Self-Control versus Anxiety: Non-Anxious Presence as a Key to Family Life

Dr. Joy, one of the central professors for my doctoral studies, often talked about the need for families to have a non-anxious presence. The more he explained, the more it sounded like pure common sense. Over time I found the concept of a non-anxious presence basic to healthy people and healthy relationships. Scream Free Marriage uses different terminology, but becoming a non-anxious presence forms a pillar of its teaching. Reality Therapy and Choice Theory, as proposed by William Glasser, also use different terminology to describe a non-anxious presence. Yet, the concept again forms a central pillar. Life coaches use the word ‘presence’ (ICF Core Competency 4.7) to describe what many of them consider one of the strongest tools of the coach. What they describe for ‘presence’ comes very close to the descriptions Dr. Joy gave for a non-anxious presence.

Choice Theory, according to the William Glasser Institute, explains that personal and family health depend upon the types of behavior we choose to exhibit and the only person whose behavior we can control is our own. Satisfying, contended people who build energized relationships recognize the responsibility of self-control. Scream Free Marriage teaches people to choose to connect to other people by taking a ‘pause’ any time dissonance occurs in an intimate relationship. During the pause, Prevention and Relationship Enhancement Program calls it a ‘time out’, the person evaluates and takes responsibility for their own behavior and asks themselves questions about their motivations and desires. All three of these methods agree that attempts to control other people cause disconnection and anxiety resulting in unhealthy people and broken relationships. Using self-control to choose how we act and think, not to manipulate others, indirectly controls our emotions and our physiology. In other words, if we push our ‘pause button’ any time anxiety lifts its head and choose responsible behavior, we become the non-anxious presence Dr. Joy taught about. Becoming that non-anxious presence will always remain a vital aspect of energized family life.

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