I would be surprised if there were any autistics out there who are not plagued by near constant anxiety. Heck, I venture to say most allistics are probably anxiety ridden. I mean, how could we not? Look at this place.
I tend to conceptualize emotions and internal states as information. Anxiety is telling us something. Usually that our environment and relationships are not meeting our needs in some way. Being autistic adds another layer since life is so incredibly jarring and overwhelming for our neurotype, our anxiety alarm is constantly going off.
It’s hard not to think that most of society’s ills come from unconscious ways of trying to cope with anxiety. It’s so freaking uncomfortable to be anxious that we try to escape it any way we can. We drink, we engage in risky behavior, we work non-stop, we eat, wash our hands… anything to try to numb or reduce the internal state of anxiety. We try to control what simply can’t be controlled and therefore, we are constantly fighting with life.
One concept that has revolutionized my relationship with anxiety is radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is the practice of being with what is, even if it is uncomfortable. It doesn’t mean forcing yourself to be uncomfortable or pushed beyond your limit, but it is a practice of accepting what we can control and what we can’t.
Radical acceptance is not an easy practice. My first temptation when I am feeling anxious is to try to control life beyond what is actually possible. I want to do some type of ritual or action that will ensure that X bad thing won’t happen. The reality is that X bad thing could happen and there usually isn’t much I could do about it.
And that sucks. A lot of people come into therapy because they don’t want to feel anxious. But that’s the problem, we can’t just get rid of anxiety. And many times, our attempts to get rid of anxiety, make life much worse. Radical acceptance helps me anchor to the present moment and accept what I cannot change.