What do I mean by changing my relationship with anxiety?
For so long, my mission in life was to completely eradicate my anxiety. That’s all I ever wanted to achieve and for a while I thought I had succeeded. That was until this very effort backfired when I found myself being completely burnt out.
What I had come to realise as a bit of a wake up call was that I really couldn’t get rid of my anxiety if I tried. In fact, the more I tried to get rid of it, the worst it got. Why is this? Because the energy we muster up in trying to fight off anxiety is used against us. If we push anxiety, it pushes back twice as hard.
The biggest mistake I honestly made throughout my journey was making it my number 1 priority to beat anxiety. The more I tried to get rid of it, the more exhausted and anxious I became.
I never heard anyone tell me that I should just stop trying to get over my anxiety at that point, so I just assumed that I needed to go on this journey of finding the perfect method, strategy or technique that would completely blow my anxiety out of the water. This didn’t happen.
To be honest, if someone told me that I should give up trying to get better, then this would of offended me. We obviously need more advice than just that. Especially when we are in the grips of chronic anxiety which, after all, is self-created.
When I talk about giving up trying to get better, I mean that we stop trying to force the anxiety out of our lives and just embrace it. It means opening the door and inviting the anxiety in rather than trying to keep the anxiety out of our house by pressing ourselves against the door with all our body weight.
The harder we try to keep anxiety out of our house, the more worked up it gets. Instead of just walking away, the anxiety starts to torment us by continuously knocking aggressively at the door and throwing rocks through the windows.
If only we just allowed the anxiety into our home and served it tea then none of the above would of happened. But in order to completely change our relationship with anxiety, we need to experience the above in order to learn from it. We need to be blinded by the darkness of the deep forest, before we can start to see the wood for the trees.
What if we didn’t need to get rid of anxiety?
So, what if we didn’t need to force anxiety out of our lives? What if it was completely okay for us to experience anxiety? What if all the struggle and effort to stop ourselves from feeling anxious was actually triggering more anxiety?
Would this surprise you? It certainly did for me because I spent most of my life thinking that I needed the anxiety to be gone before I could heal. I strongly assumed that healing was about never feeling anxious again.Not once did I even think that doing the complete opposite would work.
Now, my relationship with anxiety has drastically changed. I no longer fight the thoughts and feelings when they show up. I no longer think that I shouldn’t be experiencing anxiety. The door is always open for it’s return if it ever needs somewhere to stay.
Honestly, this attitude has helped me more than anything else. Of course, I don’t like the experience anxiety brings, but I know it’s something that I create myself and I know that trying hard to get rid of it backfires.
I no longer use methods or strategies to try to suppress it either because all this was doing was giving off the impression that something was deeply wrong with me when, in reality, I was just caught up in a habit.
Changing my relationship with anxiety was all I really needed to do. I didn’t need positive thinking, I didn’t need to rate my anxiety from 1 – 10, I didn’t need to change my thinking, I didn’t need to spend my time focusing on it and digging into my past to look for the cause because all this is unnecessary as it feeds the anxiety. I didn’t even need the anxiety to be gone.
Knowledge is power and without the knowledge of seeing that my efforts of trying to banish anxiety was giving it more energy, I would still be fighting it to this day probably. Unless I finally saw it for myself.
The point is, you cannot fight the darkness and win. Fighting never works because it gives off the impression that we are in danger, which means that more anxiety will be created to prepare us to carry on fighting this invisible danger.
Fighting our anxiety is basically like saying “I need this to go. This feeling state I am in is completely unacceptable and it should be gone, now!” I can’t be at peace until my anxiety has been eliminated.” This is actually what creates the most suffering as well as taking the contents of our thinking as truth.
No one wants to go through the experience that we’ve been through as anxiety sufferers. It’s hell. However, if you’ve suffered long enough, then you will probably know that fighting our anxiety doesn’t get us very far.
Even if you feel that it helps, it will only be in the short-term because we cannot fight something that is an illusion as it will keep growing stronger whilst we become exhausted from our efforts of fighting.
When you can be okay with the anxiety being there without becoming upset by it, then your whole relationship with it changes and neutrality starts to emerge. You see, the state we are looking to get back into, let’s call it a state of calm neutrality isn’t something that has to be earned or achieved. It’s our natural state.
This is what our mind is trying to get back to because it’s designed to default back to our natural state of calm neutrality. The way I see our natural state is a clear blue sky. Thoughts and feelings that arise our like the clouds that pass by. By nature, thought and emotion is designed to be transient. It’s designed to pass on through. It’s constantly flowing.
How it’s “supposed” to work is that we experience thoughts and emotions, and we let them pass on through. Then, another thought accompanied by a feeling flows through us and this cycle continues as it should because this is the natural default setting.
However, when we don’t have the knowledge of how it all works, we usually try to do something about our thoughts and feelings. We argue with them, we try to push them (our thoughts and feelings) out of our present experience.
This sends a message to our subconscious mind that the thoughts and emotions we have interfered with are an issue. They need to be feared and so what happens is they tend to stick around longer because our mind is showing us what we are afraid of so we can avoid them at all costs.
When they (thoughts and emotions) show up again, we resist them and the cycle continues until we gain the understanding that allows us to break free of this cycle.
What is the understanding?
Understanding that we don’t need to do anything about our thoughts and feelings because we really can’t. We either a) perpetuate our suffering by resisting our inner state or we b) gain a new understanding that allows us to effortlessly stop fighting against our inner state that allows for the resistance to be transmuted into a state of flow and ease.
This should be a relief because it means that we don’t have to struggle and try hard to get back into our natural state. It has never gone anywhere. It’s always there under the surface. It’s just that when we fear our experience and take it for the truth, our natural state becomes obscured by a state of emergency – anxiety.
When we stop making it our goal to eliminate our anxiety and instead change our relationship towards it, we actually fall into the state that we’ve so desperately been trying to get back to all this time. It’s our innocent misunderstanding of how our psychology works that makes us think that we need to do something for our experience to change, for our suffering to vanish.
What I’ve come to see is that any doing, any force I use to push my anxiety away just ends up backfiring.
Out of everything I’ve learnt through reading books and implementing programs, allowing the anxiety to be and seeing it differently (changing my relationship towards it) was always the key for me and trying really hard to make anxiety go away was always having the opposite effect. It created more stress, frustration and exhaustion.
The reason why trying to eliminate anxiety doesn’t usually work for myself and for the majority of people I’ve spoken to, is that we cannot eliminate something that is a self-created and self-perpetuated illusion. Put simply, there is nothing to eliminate. Trying to eliminate anxiety is like a cat chasing it’s own tail. It leads to nowhere.
Understanding and changing the way we respond to anxiety is where it’s at.
If you’ve found this post to be helpful, then I am truly grateful for that. If you feel that something is missing in this post, please let me know and I’ll try my best to include it in.
Until next time 🙂