How Cured My Anxiety



It’s about midnight and I’m trekking through a lonely neighborhood by a golf course in Countryside, FL. (Long story, don’t ask) I have my earbuds in and I’m listening to Pornography by The Cure, which can only be compared to the sound of a machinist’s nightmare. I was chill 5 minutes ago, but now suddenly, I felt like every pocket of darkness in front of me held some kind of ghoul so needless to say I started geeking out pretty hard. 

After hearing these random, droning noises in the back of the song, I was looking around in all the trees for the source of the noise like a paranoid, crackhead. It wasn’t until then when I said “fuck this” and decided to switch the music up. It was then, when I played ‘Bird’s Nest’ by Warhol, that my entire mood had changed. Instead of being stressed and paranoid to the point of anxiety, I now WANTED someone to try me. Hearing the bass from the trap drums thumping in my ears, I was wishing someone would pop out and try me so I could go off. 

Once I was all settled down and back in the car, I realized that what I experienced is what scientists, who are a hell of a lot brighter than me, call an “Emotional Illusion.” Our subliminal processes within our unconscious are so beyond us that actually understanding how we feel is a complete shot in the dark. I was reading an amazing book by Leonard Mlodinow called “Subliminal” shortly before my experience. He brought up an experiment that actually proved this idea of Emotional Illusion.

The theory was that if emotions are constructed from limited data as opposed to direct perception, like with memory and vision, then there must be circumstances where how we think we feel is solely just a construct of how we think we “should” feel in that situation. If we experience a state of arousal but have no explanation for it then our brain will just find a reason for feeling that way.

The experiment had 3 groups of men test a medicinal injection that unbeknownst to them was just adrenaline. They told the first group that they would experience the adrenaline like side effects with the injection. The second group was told there would be no side effects. Lastly, the third group was told there would be no side effects and received a simple saline injection with no side effects. They were then placed in a situation where someone a part of the experiment would be left in the room with them as he complained incessantly about the experiment.

The 1st group, when asked how they felt about the annoying man, responded by saying that they didn’t really feel annoyed by the man. This was because they were aware of the source of adrenaline they were receiving. The 2nd group stated that what the man was doing was making them anxious or angered. This was because they had no explanation for the source for the feeling of adrenaline they experienced. They were told they would experience no side effects. So what their brains did was say “Hey! This guy in the room is super annoying and you feel anxious, so surely you feel anxious because of him!” 

Now back to my dauntingly, Kafkaesque journey through a dark golf course, I had been walking for a little while going up and down hills. Obviously, this is going to speed up my heart rate and give me adrenaline. So, when I found myself walking listening to the dark droning and yells from The Cure, my mind told me “Yooo! This shit is super sketch, you should get the hell out of here before something pops out and gets you!” Granted, walking alone at midnight probably is sketch, BUT had I of just been sitting down and not walking up and down hills, my heart rate and adrenaline wouldn’t have been pumping. It was in that moment I fell victim to Emotional Illusion. It wasn’t until Warhol started bumping in my ears that I was able to realize this and snap out of it. In this case, the music I was listening to was able to distort how I felt at a certain moment. So anyway, moral of the story is if you ever find yourself scared in a random situation just put on something ignorant like Warhol or Playboi Carti and you’ll be straight I promise. Unfortunately, this will only work when there’s not an actual threat present. So, don’t reach for the iPod controls when a home invader or something breaks in, just run for the door.  

- @youngxgosling