This Friday, we had Austin, a Twitch steamer formerly known as RajjPatel, and host of a show called Love or Host, come on the HealthyGamer stream and talk with Dr. K. They attempted to solve anxiety by answering questions such as: What is anxiety? How does it start? Is it rational? Can be it fixed?
Austin’s Experience with Anxiety
Austin shared with Dr. K that his mind generates the worst-case scenarios for certain situations. These scenarios result in anxiety and make these situations unpleasant to be in.
For example, he used to be a commercial airline pilot, but he also has a fear of flying. When he gets on an airplane, he feels compelled to check the weather for the duration of his flight. He keeps worrying about it throughout the flight and seeks to reassure himself by checking his phone. His knowledge of planes and aviation only makes his anxiety worse, as he can think of a lot more potentially catastrophic scenarios.
Where Do Anxious Thoughts Come From?
Dr. K said that in order to understand anxiety, we have to understand where thoughts come from. He said that thoughts come from our lived experiences. We don’t think about certain things until we have been exposed to them. For example, we cannot have the craving to eat a hamburger unless we have seen it, smelled it, heard about it, or exposed to it in some way.
Anxiety is like a beast that feeds off of reassurance and grows over time. When Austin gets on a plane and checks his phone to get more information on the weather along his flight path, he feels reassured at that moment, but over time, his anxiety does not get better. The more anxiety is fed, the more it grows and continues to generate anxious thoughts.
Dr. K explained that anxiety is a protective mechanism that is learned. Our mind has the ability to anticipate problems that can arise in the future. While this anticipation of problems is actually desirable so that we can live a safe life, it starts to become a problem when it gets out of control. When our mind predicts problems that have a low chance of occurring, then that negatively affects our day to day experience of life.
Dr. K did a webinar on anxiety and how it works. Check it out:
Is Our Anxiety Rational?
We tend to say that our anxiety does not make any sense. We say that our anxious thoughts are completely irrational. However, that is not true. There are two ways that anxiety can develop:
The first is that it can be a learned and conditioned response. For example, if a child’s parent insists that they should be careful when crossing the street, then it is likely that the child will develop an association of fear when they think of crossing the street.
The other way that anxiety can develop is from life experiences. For example, let’s say that the worst thing that a person can imagine happening to them is assault and they also think that the odds of that happening are very low.
If they do get assaulted, then all their fears end up being validated. Their fears are no longer theoretical — they are based in reality. Therefore, to protect them in the future, their mind generates anxious thoughts in order to steer them away from any potential situation that can result in assault.
Treating anxiety as irrational does not get us any closer to fixing it. It only creates the thought that our mind is broken in some way when actually, it is functioning exactly as it is supposed to. This creates a conflict and makes it harder to fix our anxiety because we cannot begin to solve a problem without understanding and acknowledging it.
Can Anxiety be Fixed?
Dr. K explained to Austin that in order for our anxiety to be fixed, we need to become familiar with the part of us that creates the anxious thoughts.
If we don’t understand who we are, then it is likely that we will be confused by our own minds. This is what leads to us invalidating our feelings and calling them irrational.
If we start to see ourselves as the observer of our thoughts rather than the thoughts themselves, then we can start to gain control over them. If we do this over time, then our anxiety can get better.
Dr. K also talked about Anxiety with another Twitch streamer, Mizkif. Check it out here.
The Gatekeeping of Suffering
Austin feels that due to his success, he is not allowed to give himself a break. He feels that he is making excuses when he has to cancel a show because he is going through, for example, a mental health breakdown. He feels that due to his privilege, he cannot talk about his problems.
Dr. K explained that while people should be grateful for their privileges, that does not mean that they are exempt from suffering. Buddha said that suffering is the only thing that every human being is entitled to.
Does everyone experience the same amount of suffering? No. But gatekeeping suffering only leads to problems such as one-upmanship and the invalidation of people’s feelings.
The meditation that Dr. K taught Austin is Om chanting. “Om” is composed of three syllables: “aa”, “oo” and “mm”. The practice involved repeatedly chanting the three syllables one after the other for a few seconds. Chanting can be anxiety-provoking, but as we do it, it allows us to confront our anxiety and sit with it. This helps it calm down.
Dr. K recently talked with Yvonne of OfflineTV about imposter syndrome, self-care, and sexual harassment in the twitch and gaming community. Read about it here!