Thursday, April 18, 2019

Anxiety Management 101

Miss Manners takes the question literally. Why shouldn’t she? I am going to be slightly more imaginative and address the letter-writer’s dilemma from a different angle.

The problem: the woman suffers from something that resembles an anxiety disorder. We do not make diagnoses here so we cannot affirm or deny the diagnosis. She meets with a therapist and seems not to be receiving very much help. It’s par for the course. One suspects that the therapist thinks that the woman is suffering from an anxiety disorder. 

But, the letter writer feels an especial amount of anxiety when faced with schoolwork. Now, she is applying to a master’s program and worries that her anxiety disorder will make it more difficult to complete the program.

Anyway, you might consider this to be a mental health issue. You might not. I suspect that it is not. See if you can figure out the problem, or, at least, the problem as I see it.

Here is the letter:

I have decided to apply for a master's degree, despite having an exorbitant amount of anxiety surrounding academia. It often feels like I require 13 tries before even understanding concepts that other students pick up immediately (even though I know every individual has their own personal struggles!).

I meet regularly with a therapist and stick to a regimented sleep, medication and exercise schedule to keep my anxiety under control. Despite this, I still occasionally find myself becoming extremely emotional around tutors, teachers and other mentors trying to help me reach my goal.

I do my best to excuse myself if I need to wipe away some tears, but there are many occasions where time simply does not allow for this. I'm very curious if there are any etiquette tips for situations when anxiety gets the better of me. How do I explain to others that my reaction is not their fault, and how do I deal with these exhausting emotions when they insist on coming out in public?

Will the real problem please stand up … and present itself. Consider this, as a rank speculation, perhaps she does not have the talent or the ability or the interest to do the academic work. It happens. It happens more than you would like. If she is so dense that she takes 13 tries before grasping concepts that other students grasp immediately, the problem is not her anxiety. It’s more likely her lack of talent, and the misfit she has forced herself into by undertaking studies for which she has no real aptitude.

So, the solution. Forget about the master’s program and find a career path or course of study for which she has some real talent. Simple, don’t you think?

1 comment:

Ares Olympus said...

Yes, it's the obvious explanation - lack of talent, and surely everyone who struggles considers it. For an elementary level education, we should try to help all students reach the basic level of competence, but all advanced skills, certain people may just have it easier, and why should the rest of us try to keep up?

OTOH, I've seen a lot on twitter talk about "Impostor syndrome" where (mostly women) have grown up with perfectionism and fail to notice they're judging themselves with compete awareness of their own insecurities and doubt, while judging others only by their carefully honed image of success, and self-pity makes it easy to assume others have it easier because you can't see their struggles. So if you're trying to climb the ladder of success, it does seem like you don't just want the blindly confident to advance under the vision of their hubris, but also some who have a more objective assessment of their limitations.