Separate Yourself from Your Anxiety

Next step in overcoming anxiety: Separate yourself from your anxiety.

Inappropriate anxiety is not an intrinsic part of you, although it probably feels that way if you describe yourself as an' anxious person'. But you are not your anxiety. Like every other baby, you came into the world wide-eyed and curious, not a 'neurotic mess', as you may feel now. Think of times when you have been relaxed or had fun or been engrossed in a film or a book (there will be something of the kind you can recall!) Anxiety wasn't in the picture then. Anxiety is either a feeling that suddenly envelops us or, on other occasions, insidiously creeps over us without our realising. It is not the essence of who we are. It takes us over and, if we can calm ourselves down, it goes away again. If anxiety feels as if it is there all the time, it is because our stress levels have become so high that they have submerged our memories of better times.

But it wasn't always like that, if you can relax enough to think back over your life. At some point, you were not always anxious. (Some people who were abused in early childhood, perhaps, or brought up in a war zone, may not be able to recall a period before anxiety. However, as we have said, such feelings of hyper-anxiety created by post-traumatic stress can be resolved through the rewind technique.) It is, therefore, far more helpful to think of unproductive anxiety as an unwanted visitor. Look at it as something outside yourself and be curious as to why it has bubbled up right now.

When you do this, you are using the rational part of your brain - your 'observing self'. You can recognise it for what it is and more easily decide how to respond, instead of getting emotional and letting anxiety take you over. Remember, anxiety should serve you - whenever you need that little edge to get you ready to run a race, make an important speech, or dive in the deep end - but you don't ever have to serve it. Unproductive anxiety is, by its very nature, an utterly superfluous emotion. Remember, once it has alerted you, you don't need it. Once the letter has been delivered, the postman doesn't hang around.

Psychologists often suggest that people give their anxiety a 'form'. If you had to describe it as in the shape of something, what might it be? For one person it might be like a buzzing insect, a pest that they need to bat away. Another might see it as a strait-jacket that they need to wrestle out of. Other people we have worked with have decided, "It's a black blob" (to be dissolved) or "It's a pink jelly" (to be devoured and thus rendered harmless). Someone else settled on a black cloud that could be blown away; another one saw it as a jack-in-a-box, which she put a heavy weight on. Not everyone works best with a visual image. Some people may choose a jarring sound, which they can choose to turn off, or a bad smell that they can kill with a pleasant one.


Give this some careful thought, so that you can come up with an image or sensation that has power for you and that you can actively turn off, disable, eliminate, brush away or whatever is appropriate, at will.

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Use the positive power of your imagination