There are a lot of good metaphors we can attach to the experience of anxiety but my favorite to use is that of the 1988 cult classic remake: “The Blob.”
The brief description found on IMBD.com offers a rather complex plot line: “A strange life form consumes everything in its path as it grows and grows.”
Okay, I lied. Like most 80s horror movies, the plot line is not that complex. And, considering the special effects of most 80s horror movies, it’s not hard to imagine that the movie’s blob may actually have been some combination of a Jell-O mold or jelly-like substance.
Yes, let’s all agree that the movie wasn’t Oscar-quality, but let’s see if we can still make this metaphor work for us.
A longer synopsis offered reads: “Teenagers try in vain to warn the townsfolk, who refuse to take them seriously.” The 1958 original (watch the thrilling trailer here: 1958 The Blob) describes the lifeform as “alien.”
Well, that’s pretty accurate for the way anxiety often feels:
Alien to our body. Not of our body.
When we experience anxiety (the not helpful kind—more on the helpful kind in a future post), we quickly and easily lose touch with our bodies. So hyperfocused on the anxiety and fear that is rising, we disconnect from our bodies’ experience. It is the opposite experience of feeling grounded and integrated. It creates a desire to run away or attempt to escape from our bodies' experience at a time when we most need to be in touch with our bodies.
The Blob is a self-propelling organism, preying on whatever life it can find around it. Yup, that’s a pretty good description of anxiety. Once anxiety has been triggered, it’s self-propelling, attaching itself to whatever it can find around it.
continuing to wreak havoc.
The bigger it grows, the harder it is to avoid it or stop it in its tracks. And, just like the Blob, anxiety is impervious to most of our best counteractants. Once the blob of anxiety is rolling, there isn’t much in our life spheres that remain immune to its effects. Anxiety may initially be triggered in a work sphere, but quickly permeates and spreads into a home sphere, relationship sphere, spiritual sphere, causing individuals to
fear the unknown, and
act defensively in response.
And what about those teenagers, trying to warn townsfolk who refuse to take them seriously? This also mirrors the experience of anxiety. Individuals experiencing anxiety often feel very alone in their experience: unheard, minimized, dismissed. Told that what they’re feeling isn’t “real” even though their experience of what they’re feeling is very real, especially in the moments when they are experiencing it.
So, continuing with this metaphor of the Blob, it’s helpful to consider some of the particular triggers or nutrition that feed and nourish anxiety. Awareness of these potential sources of nutrition won’t necessarily prevent or eliminate anxiety but may help us to anticipate and make space for the anxiety when it comes.
This is where our metaphor takes a detour.
In the movie, the protagonists discover the Blob’s kryptonite: Cold. This is not what our blob of anxiety needs. Quite the opposite.
Our anxiety needs warmth, gentleness, compassion, kindness, patience, and space.
Yes, though it may feel paradoxical, we need to create space for anxiety to exist. In allowing it space, we may actually find that it ends up taking up less space than when we fight its existence.
Below are 9 specific triggers or nutrition for anxiety. Over time, I’ll add mini-posts for each one, so check back in to click on each below! That is, after you've had a chance to break out some scary, old horror movies.
2. Lack of Predictability
6. Loss of Control