I had an excellent therapist several years back. She helped me through a very difficult time in my life. We talked about my perpetual single state, the challenges of having a high powered career, the difficulties of unraveling pent up feelings regarding my parents bad marriage. And of course, the anxiety that accompanied all of it.
We did a lot of visualizing and during one meeting we put a form to the anxiety to see if we could deflate the feelings a bit. With my eyes closed I imagined a junkyard dog. It was gruesome to look at and fierce in behavior. Did you see Cujo? This dog was like that but worse. We didn’t stop at the visual, we went on to identify the characteristics of the beast. It was tenacious, aggressive, relentless and mad as all hell. It was one nasty animal.
Immediately I remember saying, “Let’s kill it,” thinking that the mental destruction of this dog would eliminate some of the anxiety in my life at the time. “No,” my therapist said. “You cannot kill this dog. Scary as it is the dog is here to stay. You need to figure out a way to deal with it.”
This stayed with me. I realized that I will never eliminate the anxiety in my life and that it will likely be something I struggle with in varying degrees until I die. But it was powerful somehow to acknowledge that. To understand that I could feel it, work with and live with it.
It’s probably been a decade since that meeting and I can still see my junkyard dog clear as day. It is still one nasty, miserable creature, but occasionally I can get him to sit, or stop barking. Or on particularly good days, to go to some far corner of the junkyard and leave me in peace.