Suffering is Not the Benchmark for Love

Posted by Alyssa Earp on

A lot of people have this notion that if you aren’t as worried about your family or friends as they are, it means you don’t care about them. This isn’t true.


I think this happens in people who have had toxic childhoods and a toxic relationship with their families.

People have learned to associate intense, out of control emotions negative emotions (although all emotions are necessary) as a benchmark for how much you care about someone. The more exhaustive, gut-wrenching, or explosive the intensity of the emotion is, the more they must obviously care about things. It’s like a form of martyrdom.

You don’t need to make yourself literally sick with stress and anxiety over what other people do that you can’t control. And that’s where the core issues lives; a sense of a lack of control over their lives and environment. You don’t NEED to be in control of everything. You don’t actually NEED to worry about what other people will do if x,y, z happens to them. It’s going to affect THEM, it doesn’t have to be YOUR issue. It’s not your burden to carry.

Now I’m not talking about the events that trigger appropriate amounts of stress and anxiety. If someone gets seriously hurt, it’s anxiety inducing. If someone is educated, informed of all the possible risks, and choosing to do something for themselves, it’s not required that you WORRY yourself about it so much that it interferes with your life.

I’m the first one to take anxiety seriously; I have anxiety and PTSD so I’ve been there. But the difference between my anxiety and other people’s anxiety is that I recognize my anxiety, I have spent years actively desensitizing myself to anxiety-inducing triggers, forming healthy coping mechanisms for my anxiety, learning about my anxiety, and choosing everyday to be in control of myself. PTSD and anxiety makes your lizard brain control more than your executive, rational brain. Your lizard brain controls stuff like fight-or-flight, panic, fear, stress, anxiety, generally disproportionate emotional reactions to situations. Your executive brain is your frontal lobe, basically. It’s where your ability to control yourself lives. Your ability to rationalize, analyze, and be logical.

Jumping immediately to anxiety and fear is your lying ass lizard brain’s doing. It takes serious work, focus and concentration to re-wire the way you respond to your environment. You have to be able to know how to identify what’s coming from your lizard brain (aka inappropriate emotions) and how to block it with your executive. I spent over a year in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and finding the right blend of medications and mindfulness practices to learn how to do this. I chose to NOT let my anxiety control how I see my environment and I still choose that every day.

Anxiety is fear. Fear of not being in control. The key to unlocking anxiety is Acceptance. Acceptance that you can’t control everything that happens to everyone. Acceptance that choosing to not stress doesn’t make you a bad friend/employee/boss/family member. You deserve to be happy and not worry. Sacrificing yourself to anxiety on the altar of Loyalty is not required.

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