Misunderstandings About Anxiety and Panic – Part 2

Inviting the anxiety in will mean I’ll lose control

This is a big one. A lot of people, including myself at one point, fear that if they invite more anxiety in, this will lead to them losing control. If you’ve come across a teaching that encourages you to ask for more anxiety in order to dis-empower it, then you might feel fearful about what the implications might be. This is understandable because this approach of asking for more is something that we are not used to hearing. “Ask for more anxiety? You must be crazy, I am NOT doing that.”

As crazy as this approach sounds, you will actually take back your power because the anxiety and panic is kept alive through apprehension. Take away that apprehension by asking for more and you weaken it’s hold over you.

By weakening it’s hold over you, I don’t want to make out that anxiety is this thing that is out to get us, it’s not because it’s designed to keep us safe. I just word it like that because it suits the metaphor.

The truth is that we don’t have any conscious control over our anxiety anyway, and trying to get that control actually makes us suffer more. In order to gain a deeper sense of control, a control that happens on a subconscious level, it is important that we take our hands off the controls.
Our psychology wants to be in balance, it’s natural default is this state of calm neutrality.

By trying to keep ourselves in control, we are actually getting in the way of our psychology’s job of returning to calm neutrality. For those of you who don’t know what calm neutrality means, it’s a state which is completely neutral and calm. The state we are in as baby’s.

This is good news, it means there’s a lot less to do than we think. Anxiety recovery is all about working with our minds and body’s natural self-correcting mechanism rather than against it. That’s all that recovery is really.

Trust me, you will not lose control from giving up control. When you ask for more anxiety, you are actually empowering yourself, not becoming more vulnerable, even if at first it feels this way because it sends a message to our brain that because we are asking for more, it must be a good thing. It must not be an issue so the central alarm system switches off.

I must not feel anxiety

Do you think that you must not feel anxiety if you are to be free of it? Has someone told you that anxiety recovery is about not feeling any symptoms or having any anxious thoughts?

What if I told you from experience that adopting this mindset/approach is actually counter-productive? Would you believe me? If we think that we must not feel our anxiety, then we’ll just end up in this resistive and suppressive state which will lead to more stress, uneasiness, restlessness and frustration. Adding this on top of an already anxious state isn’t the most helpful of things.

In my opinion, true empowerment is when we can think the thoughts and feel the feelings without getting upset by them. Being open and inviting to whatever it is we are experiencing on an internal level opens up the door for ease and peace.

This is all very paradoxical. For example, trying to stop thinking about a thought will ironically pull our attention onto the thought. You can sense it in yourself when you suppress a thought. It’s like your attention is slowly being reeled towards the thought by a fishing rod.

This is why we are better off just giving ourselves the permission to experience all thoughts without trying to get rid of them and without seeing them as a problem. It’s okay to experience crazy thoughts and it’s okay to experience uncomfortable feelings.

Talking about it all the time helps me

When I was completely caught up in the thick of anxiety, one of the many counterproductive behaviours I carried out was talking about it nonstop. We assume (understandably so) that talking about our thoughts and feelings all of the time is helpful. Is this really true though? Only you will know.

Personally, whenever I talked about my anxiety, I felt even more pulled in by it. You know what’s coming next… whatever we give our dominant attention to, we will feel more of in our experience of life.

So, if I spend all day talking about the things that I believe are making me feel anxious, I will start to feel anxious. It’s not that the actual things give us anxiety when we talk about them, it’s our negative attachment to our thoughts about the things that do. It’s a fearful interpretation that’s causing us to feel anxious, not the external object.
If I spend most of my day talking about how awful I feel and how disturbing my thoughts are, I am literally watering the seed of my anxiety which it keeps growing.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with telling people about your anxiety because suppression is never a healthy habit to get into. It’s just not necessary to talk about it if we want to free ourselves from the enslavement of it.

We have to do a lot in order to heal

One big misunderstanding I had was thinking that I needed to do a lot of work in order to heal. I was trying positive thinking and affirmations on a daily basis for months. I was keeping a clean diet, going to be bed earlier, not looking at screens as much and not drinking any alcohol, not eating any junk food, pushing myself to go out to places where I’d never been on my own before.

Trying to force myself into a positive state of mind and maintain that state every moment of the day etc etc.
Whilst some of the things I mentioned above did help, like eating healthier, not drinking alcohol and caffeine and not looking at screens as much.

However, I was trying awfully hard when I really didn’t need to. In fact, what I really needed was a clear understanding of what was going on in my mind and body in relation to anxiety and changing my relationship towards it, that’s all I really needed to do.
Oh, and to stop doing certain behaviours which were keeping me in the cycle. Things like talking about it, going on anxiety provoking forums, researching into anxiety, avoiding certain things etc. It’s more of a case of not doing than doing.

From my experience, the more effort and struggle I made into trying to get rid of anxiety, the more anxious I became. That’s the irony.
Other than that, I didn’t need to force myself into a positive frame of mind and then try to maintain that state because it was extremely exhausting and in my opinion, I don’t think it’s even possible for us to maintain a state because everything is always changing.

Our thoughts and emotions are always fleeting. By nature, they are designed that way. It’s only when we make them into a problem do they tend to feel heavy and contracted.
Try to let go of this control element. You don’t have to maintain a certain state because this is futile and exhausting. It’s just not sustainable. Focus on acceptance and learning about the amygdala and how it’s primary role is to keep us protected.

It’s all happening out there

Quite recently I’ve started to learn about a field called the 3 principles. I am a lifelong student and I don’t think I’ll ever reach a point where I can say “I know everything there is to know now” so I can rest on my laurels. No, that’s not how things work. It’s important to keep learning new ways to help ourselves and others.

My purpose is to share and learn everything I can which I feel can benefit the people like yourself who read my articles and watch my videos.
This methodology is all about an inside-out in understanding. In other words, thought is creating our experience. This makes sense if you think about it because we are not in danger 99% of the time so that means that our over-active imagination creates our anxiety.

The things in the outside world are NOT causing our anxiety, it’s our interpretations of the outside world that does. It’s our thoughts about them. If you want to go even deeper, it’s our interpretations we make of our thoughts that then leads to suffering.

Remember, the brain cannot tell the difference between a real and an imagined threat, so if we interpret our thoughts in a fearful manner, then our body will do all it can to keep us safe by releasing more anxiety. Just briefly, let me share with you a useful analogy I’ve picked up through studying a bit of the 3 principles, more specifically, A Little Peace of Mind by Nicola Bird.

She used the analogy of a ticker tape which I’ve probably mentioned before. Basically, thoughts are like the ticker tape. For those of you who do not know what a ticker tape is, it’s like the words flowing on the bottom of a screen when you are watching the news.

It’s like a strip of words just continuously flowing. These words are completely neutral. They are just words on a screen. What gives them meaning is our own interpretation of them.

In the same way that our thoughts in our head are inherently neutral. What gives them meaning is our own interpretation of them. So, the thought about having a heart attack on stage is no different than thinking about watching stranger things on Netflix tonight. Different content, I know, but they are still just thoughts. They only have meaning when we give them meaning.

They honestly don’t have to mean anything. Just because we have suicidal thoughts, doesn’t mean we have to take them seriously. We just assume that because we have unpleasant thoughts, they most indicate that something is wrong. They must be bad.
How this ties in with the inside out understanding is that the things of the outside world are neutral until we choose to interpret them in a way that causes us to suffer.

The situations in life do not cause us to suffer psychologically, it’s our own thoughts and interpretations about the situations that do. (Paraphrasing Eckhart Tolle).

I’m sure there are many more misunderstandings when it comes to anxiety and panic but I can’t think of any right now off the top of my head. If you know anymore, feel free to let me know and I’ll consider including it in.

Thank you very much. Take care 🙂

Until next time