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Why Firstborns Have the Most Stress

Updated on July 23, 2011

Are you the firstborn, lastborn or “responsible” child from a dysfunctional family? Do you go the extra mile for others and expect little in return? Transforming Anxiety, Transcending Shame is an excellent text written by Rex Briggs, M.S.W.

Recovering from excessive anxiety means dealing with our shame. To recover means facing our fears. You must be motivated to change and you must be curious about finding your purpose in life. Briggs gives a simple exercise to help you discover what your purpose might be: pretend you’re a spectator at your own funeral. How would you want to be remembered? Would you have accomplished what you wanted to do?

According to the DSM-IV, there are many anxiety disorders, ranging from simple phobias to severe anxiety. There is Social phobia, generalized anxiety disorder, panic, agoraphobia, Obsessive compulsive disorder, and post traumatic stress disorder, but the author believes that it’s more helpful to think of anxiety as a reaction to stress that can be ranked as normal to excessive and says that anxiety serves a purpose and its only when anxiety interferes with normal activities that it can be labeled as excessive and then needs to be dealt with. As many other counselors do, he suggests keeping a journal as you work through the exercises in the book.

People who suffer with anxiety tend to be very bright, emotional, creative and intuitive people. Briggs makes an important point when he says that shame leaves us feeling separated and different from others, as though we don’t fit in or are never good enough, or feeling like something is missing inside. People try to protect themselves against shame by bottling up their rage, being a perfectionist, withdrawing from society or becoming people pleasers or caretakers.

Learn to Relax

Briggs states that one of the most important gifts you can give yourself is learning to physically relax. Every bit of anxiety happens when we are either worrying about the future or beating ourselves up about a perceived failure in the past. We have absolutely no anxiety if we can discipline ourselves to live in the now.

Physically relaxing involves breathing properly, and he gives several more relaxation tips in Chapter 4. He also points out that diet and exercise play a part in managing anxiety and stress, and has a section on other resources on Page 325.

I found this book to be extremely helpful. Having experienced most of these feelings, the exercises throughout the information were helpful in learning to listen and in recognizing needs. If you see yourself in any of the above personality descriptions, please read this book. Coming out of old habits is difficult, but the author states the following: “Buy a plant or new piece of furniture. Slowly but surely we will soon begin to open up again to new people, new activities and new rhythms in our life.”


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