Trip Anxiety and Emotional Balance

Our Next One Month Travel trip

In three weeks we leave on another trip. This time it’s to Belgium with a two day stop in Istanbul. I’m excited about the trip but I’m also anxious. The reservations are made. There are just a few more details to handle. It ought to be a time for pleasant anticipation as we prepare for an adventure Instead I am anguishing over details and second guessing four readiness for the trip. It won’t stop until our bags are checked at the airport. Until then I can mange the emotions but not eliminate them. Even though I can justify everything in our plan, deep within me there are big questions about the trip. They center on the expense but there is a deeper thread which is much more difficult to dismiss. Something inside me insists emphatically that I don’t deserve to go. I haven’t earned it.

Why am I so anxious?

Why am I so anxious?

I’m good at rationalizing decisions and explaining away objections. I can counter each one. I can explain that yes we can afford the trip. I can show how responsible and frugal we are in our retirement lifestyle. I can tell myself that after 50 years working and raising a family, we deserve to indulge ourselves just a little. But it doesn’t really help. The nagging is relentless and I’m not persuading myself. Each doubt and criticism I address is replaced by another. Each point I make is challenged again and again.

My conscience says I’m cheating.

I am taking pleasure and indulging myself before earning the right. I’m not good enough. I haven’t paid my dues. On an intellectual level I can dismiss these criticisms easily. But these doubts don’t respond to intellect. I have spent my life managing emotion only to find that, in the end, emotion is managing me.

This conflict is not new. I have struggled all my life making important decisions and taking what I want. Sometimes I did what I wanted. More often I deferred- waiting until I could measure up. I rationalized about my agony, saying that it was constructive dialogue to ensure making a good decision. I even felt good in denying myself pleasure because I believed that it made me stronger and better in the long run. I can see now that it did not. It only reinforced the belief in my inadequacy. It kept me from pleasures- small and large- that I could have enjoyed without getting anything in return.

I don’t know what triggered this attack. I understand that the relentless criticism is at least a part of the reason that I distrust and try to stifle emotion. What I don’t understand is why I have this self-destructive force within me and what I can do about it. I built my life on reason and intellect. I deluded myself that better understanding would help me overcome self-doubt and criticism. I am still waiting for that to happen.
Recently I have been challenged to question the role of emotion in my life. Instead of dismissing and managing emotion should I embrace it? Reason and analysis have been my life management tools through life. My accomplishments have been good but I know they fall short of my potential and my goals. I have kept emotion on the sidelines thinking that by keeping it in control, I was making my life better and less painful. Emotion is built into the human experience. What do I miss by suppressing it? Is there a possibility that emotion could move me to my goals more quickly? It is hard to believe.

Emotion is painful

I have years of experience that convinces me that emotion only brings pain and anguish. Emotion is a powerful and malicious monster.. It is unpredictable and terrifying. Finally it is unmanageable. I don’t expect any good from it and yet it won’t go away. Can I actually open up the box where I have trapped it and let it loose without my world falling apart?   I don’t know.

This post veered away from the initial issue. Somehow my fixation on controlling emotion seems connected but I don’t know enough to see how recognizing emotion can help me act with more resolve and confidence and get more pleasure from my accomplishments. I do know that I would like that if I can avoid the pain that emotion has always brought me.

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Micah May 14, 2014, 9:19 am

    I can’t think of anyone more deserving for some luxurious R&R then you! You provide a great & loving life for your family, always have the answers the the most random of questions, and always try and get a laugh- even if it’s at your own expense. Don’t be afraid to RELAX. Count yourself among the lucky who get to see & experience these beautiful places around the world. If you didn’t deserve it, you wouldn’t have made it possible for yourself. It’s important to treat yourself every now and then. TREAT. YO. SELF.

  • Ralph May 15, 2014, 8:31 am

    Thanks, Micah.

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