The other day a friend actually said to me, “I left my house the other day and two of my neighbors were talking to each other. And I just got the feeling they were talking about me.”
We laughed about it, eventually. Obviously they weren’t really talking about her. But we’ve all had paranoid tendencies from time to time (guilty as charged).
I wrote this piece for her and she said it was okay to post here.
What is paranoia anyway? It’s the overinflated feeling of danger. Now, let’s begin by saying I’m not talking about a psychological condition that requires professional help. (If you suspect you have that, you should talk to a professional). I’m talking more about the garden-variety feeling we all face. You know the one. That your friends are deliberately excluding you. That you were passed up for an opportunity for personal reasons. That things that someone says are actually subtle digs at you.
Paranoia, in the mind’s own, strange way, is an attempt to protect you. You feel unsafe or fear you have a lack of control over a situation. So if the mind goes into overdrive and perceives danger everywhere, you will never be surprised or taken unaware. The trouble is that although it is trying to help you, as a coping mechanism paranoia doesn’t help you at all. It raises your levels of unhealthy hormones, activates your fight or flight response and messes with your peace of mind.
So what to do about it?
- Well, like my friend, talking it out helps. Sometimes just speaking our deepest fears helps to shed light on the parts of them that are a little paranoid. It sounds reasonable to you, but does it sound reasonable to a friend?
- Realize you’re not that important. This may sound counterintuitive if paranoia is partly about feeling insecure, but it can actually be really empowering. Realizing that people are usually too wrapped up in their own lives to spend that much time thinking about you helps liberate you from feelings that they’re thinking ill or planning bad things for you.
- Focus on you. Working out or spending time with a friend is a great cure for what ails you.
- Give others the benefit of the doubt. If you really still perceive that a person is trying to hurt you, or slight you, can you try to “walk a mile” in their shoes, so to speak? Do they feel insecure? Left out? Trying to see things from the other perspective can sometimes soothe your own mind.
- Reach out. If it’s a neighbor or co-worker or someone with whom it’s normal to have contact, try approaching them. No need to confront the situation outright, but even just sharing a moment of human connection might help you feel better.
That’s it. Go forth into a life free from worry!