Stop pointing the blame at external agents
I completely sympathise with you that certain people can rub off on you in the wrong way, but they are not the cause of your anxiety. After all, everyone would respond with anxiety when they were around difficult people, but they don’t.
They have an inbuilt resilience which allows them to deal with whatever comes their way. We, too, have this inbuilt resilience as does every person on planet earth.
However, when we are in disorder, our anxiety feeds off the reaction which is subconsciously triggered whenever we feel threatened from another person. We get ourselves into this loop, no one outside of ourselves causes it.
It’s not your friend who’s being a pain in the backside, it’s not that place where you previously had a panic attack, it’s not your job, it’s not the sensations or thoughts, it”s YOU and only YOU.
The difference between triggers and the cause of anxiety
Difficult people can act as triggers, but they are not the cause. I’ve known many people who have rubbed off on me and I’ve mistakenly placed the blame for my anxiety on them.
After all, if someone is being mean to us, it makes sense to point the finger at them and say they’re the cause of our anxiety. However, they are not the cause. They are a trigger. In the same way that an elevator is a trigger.
The difference between triggers and the cause is that triggers bring out the anxiety which is already in us. It’s more of a projection of fear that we place onto the world on certain people, places and events.
Whilst the cause of anxiety is something that comes from within us by our own doing. It’s something that is completely separate from the external world.
The cause is nothing more than how we are relating to our anxiety. It’s our own conscious choice to fear something.
In anxiety disorder, it’s our own conscious choice to fear the sensations and thoughts that come with general anxiety disorder. In panic attacks, it;s our own conscious choice to fear the panicky sensations.
In OCD, it’s our own conscious choice to fear the obsessive thoughts we have and to then carry out the rituals which are supposed to keep us protected from a danger.
What would the trigger for our OCD be? Most likely a thought. “Have I checked to see the oven is actually turned off?” “What if I’ve left it on and the house burns down?”. Then we, through choice, carry out risk assessing rituals like washing our hands in order to prevent a catastrophic outcome.
What caused us to do this? We did – 100%. After all, nothing can make us carry out these behaviours. We feared our own thoughts so we felt compelled to carry out these behaviours because we believed they would stop something bad from happening.
If we chose to not fear our thoughts, then we wouldn’t feel compelled to carry out these ‘risk assessing’ behaviours and therefore would starve the anxiety of the food it needs to replenish itself.
Maybe it’s also the fearful sensations we get that forces ourselves to carry out a certain behaviour. After all, anxiety wants us to either fight or flee from something.
It wants us to take some form of action in order to mitigate risk. However, by carrying out a safety seeking behaviour in the presence of no danger, the brain assumes that we must be in a dangerous situation.
We get caught up in a cycle where we act on the compulsion to say, keep checking if the door is locked but all this does is feed the anxiety.
When we perform a safety seeking behaviour, we are reaffirming to our subconscious mind that there’s a danger and so more anxiety is released to keep us safe.
We cannot bear to feel this anxiety because it feels so uncomfortable and it forces us to be on edge so we continue to carry out more of these safety seeking behaviours.
Not only that, our mind produces these worst case scenario thoughts and with these thoughts comes a feeling of intense fear. “If I don’t check to see if the front door is locked, then someone might break in.” So what do we do? We go and check the front door. We give in to our anxiety and it refuels itself.
I used to suffer from this form of OCD. It was mainly worrying about the door being unlocked and leaving the oven on. It was hell.
But eventually, I got to the point where I realised it was just my anxiety trying to keep me safe. Only I was feeding the anxiety through my fearful imagination.
So, not only are we the cause of our anxiety, we are also the cure.
The cure comes from understanding and behaviour change
The cure comes from within. Not from the doctors, hospital or any therapist, but from YOURSELF. Of course, people can point you in the right direction. They can even give you the knowledge which is vital to the recovery process.
But it’s you who ultimately brings about your healing. You do this by fully trusting that the information that’s been presented to you and embodying that info.
The way you heal is by understanding what’s going on in our mind and body when suffering from anxiety and then learning what you don’t need to do. Changing our perspective towards things is another part of the recovery process. I’ll get onto this shortly.
You see, as you already know by now, there are certain behaviours which make our anxiety worse. Things we are not even aware we are doing. Staying in and avoiding situations isn’t inherently a bad thing. However, it doesn’t really expand our lives and we still have to grit our teeth when we visit certain places.
The only way out of struggling in the external world is to take baby steps until we feel confident enough to expand our comfort zones.
I believe we never get rid of our comfort zone. I believe that we do things in order to expand our current level of comfort, whether we are aware of doing this or not.
Think about it? Why do we push ourselves to move outside of our comfort zones? So we can make the new place into our place of comfort.
As you can see, our comfort zone never dissolves, it just grows. The best thing that helped and still helps me is to write a list of my current comfort zone.
Personal examples of my current comfort zone: Going to supermarkets on my own. Going on holiday with my family. (Never been abroad on my own yet, but plan to).
Travelling alone to my closet city by train or bus. Recording videos. Speaking to new people instead of shying away from them. Speaking in front of people. (I did this whilst I was in college a few years ago). Going to pubs and restaurants with my friends. Going to the cinema on my own. Going to the gym on my own. Working at a job.
Quite recently, I ate out in a restaurant on my own. New experience and it was definitely outside my comfort zone ha!
Then, I think about what else I’d like to do. I don’t just force myself out of my comfort zone for the sake of it because it never feels right when I do this. It just seems pointless and doesn’t serve a deeper purpose.
So, I make sure that I expand my comfort zone by doing the things I want to do. For example, If I wanted to explore a place where I’ve never been before, I would work out how I would get there and plan it.
Before I could do all these things, they were outside of my comfort zone. Of course, going on holiday with family doesn’t really count for me because it’s never made me uncomfortable.
But I could never travel to different places on my own, especially getting there by myself too. To some people, this list will be challenging for them, for other’s it will be a piece of cake.
I would not entertain my about what I was going to do when I got there. I would just let myself explore and get lost. I do this with every new place I visit. What this does is it allows ourselves to slowly adjust to new environments.
Without having a certain plan in place whilst I’m there, it allows me to just naturally adjust to the environment. Since I’ve started visiting different places on my own, I actually enjoy it.
At some point, I know I will travel to a different country on my own. I don’t know exactly when, but I know it will happen because I’ve done everything else I perceived to be uncomfortable.
It just kind of happens, I don’t put pressure on myself and I don’t force things. I abide by the law of “little steps repeated over and over again leads to more progress = momentum and confidence.”
In this article, I wanted to be as honest as I possibly could be. I wanted to let you know that I’m not perfect and I still have challenges that trigger fear inside me.
However, compared to how I used to be, I am a million miles away from that place. Before, I couldn’t do any of the things I do now. I couldn’t hardly leave my room or speak to anyone. I felt so disconnected from the world.
I haven’t had a full blown panic attack in years. Recovery looks and feels different for every person. What looks like recovery to me might not be what recovery looks like to you.
We are always growing and going at our own pace. Comparing our journey to other peoples is pointless because we are all different. I am definitely not at the place yet where I feel completely unstoppable, but then again, who does?
Anxiety is a false alarm. It’s fuelled by our own internal focus and when we obsess, struggle with and fear our anxiety, we keep on feeding it. To break this habit, we need to engage with life again and not take our thoughts and feelings as truth.
They are just self-created illusions appearing to be real because our thinking creates the experience where it seems ever so real, but it is not. Only YOU can change the way you perceive your anxiety.
If you start to perceive anxiety as nothing more than a false alarm appearing at inappropriate times, knowing that it is completely harmless and meaningless, then you will starve the anxiety.
I’ve waffled on enough for today. I trust you have found reading this unstructured and scattered article.
Until next time 🙂