I thought I’d make a comparison between anxiety and one of my favourite books and films of all time… Stephen King’s IT.
Anxiety and IT both grow stronger through our fear of them
In the film/book, the monster that is IT also known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown becomes scarier and more powerful when the kids our afraid of “IT”. This is what gives “IT” it’s power. In all fairness, the kids have a reason to be fearful. I mean who wouldn’t be terrified of an evil cosmic entity from outer space that preys on the fears of kids and then eats them?
On the other hand, anxiety and panic attacks make our lives a living hell. When we respond in fear to a panic attack, disturbing thought or a bodily sensation, we are creating more fear. What makes this cycle extremely hard to break is through fearing how we feel. If we didn’t fear our anxiety, it would lose it’s power and even though we would still feel the bodily sensations, they would eventually dissipate because we are not fuelling the anxiety through fear. If the anxiety doesn’t have any more reason to be feared, then it won’t be scary anymore.
Even though it seems like anxiety is an evil entity we have inside of us trying to destroy our lives, it really isn’t. In fact, the opposite is true here. I’ll talk more on this very shortly.
Anxiety and IT both lose power when we stop fearing them
In the film/book, the kids develop an inner strength through understanding how this monster works and what it’s biggest weakness is. The kids know that Pennywise the dancing clown is stronger when there is no group of children because then, with just one person, it can pick off the group one by one. This is why a lot of kids have died around their hometown (Derry).
The killings happen when the kids our alone. So, the group of kids (known as the losers club) form a strong bond with each other and join forces to defeat their predator. They understand that in order to weaken it’s power and to defeat the monster, they have to stay together as a group.
Even though anxiety isn’t a monster out to get us like IT, we still give our power away to anxiety by fearing it. When we panic over the thoughts which scare us the most or worrying if the physical sensations are hurting us, we are giving anxiety more energy to renew itself through us. Once we understand what anxiety and panic is, we no longer have to fear that our life is about to end. We can call it’s huge bluff and end our fear of fear. This is very similar to IT. Once the kids start to lose their fear of IT, it doesn’t have any more fear to feed off. Fear can only feed on fear. If we take away the fear, we are starving It and the anxiety of the food it needs.
This is what helped me tremendously to break free. I’ve spent most of my life fearing my own anxiety disorder. Through understanding, I have learnt that there really is no need to fear anxiety and panic attacks because they are not causing us any harm.
How anxiety becomes our enemy
We turn our anxiety into something that it really isn’t – our enemy. If we don’t have the understanding that the fear response was designed to keep us safe and protected, it’s all too easy to then make it into our enemy. We make it into a tormentor when we fear and resist it.
If the fear response could speak, it might say something like this: “You don’t need to fear me because I’m trying to keep you safe from danger. You don’t need to resist me because I’m just passing on through to check for any threat but I can’t seem to find any. I can’t seem to escape from you because you are not allowing me to pass through. Please stop fearing me because that’s how you activate my response. Please stop fighting me so that I can flow through you.
Anxiety breeds more anxiety. We cannot ever break free from the anxiety cycle if we are fearing it. This is just the way it is. When we lose our fear of the fear by facing it and walking through the storm unharmed, we come to see it as just that, a storm. Extremely uncomfortable and scary, but completely non-threatening.
We put ourselves in this vicious cycle by being afraid of the sensations and thoughts. We are afraid of the sensations because we think they’re causing damage to our bodies. This simply isn’t true. Fear is natural response to a perceived danger. Anxiety is created when we fear that natural response.
Ultimately fear cannot hurt us. Think about it, would our natural preservation system (the fear response( really equip us with a response that causes us physical harm? It would be crazy to think this. How silly would evolution have to be? In reality, the fight or flight response is designed to keep us on the look out for potential danger. Without this system, our ancestors would have died off long ago. We have to trust that we are fully safe and that our bodies can handle panic attacks, no matter how intense they feel.
Even though the strategy for defeating IT is different when it comes to defusing anxiety, the point I’m making is that fear grows stronger when we fear it.
At the end of the day, thank god anxiety is actually trying to keep us protected, unlike IT which is an evil cosmic monster that preys on people’s deepest fears and eats them. So, anxiety is kept alive mainly through fear and resistance.
I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you have any questions please feel free to ask them.
Until next time.