Am I Really Neurotic?

Being neurotic is about seeing things negatively and reacting as if it were so. To be overly emotional. To worry too much. To be ‘hyper-aroused’ to potential threats or rejections.

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Q At a recent parent’s evening my four year old daughter’s teacher hinted (in a not very subtle way) that she thought I was an ‘overprotective’ mum who worried too much, and that I might be passing my stuff onto my daughter, who she says is nervous at school. I was devastated, but it has got me thinking. I nearly lost my daughter in birth, and was very ill myself, having to have blood transfusions too. I refused counselling at the time, but I’m now worried that I’ve become neurotic and will mess up her life due to my own fears for her safety.

A I think of neurotic thinking and behaviour as being ‘as-if’ things were a certain way.

‘As if’ someone or something is really a threat or an attack upon us – but without any tangible evidence; and ‘as if’ there was a sinister or ulterior motive behind something said or done.

Being neurotic is about seeing things negatively and reacting as if it were so. To be overly emotional. To worry too much. To be ‘hyper-aroused’ to potential threats or rejections.

It sounds to me as if you might instead be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder – and if so this will have had an impact on your brain and behaviour… but don’t let that add to your worries!

When we’ve had what seemed like a life-or-death experience it ‘wires’ our brain to avoid anything that might threaten our safety (or that of our loved ones) again. Some people have flashbacks, nightmares and become overly observant of potential threats whether real or imagined.

This has great survival value as it prepares us to protect ourselves and family in the future. It just becomes a problem when the brain allows it to get out of balance and perspective.

Of course there are always going to be genuine threats to our safety and any loving parent will be aware of these and take steps to keep their child safe.

It’s knowing the difference between what is a possible threat and what is a probable threat – i.e. something that might happen, or something that is very likely to happen.

Everyone around us is affected by our moods and emotions – particularly our close family whom we see every day. We project our fears out onto others, and they can end up carrying them with us.

It’s therefore your responsibility to chose your moods (yes, that can be done with awareness) and not to ‘infect’ anyone with any excessive and misplaced fear, anxiety, worry or panic.

It’s vital that you convince your brain that you are safe.

Say to yourself…’that was scary, but we survived…and now we’re safe…and I can keep myself and my child safe in future”.

You must soothe the frightened child who lives inside you - and who became so afraid back then – as well as your own daughter.

Of course, let’s be realistic… no-one knows what new threats might be around the corner. The best we can do is to develop an inner feeling of strength and resilience, and the belief that we will be robust enough to deal with whatever might come up.

You have already proved that you are a survivor and you have faced a threat to your life which you’ve conquered. Remind yourself of that and allow it to feed your confidence that you can now master any other threats…without the need to worry about them appearing.

Imagine that by continuing to focus upon bad things happening that it would (in fantasy) actually make them happen. Would you then stop it or keep doing it?

You are in control of your brain, mind, body and future.

Maybe the teacher’s comments have a ring of truth. At least they have made you look at this issue.

I hope you take comfort from the fact that you have been doing your best – and that you’ve had your child’s best interests at heart. You are a caring and loving mother. You want your child to be happy and safe.

When you learn to soothe your own fears and get things back into perspective you’ll free up yourself and your daughter to get on with whatever life brings to you.

A calm mind is a happy mind!

Maxine Harley (MSc Psychotherapy) MIND HEALER & MENTOR - where you will find lots of free resources/videos to help you to balance your emotions - and a free e-booklet about being an 'OPTIMUM' parent here - - by Skype or in person...helping you to FEEL better, so you can BE, DO and HAVE better!

Maxine Harley