We have talked a lot about anxiety over the years on the podcast. It is a topic that many listeners come back to again and ask us to do an episode on a related issue. In this episode we are talking about cautiousness and it’s relationship to safety, as we were asked
“Where does cautiousness end and paranoia begin?”
We all need to be safe, we all need to be secure. We have spoken many times about the growing epidemic of anxiety and anxiety disorders. Some research suggests that around 60% of all visits to the family doctor are related to anxiety in one form or another. Or, at the least, anxiety is an added symptom in whatever the presenting problem is.
Over all, I see cautiousness as a low level form of anxiety. As with full blown anxiety we must always make the distinction between a real problem and an imagined problem. To be sensibly anxious and cautious is our systems method of keeping us safe and it has done a pretty good job through out evolution.
When cautiousness becomes a disorder it gets in the way of us being able to live our life in a normal way, it becomes a problem. Often the extreme of caution is what we describe as paranoia. This is when we suspect everything and everyone and trust goes out the window.
Cautiousness is a brake pedal that we stamp on when we are unsure or fear what is happening or of what will happen next. The key is that we are concerned by not being in control of what is happening. The easiest way to avoid cautiousness, and to create a sense of control. is to not do ‘it’, whatever ‘it’ is. In the extreme we can end up not doing anything at all that is out of our normal. This is a real caution disorder that can spill over from just effecting us alone to effecting all those around us.
Cautiousness can lead us to not only restrict our own behaviour and experience but also to restrict the activities of others. When this effects our kids and they stop doing things, or avoid doing things, we limit their growth and personal development. Not only that but we build into their minds and emotions, the core concept that the world is not a safe place and that we should be cautious about everything. For many people this can mean avoiding new experiences or any thing that takes us out of the ordinary.
Many people, who are cautious, will look at news broadcasts, facebook or other social media and find evidence to justify their caution, their fear. When the world is continually presented as an unsafe place it is easy to believe that this is the case, that it is true.
If, for example, we look at the reports of all those cheating partners and divorces, it is easy to then believe, and expect, that potential partners will always let us down. This can make us be so cautious that the only way to stay safe is to stay single. The caution is an expression of the fear of future loss or pain.
We all have a creative imagination. Whatever stories we construct in our imagination we live out. Those that make us cautious, can all seem very plausible because our mind likes to work in a logical way and subsequently finds evidence, and there it is all around us, that will support what we believe – “the world is unsafe” – and we need to be cautious when interacting with it.
The world is, and we are, safer now than we have ever been at any point in history. When we look at the evidence it does not justify our current fears and need for caution. Generally we are now safer from crimes, disease, and accident. We live longer than ever and we are healthier than ever. Yet the news tells us nothing but bad and we believe it.
For example, we may worry about getting cancer and diseases of old age oblivious to the fact that just a couple of generations ago people would not have lived long enough to develop any of these illnesses. The fear of what will happen to us when we get old can make us cautious of living our life in the present. So many people that I have worked with, in their later years, have a list of ‘if only’ and regret that their caution, throughout their life, stopped them from doing what they really wanted to do and fulfilling themselves.
Accepting that us human beings do have the ability to do some very silly things and can create some pretty big problems such as global warming. However, we also have the ability to create solutions and solve problems. We are, above everything else problem solvers. People who understand their ability to solve problems have very low levels of anxiety and tend to not be cautious.
When we understand our capacity to solve problems we can be less cautious about living our lives to the full.
I don’t agree with armies and wars but I do agree with this motto…
He/she who dares wins
The other option is that the person who never dares to do anything never wins but also they never really lose either. They are stuck in stasis of never changing similarity, same old, same old, ground hog day.
Take care – Let go of caution and live your life as you would like to.