Sometimes our anxiety is so used to playing tug of war with us, it takes awhile to convince it that it can drop the rope.
Our anxiety pesters us because it TRULY thinks it has important information for us.
Important information about what, it’s never quite sure. But our anxiety’s pretty convinced of how important is the stuff it wants us to know.
We often have anxiety because a part of us really, really thinks we have to be aware of something.
That part of us is often trying to protect us— to keep us safe.
The part of us that is constantly ratcheting up anxiety might truly think that if it calmed down and DIDN’T torture us with anxiety, we would let our guard down…and that would be bad.
We might not be ready to defend ourselves. We might get hurt.
One of the physiological consequences of anxiety is, we feel that we are CONSTANTLY in fight or flight mode. Very often anxiety spikes our physical reactivity such that we CONSTANTLY feel on edge.
That part of us thinks we NEED to be on edge.
That part of us thinks that if we AREN’T on edge, we’re going to be hurt or worse.
It’s not enough to tell this part of us that we’re safe— that we’re not in danger right now. The part of us that governs our anxiety simply doesn’t believe us.
In fact, if we respond to that part of us screaming “WE’RE IN DANGER” with “SHUT UP NO WE’RE NOT,” that part ISN’T likely to say, “Oh…you’re right, my bad.”
Rather, that part is likely to ratchet up our anxiety even more. Because OBVIOUSLY we haven’t gotten the message.
If we’re gonna lower our anxiety so we can function, we can’t be constantly getting in a tug of war with the part of us that thinks we NEED to be anxious in order to be safe.
We have to learn to work WITH that part of ourselves, not against it.
We have to learn to listen to that part of ourselves in such a way that it actually feels heard.
We have to learn to think of that part of ourselves as an advisor— maybe an advisor that’s a little biased and a little overzealous, but whose heart is in the right place and who does, in fairness, sometimes have a point.
If we want our anxiety to leave us alone enough to function, it has to trust us.
It has to trust that we will not take its advice or priorities for granted.
It has to trust that we are doing what we need to do to be as safe as possible out there in the world.
It has to trust that it doesn’t need to dominate our thinking and physiology for us to pay attention to it.
I know, I know. We often don’t feel we have time to do stuff like self-talk and internal communication.
But the truth is, if we don’t communicate effectively with ourselves— especially that part of us that spikes our anxiety— it’s going to be far more hassle and pain in the long run than just doing the self talk and internal communication.
We can talk to ourselves in a journal. We can talk to ourselves in meditation. Sometimes effective internal communication can even be found in expressive arts like painting.
The important thing that we actually LISTEN.
Our anxiety WILL pester us until we acknowledge it.
And the thing is, it SHOULD— because its point of view is valid. Maybe a little exaggerated because of our past experiences, but the truth is, we SHOULD pay attention to how safe we are in the world.
Listen to yourself. Communicate with yourself. Invite all the parts of yourself, of which you are aware, to sit down at the table with you.
Even the parts that are kind of a pain in the ass sometimes.
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One thought on “You and your anxiety: a love story?”
Doc 100% spot on. There must be another source within us to not let anxiety rule our emotions. We need to be very strong so that we dont let anxiety sit and become a friend. Its not a friend who we invite to sit down and chat with us. We cant ignore it on that I agree, but neither can we give it free rein to interrupt our thoughts and emotions. Its no friend of mine. Its like a wart – you try anything to shift it. Thank you Doc.