offloading and uploading anxiety

yesterday was the third in a series of three salons hosted by my friend, cyndi, about her forthcoming book about power and play. it’s epic, both in terms of its concision and its breadth. it’s going to be a big deal when it comes out and i’ve been learning a ton from it.

something i reflected on but didn’t write about during the second salon (btw, these salons are dinner + drinks + talking about the book in a semi-structured way – that’s all), was in her section 2 about the idea of offloading and uploading anxiety. i don’t know if it was her idea or someone else’s but it essentially is the process of transferring anxiety from one person to another.

people in power often offloading their anxiety onto people around them with less power. they have an assumption (often implicit or unknown, even to them) that others are going to support them in holding their anxiety. uploading is when a person absorbs and carries another person’s anxiety. uploading anxiety often happens by people with lower perceived or real status.

so why did this resonate with me? two things:

first, there is power in learning that it is not my responsibility to upload the anxiety of people around me, especially in work contexts. in friend contexts, i think it’s fine. but at work, especially when there are people higher in the hierarchy who have excess anxiety, it’s not my job to upload that for them. understanding that has been super freeing.

second, it makes me more deeply understand and support people who are expected to upload anxiety (maybe another name for this is “do emotional labor”?).

there’s more here, but need to get an early start to my day! ciao.

words / writing / post-processing
291w / 12min / 10min