship; we think we can stay resentful at our sister and not have it affect the family strength; we think we can continue to be fearful and anxious without eventually weakening the entire framework of our mental health and happiness. With discipline, courage, thoughtful planning and good tools (see Fear #2) we can change directions. Without all three, our future may have more unpleasant surprises for us than we would hope for.