Teenage Anxiety

How to Help Your Teenager Get Beyond Their Anxiety - Part 2

empowering your teenager Jun 11, 2023

Let's take a look at why you experience what you experience and why you do what you do.  This model for behavior will provide some insights into the specific strategies we are going to talk about later.  Think of this like a framework learning and growing … for getting past your anxiety.


Okay here we go.


Right now take a look around the room you are in.  How much information is there for you to take in?  Think about all of the things you can see?  Colors, textures, shapes.   What about sounds?  The music playing in the background,  a door opening or a bird chirping.  What about things you can feel right now?   The pressure of your back against your chair.  The feel of your shirt.  What about smells or taste?  Do you have some leftover vanilla latte flavor in your mouth from your  morning coffee?   Scientists have estimated that at any given moment there are as many as 2 millions data points that you could take in.  But here is the thing.   Our minds are not able to take all of this in.  In fact our ability to process this data is estimated to only be about 5% to 10% of what is available to be taken in.   Does this surprise you?


With this in mind, here is the basic model that we are going to use to unlock and get beyond your anxiety.



The World is all of the information available for us to observe

Our Perception is the 5% to 10% of the data/information that we actually take in  

From our perception we have an experience and then we respond in some way.     


Here is a simple example that illustrates how the model works.  Let’s revisit our person who is afraid of spiders from part one of this series.


This person walks into a room.  Within all of the stuff the person could potentially perceive there is a spider crawling across the floor.  As they come into the room using their limited capacity to perceive data… reminder we can only take in about 5% to 10% of what is really there… They see the spider.   What is their experience?   Fear.  Panic.   What do they do?   Scream and run away.   


However, what if the spider crawling across the floor fell into the 90% to 95% of the things that they didn’t perceive in the room.   They didn’t see it.   Instead they happened to see the leftover chocolate cake sitting on the counter.   What is their experience?   Joy over the fact that there was still cake left.   What did they do?   They get a fork and dig in.   


Consider this.   The spider was still crawling along the floor but it just wasn’t noticed … right.  Consequently, the experience and the subsequent actions/behavior was completely different.   


I like to say that a change in perspective changes everything.  This example provides a window into just how powerful our perception is to our life experience and our results. 


If our perception has such a big impact on our life, it makes sense that we should take some time to unpack what is going on with it. 


There are two primary processes that control our perception.  


Have you ever been in a room where someone is speaking and realized that you haven’t heard anything they have said for the last 10 minutes?  When this happens and you tell the story you say, “I wasn’t paying attention.”    I am going to suggest to you that you were paying attention to something just not what the person was saying. Right.   Think of it this way.   In order to focus my attention on one side of a room I have to ignore the other side.  Focus is the tool your mind uses to keep from getting completely overwhelmed.   Remember, we can only take in 5% to 10% of the information available to us.


I am going to put this idea of focus inside of the perception box in our model.  Focus is like a filter.   It only lets some of the information into your awareness.   Or you could say that focus keeps you from getting overwhelmed by disregarding most of the information available to be observed.


The second thing that happens inside of the perception box is that we give meaning to all of the information our focus lets in.   Another way of saying this is that we interpret what our focus has let into our awareness. 


Let’s circle back to our spider example. 


Our person who is afraid of spiders walks into the room.   Through their focus they notice an eight legged insect crawling across the floor.  Now,  the second step of perception happens.  They assign a meaning to what they have seen.  That is a spider.   Spiders are bad.   They make me uncomfortable.   They can hurt me.    This is their story about spiders… right?   This story or meaning is what gives rise to the experience.  In this case fear and panic.   It also is the foundation for any behavior/action taken.   


The key to getting beyond your anxiety and fear so that you can pursue your dreams lies inside this box of perception.   


In part 3 of this series on getting beyond anxiety, we are going to explore these ideas of focus and giving meaning a little further.


Until next time, remember.


A change in perspective…  changes everything.

Your family enrichment coach,


Jim White





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