Anxiety and the Attention Shredder

Had a really interesting experience, so of course, later that week, ACX was about it.

This experience I’ve been calling the “attention shredder.” A bunch of thoughts kept coming up so fast that I couldn’t even direct my attention in any particular direction. I’d think “I’ll do X” and then immediately come up with a dozen reasons not to do X (followed by a dozen counter-reasons to do X after all). This is a rare but sort of familiar experience by now.

Later, I realized that this is anxiety. Anxiety isn’t specific worry about a particular bad thing happening (that’s more like fear), it’s general worry about any bad thing happening. It’s not having one story that you know is happening; it’s having too many stories that all could be the case.

Like in The Prophet and Caesar’s Wife, where the Prophet comes to a bunch of different bishops and rulers and tells them a story about why they’re living life wrong, though some of these stories seem contradictory. Imagine having that prophet in your ear all the time.

And I’ve been noticing since then that the voice is really in my ear all the time. I’ll catch myself multiple times a day with the prophet telling me one or another contradictory story about how the thing I’m doing right now will send me to hell.

Still don’t know what to do about it! But I’m getting better at noticing it, and that seems like the first step.


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