Therapy Available in SF, Marin and Online
870 Market Street #357, San Francisco, CA 94102 | 200 Tamal Plaza #235, Corte Madera, CA 94925

Knowledge: Fact vs. Fiction

I have worked with many people who are masters at taking a small kernel of information and growing it into an immense ball of stress. 

Man holding his head in frustration and anxiety-minA client of mine was talking to a coworker about happy hour and got a snippy reaction in return.  Immediately, his mind started creating possibilities not rooted in fact.

“It must be something I did.”
“It was the comment I made the other day about our coworker.”
“He didn’t like the feedback I gave him on his presentation.”
“He’s threatened by my taking on more work.”

These thoughts snowballed into worrying about how others in the office saw him and what might happen in his next employment review.  Every single one of these thoughts were rooted in his imagination and not the facts at hand.

The client found out later that the coworker’s reaction had nothing to do with him.  He was recovering from a fight with his partner and simply lashing out.  But his own imagination took him captive.

What is actually causing your anxiety?  The facts of the situation, or the horrors of your imagination?

Control: Do you have it?

Another client wanted to take a new job that his family would not view favorably.  “When I tell my parents about this, they’re going to lose their shit.” He considered avoiding telling them or simply staying in his current job to avoid the confrontation.  He was paralyzed by worry and inaction over somethings he couldn’t control: the reaction of his family.

He told his family about the new job and even though his parents were upset the positivity and empowerment he felt by moving in the direction he wanted far outweighed the friction it created with his parents.

Larger, global issues can also make us feel powerless: climate change, politics, systemic social problems, COVID-19, etc.  These issues are so large that they petrify us, making us unable to exert what power we do have. 

“I can’t make a difference, so screw it.”

The mass participation in the recent social justice movement shows that the actions of individuals within a collective movement can have a major impact on our society.  Despite its challenges, social media shows how the actions of an individual can spread and impact millions. 

When you stress about things that are not under your control, you undermine your ability to take those small actions that can make a difference, help you feel in control, and connect with the world around you.

What do I do?


Take a step back and examine your worries.  Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do my thoughts represent the facts of my situation? Or am I imagining reasons/outcomes that may not be true?
  2. Is this something I can control?  What parts of this situation can my actions influence?

If your worries represent the facts and your actions can have impact, then you can formulate a plan of action to deal with those worries with clearly defined goals and timelines.  When those worries start to crop up again, refer to your plan.

Anxiety can be relentless, and your mind will jump from one situation to the next, trying to find a place to gain purchase.  If you evaluate your worries through the lens of knowledge and control, you’ll be able to start letting them go. 

If you have any questions or would like help with your anxiety please contact me for a free 15 minute phone consultation.

If you’re interested in getting more helpful information you can subscribe by using the form below to get an email each time I post a new article.