The past has no purpose anymore
The past is gone. What has happened, has happened. It cannot be changed into how you wanted things to be.
I personally spent a lot of time going over past scenarios in my mind which were all linked to anxiety. Trying to figure out why I was the way I was in the first place and “what-iffing” about how things could of been. Of course, all this did was get me to focus more on the memories that were associated with anxiety.
Obviously, I can only go by my experience and dwelling on the past did not help one bit. For me, recovery is all about moving on. Leaving the past behind whilst we give ourselves completely to the present moment and planning for the future. You don’t need to dig deeper into the past in order to heal from anxiety. it’s really not necessary because what is the past other than a thought?
The past is no more. The only existence the past has now is thought. So really, the past doesn’t exist anymore. The only moment there ever is, is this one right now. What’s the point in spending this moment dwelling on something that cannot be changed?
Reading Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now really helped me to adopt this “dropping the past” attitude and made me realise just how important it is to pay full attention to what is real in this moment.
There can never be any problems when our attention is fully absorbed in the present because problems are created through thought. When I say problems, I mean anxiety-created problems.
Of course, there are still challenging life circumstances which we will always have to deal with, but we don’t have to create horror stories out of them through our minds.
People think they have to focus on the past in order to resolve their anxiety, but they really don’t. What difference can it make to our lives by focusing on the past? From my experience, no difference.
It actually kept the anxiety alive because I was constantly reminding myself of how I used to be. The idea is to let go of those old anxious memories and move on into non-anxious life.
Freeing yourself of the past
Whether this is necessary or not, it doesn’t matter. I want you to completely forgive yourself for whatever happened in the past.
I want you to forgive yourself for blaming everything for your anxiety. Whilst there were probably triggers in your life that helped to conspire the activation of the fight/flight response disorder, these were not the cause.
The cause is self-created. This is good news because if we created it, it means we can “uncreate” it. Basically, this happens when we do the reverse of everything we did in the first place to create the disorder.
Responding to the anxiety and panic in a different way and stopping the behaviours which feed it. Relearning to live like the anxiety free us is what’s required to move on.
One of my old mentors, Charles Linden, said that our brain wants to forget anxiety. It doesn’t want to be in this constant state of fight/flight because by default, we are designed to be in emotional balance and to always return to this baseline.
This is true because usually, when we have dealt with a traumatic experience, the fight/flight mode switches off and we go back into emotional equilibrium.
However, in a disorder (when there is no real threat present), this doesn’t happen because we, ourselves our keeping it going without even realising it. It’s perfectly appropriate to respond with anxiety when there is a true danger/stressor in our environment.
However, when we are in a disorder (when we are basically in the fight/flight response 24/7), there usually isn’t any reason to be in the fight/flight response 99% of the time.
Imagine the disorder being a faulty program running on a computer. This faulty program is designed to respond inappropriately to This is why we can be triggered by absolutely anything in anxiety if we perceive that thing to be scary, uncomfortable, disturbing etc. Even when it’s only imagination.
How can we forget the anxiety if we keep talking about it and dwelling on old memories. Doing this will only activate more anxiety because this is what the disorder does.
When we are in the anxiety-based disorder, we have programmed ourselves (subconsciously) to respond emotionally inappropriately to anything that we perceive to be fearful.
This is why discussing what we think caused us anxiety or talking about the trauma only serves to activate more anxiety because of this ‘inappropriate fearful response programming’.
We shouldn’t really create more anxiety when we talk about something which happened in the past, but it doesn’t change the fact that we do. You will know from personal experience that a thought can trigger more anxiety or panic.
Once we return to “normal” levels of anxiety, the inappropriate responses will not be active anymore. The only way we can really do this is by changing our internal responses to our thoughts and sensations, and retraining our brain to be unanxious through our behaviours.
It doesn’t involve digging deeper into the anxiety. Pulling it apart, analysing it and try to reason with it etc. If you truly have an anxiety disorder, then this will also be your experience because of how this all works.
Can we ever slip back into an anxiety disorder?
In my honest opinion, I think we can, but it would take a lot of unlearning to do that. Let me explain.
In order for the anxiety disorder to be created, we have to respond to our sensations and thoughts in a fearful way. I’ve learnt that responding to my thoughts and sensations in a fearful way only creates more anxiety.
If we carried out all of the behaviours which keeps us in the cycle such as constantly feeding our mind anxiety provoking information by going on unhelpful forums, talking about it all the time to other people, spending our time ruminating over our thoughts and sensations, surrounding ourselves with the topic of anxiety, and carrying out safety seeking behaviours such as research and avoidance, then we would eventually fall back into the disorder because these are the things that create it in the first place.
Not only this, but we would have to unlearn all of the knowledge we have learnt about anxiety. Things like the mechanics of anxiety and powerful insights such as fear being our protector instead of our enemy and how it’s harmless etc.
As you can see, it would be very hard to ever get back to where we once was once we’ve healed. I honestly think it would be impossible to ever unlearn what we’ve learnt to heal.
Once you feel you have made a recovery, or are in the recovery process, it would be wise to not focus on the old anxious you because this isn’t letting go, it’s holding on. What we need to do in order to make a full recovery is to let go and move on.
Let the past go. It’s called the past for a reason. It doesn’t need to be constantly brought up through talking and dwelling on old memories. Anxiety recovery is a bit like putting a plaster on a cut and allowing it to heal. You wouldn’t constantly pick at the cut whilst it was scabbing over because it would never heal.
You would just leave it alone and allow the body’s own intelligence to heal it with time.
To reclaim our power, focusing on the present and planning for the life we want to live is the antidote.
What would your perfect day look like? What would your ideal life look like? These are much more productive, exciting and emotionally healthy things to focus on.
In another article, I’ll talk about why it’s important to have purpose.
If you have any questions about this article, then please feel free ask. Feedback would be greatly appreciated as would sharing this article with other people.
Until next time