Fear vs Anxiety (part I)

This past year I’ve been trying to understand more of how I am feeling – where are mine (hidden with numbing) and what is it?  Never an easy task.

The emotion, anxiety, is something I think I label when I didn’t know what was happening to me.  It was the ‘catch all’ emotion for those that I had trouble dealing with or hadn’t yet identified.  The majority of what I perceive to be ‘true’ anxiety happens before a blessed visit with my in-laws.  This anxiety could come 2,5 months before the planned event.  It would reach the surface when I would organise my house (some benefits) and I would start to control things with DH often of which would turn into arguments without much weight.

This last time I was more aware of the anxiety and I tried a lot of the stuff I’ve read – like remembering to take deep breaths.  This seemed to really help whenever I thought about the event coming up.  Focusing on the actual process of breathing helped me reduce how overwhelmed I would feel from thinking about it.  It was a daily struggle.

This past visit to my in-laws the most interesting thing happened to me.  I think I experienced fear and anxiety in the same situation (hindsight speaking)?  Here’s what happened:

The last night of our visit DH and I ran some errands to pick up a few things to bring back with us.  He dropped me off at Barnes & Noble bookstore and he went to the store next door.  It was Saturday night at 9:20 pm.

I was searching for some books in the Psychology and Self-Improvement sections of the store.  The store was for the most part empty.  A few were browsing the magazine and sales sections of the store and I had the self-help section to myself.  I was leisuring going through each row and then I had to go through the bottom row.  Since there was no one around I sat on the ground and made my way through the last row of the shelves.  I was so engrossed in searching for these book but not too engrossed to register that a woman started walking down my aisle (me on the the floor still).  Then, all of a sudden I almost got hit in the face by the woman’s purse.  I jumped and immediately said: ‘Oh, I’m sorry.’  She didn’t respond right away – which I registered.  Then, she says (which is somewhat delayed): ‘oh, I suppose it would be difficult to see the books on the last row.’  I responded: ‘yeah, it is’ and I continued my search.

A few minutes go by and I find one of the books I was looking for.  I continue to the other end of the aisle at the last shelf (now standing).  The stranger turns to me and asks me what book I found.  I decide to respond thinking she can clearly read the title as she is almost right next to me in the aisle.

(I tell her the title.)

Stranger: That is an interesting book; what is it about?

Me: (I read her a sentence from the back cover.)

Stranger: Oh, really? that sounds interesting, how did you hear about that one

Me: A friend recommended it*

Stranger: oh, that is interesting

Me: I’ll see how it turns out

I turn my body back towards the shelf and 15 seconds go by when I hear:

Stranger: you know you can get these books for half off at this place called ‘Discount Books’.  They are second hand.

She continues to talk and at this point I stop listening.  I began to feel irritated because I wanted to meet DH at the other store before it closed and secondly, I clearly have no interest in second hand books if I’m at this store (harsh thought in what I think is a response to the irritation).

After what seems like a sales pitch, I respond: Thanks for the tip’  and I physically again turn my body again in search of the other books on my list.  As I make my way towards the other end of the aisle she begins:

Stranger: I’ve been reading about how to move on from my past (she points to a chapter in the book she is holding) since I was in this relationship that broke my heart – he hasn’t been able to move on from his past and I have and…(she continues to give me an example about her ex-boyfriend’s communication with his ex-wife).

(When she was finally done)

Me: It sounds like you know what you need to do and books can help. (I turn towards the shelf again)

Stranger: There was this one time when I noticed that he purposely left a cooler at her house (again another example…blah, blah)

Bookstore Loud Speaker: 15 minutes until we close; we re-open at 10am tomorrow

Stranger: blah, blah (she continues on and then she begins a third one)

Me: (I interrupt her) I need to go; good luck finding what you need.

As I was putting one of the books back on the shelf she says:

Stranger: Let me just finish the story by saying that he…

That was my exit cue and as I was leaving the aisle I saw her friend come up to her.

I checked out of the store with one book* and ran to meet DH at the store next door and I told him what had happened.  There are so many elements of this story that are unreal  – even telling the story for a second time here I see a lot of ways anxiety was there before fear registered.

Hugs, TR

* The book I was holding (and purchased) was ironically The Gift of Fear by Gavin De Becker.  Thank you, Judy, for the recommendation.

Related Articles:

Through the Looking Glass: Name that Feeling: the Amygdala Hijack

Caliban’s Sisters: Pattern Recognition vs. the Parental Present

Brave New Kitty: Embrace Your Anxiety; Self-Soothing


15 thoughts on “Fear vs Anxiety (part I)

  1. Reading about your stranger, I can’t help but think, “Huh, what do you know. I’m at least healthy enough to not share such personal information with a total stranger, unsolicited, let alone expect them to pay attention to me.” My next thought is that it sounds a little harsh, but then I remember I was always expected to sacrifice myself to the Ns demands for time and attention. It didn’t matter what else I had planned, they were more important. Now, I’m learning I’m not being harsh, except in their eyes. If I give in to their demands, then I am disrespecting myself, my time, my energy, the people I’m involved with (in your case, your DH). Ns are everywhere. Some are worse than others. My anxiety would have shot through the roof in your situation and has when I’ve been trapped in similar situations. Learning healthy boundaries assured me I wasn’t crazy or unreasonable.

    You’re welcome! I hope you find as much value in it as I did.


    • Hi Judy,
      Very, very good point – sacrificing myself to Ns demands was a way I behaved too. Learning that even when I make a comment that seems harsh it is coming from a very real feeling is continued work, I think. And I tend to judge myself when taking on such a perspective. I like how you summed it: “If I give in to their demands, then I am disrespecting myself, my time, my energy, the people I’m involved with”. I hadn’t looked at it like that and man, that is so true.

      Indeed, Ns are everywhere. And my anxiety was very high – my mind was racing. I started reading the Gift of Fear the day after. And I’m putting together the info from this book, some blog posts and another incident that happened just last week with a friend who behaves very N – I’ll post in part 2.

      I loved the book, it opened my eyes and challenged my thoughts. A great read!



  2. I just read The Gift of Fear and loved it. I think it is a must-read for every female on the planet. I got the recommendation from CS and it’s made me think that I’m going to read ALL her recommendations from now on!

    My first thought was, “I can see why this woman is having relationship problems.” lol. Good for you for walking away. We do not have to be held hostage by other people’s self-centeredness. This is a great lesson for all of us TR. And, ditto everything Judy said.

    Thanks for the pingbacks!!

    XX00, Kitty


    • That is coincidence, I just finished this book. Loved it too and found information he presented with real stories fascinating. Thank you to CS, too! I’m trying to catch up on the past comments on the blogs to get other recommendations as I have a bit more time in August. I’m going to post in part 2 some of the lessons I learned from it along with some the messages from the book.

      Very funny thing with the B&N incident. I was searching for the narcissism epidemic book – I didn’t remember the author so I was just going through the whole section to see if I could find it that way. They didn’t have it – I went back to B&N the next morning to continue my search.



      • Hi guys, first, I’m so glad the de Becker spoke to you. SECOND, I’m going to shuffle credit for knowing about that book over to CZBZ, who wrote about it in a post a few years back; I also know for a fact (although I can’t remember exactly where at the moment–) that others in our blogging world had written about it before I got it. So I’d seen The Gift of Fear circulating around. Can’t take credit for it. But hey, thanks for the props anyway! Kitty, I recommend Sarah Palin’s memoir! 🙂

        TR, I think the way you handled you handled that weird weird encounter (which must have seemed totally surreal, at that hour, in a deserted bookstore) was exceptionally good. You were polite throughout without flinching on your boundary. I have a down the road neighbor, a man, who is always very friendly with me when I’m out walking my dogs. He has two dogs and when he drives by in his truck he always slows down to chat and say ‘hey.’ He’s married, but I’ve never seen his wife in the truck. A few days ago I was in CVS waiting to pick up a scrip for allergies and I was looking in the OTC cold meds aisle. I saw him and he tried to chat. I looked intently at the items and kept moving down the aisle, after saying “hi Gary,” but I made it stone cold clear I didn’t want to chat. He said “hope I see you on the street soon with the dogs”–I said “oh, you will for sure.” He took the hint.

        There are places I do not want to “catch up” with people I barely know. In the pharmacy is one of them. One time a colleague’s wife, a woman I hadn’t seen in years, tried to chat with me while I was actually at the counter picking up a medication. I said “gee, INgrid, there’s a privacy line for a reason.” She had come right up to me as I wrote the check for my meds.

        Now a perfect stranger basically intruding, trespassing on your personal boundaries in a book store? That was a warning sign. You handled it perfectly. Whether she was just one of those oblivious women (sorry, but often they are women) who want to blather on about giving advice to strangers about where to shop, or someone more sinister, doesn’t matter. She stepped over your line, repeatedly drawn, and you finally just had to walk out on her mid-sentence. GOOD for you. love CS


      • Hi CS,

        Yes, the pharmacy is a boundary! So, don’t want to chat with someone there. It feels weird to see my boundaries. I feel like I have some huge ones and then I realise, of course, it feels huge, abnormal, awkward – I lived the majority of my life without them.

        Hugs, TR


  3. I read the Gift of Fear years ago. I think I am due for a refresher course.
    If you are interested I found the author
    Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement
    By: Jean M. Twenge Ph.D., W. Keith Campbell Ph.D.
    Hope this helps.

    I do have an advantage of being partially deaf. May be harsh but on occasions I have ignored people completely since A. I don’t know them and B. I am not responsible for listening to them. It is odd to me when a complete stranger comes up to me and starts talking like that. I am impressed that you stayed with your search. I would have left my search and planned to return later. I felt you were much kinder than I would have been. Hope you find the book.


  4. Well, carry on the coincidences… Guess what book I took to read with me on the plane on my trip to Portugal? Yup, it looks like we are all in synch 😉 I’ve nearly finished it and I thought the distinction deBecker made about the difference between fear, anxiety and worry was very interesting. It gave me a lot of food for thought. I look forward to read your follow-up post on this.

    Kara xxoo


  5. Pingback: Fear vs Anxiety (part 2) | In Bad Company


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