This is just a metaphor I played around with earlier today whilst I was getting the washing in.
Imagine you’re at the cinema with a friend. This friend happens to be your anxiety. Now, instead of your friend being quiet and watching the film, his/her attention is not on the film, it’s on you. He/she really won’t shut up and starts to ask you a lot of what if questions. Not only is this person your friend, he/she is also very annoying.
Know where I’m going with this?…
You perceive these what if thoughts to be important so you’re easily distracted by them. What if I have a panic attack whilst watching this film? What if I see someone I know? What will they think of me? What if I need the toilet whilst watching this film but i’ll be too embarrassed to get up out of my seat? These are the sorts of questions your annoying friend (anxiety) is asking you.
Because you perceive thoughts to be important, it’s only natural then to respond with more anxiety. We try our best to ignore the friend (anxiety) by concentrating even harder on the film. After a while, this approach just gets damn right exhausting. Now, we are looking at our annoying friend instead of watching the film. “Why won’t you just go away” you say vehemently. “I’m trying to watch the film but all I can hear is your voice.”
Your friend laughs at this so instead of shutting up, he/she starts to fight back and asks even more what if questions. It would look something like this; “Ahhh… hang on… I have something to bother you with then because you’re obviously afraid of me and you’re also trying to push me away… this isn’t going to work.” This gives the anxiety more reasons to disturb us.
About half the way through the film, you decide that your current approach clearly isn’t working. Now, instead of getting worked up by the annoying friend, you just allow him/her to say what he/she wants. You really couldn’t care less anymore.
When you try the opposite approach of giving up the fight and totally allowing it to be with you, then the anxiety (or your annoying friend) starts to lose it’s power and interest because it becomes bored. It’s not getting your fearful attention and resistance which gives it reasons to stick around. Then you’re just left with you and your friend without the annoying aspect of him/her.
I hope this metaphor can help you see just how important this approach of giving up the fight really is. This approach is what helped me to concentrate on my hobbies during high anxiety. I believe in order to really engage our minds, we have to accept first otherwise we are trying to focus on activities whilst simultaneously fighting our anxiety… this can never work!
PS: I’m calling anxiety your annoying friend because that’s exactly what it is. On one hand, it’s your friend because it has your best interests at heart. It wants to protect you and keep you safe from danger. On the other hand, it’s also annoying because it shows up at the most inconvenient times. However, it can stop being annoying when we learn to approach it in the right way.
I trust this article has helped in some way. As usual, feel free to leave a comment on your thoughts about this article. Your feedback goes a long way. Thanks.
Until next time