As human beings, we have an instinctual need for safety, familiarity, and comfortability. Sometimes even the thing that makes us unhappy, is the exact same thing that brings us security – satisfying our needs.
In my story, anxiety was the protagonist. I was comfortable with it because it never surprised me, I was certain it would always keep its promise of filling my brain with negative thoughts. Negative thoughts that I already knew how to “deal” with. And it was my anxiety. How could I ever let go of something so significant that belonged to me?
Until I realized that I didn’t actually own the anxiety and that I had simply got into a bad relationship with it. I allowed it to knock me down and then whisper sweet nothings into my ear.
Anxiety is necessary, as a species, we need anxiety to survive. We need it when crossing the street in case we see a car coming fast our way or when an ax-murderer is running after us – to send us into the fight or flight reaction and get the f**k out of a dangerous situation. However, we don’t need it when we are safely in our beds ready for a nights rest.
Unfortunately (or fortunately) for me, anxiety was around 99.9% of the time, the .1% that it wasn’t, was when I was knocked out for a tooth extraction. Some nights, I would wake up out of my sleep in the middle of the night ready to fight or fly!
And then I realized, most of the time when I thought I was having anxiety, I was experiencing the Stockholm Syndrome – “an emotional attachment to a captor formed by a hostage as a result of continuous stress, dependence, and a need to cooperate for survival.” Anxiety was the captor and as for me, the hostage.
I learned to love anxiety for all the stability it was providing me with. I called it “MY” anxiety, it was what prompted me to become a therapist, I owned it, I identified with it, I was it. My whole world revolved around experiencing it – and even when it wasn’t there, I was looking for it.
I then became interested in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), a system that breaks down the relationship between the mind (neuro) and our language (linguistic) and how this relationship affects our body and behavior (programming). The words we use is the food for the subconscious mind that drives our behavior. I realized that because of the words that I chose to describe my relationship with anxiety, I was giving my subconscious thoughts the wrong idea. The anxiety was not “my”, I didn’t “always” have anxiety and I don’t have to live with anxiety forever!
If you’re reading this, I want you to know that at one point I was you. I read articles and they sounded fantastic but then my brain interrupted me with negative thoughts and I would think … “This person must just be lucky, I will never get there, etc.” BUT, beware… that’s your brain playing tricks on you.
Today, writing this, I would say I am about 85% better than I was at the beginning of my journey (three years ago). Of course, I still experience a few panic attacks and generalized anxiety here and there, but it is nothing compared to life before!
Start rewiring your brain NOW with these five pieces of advice:
Show gratitude – (I will repeat this one in every blog that I write.) Feeling a sense of gratefulness releases the same chemicals as eating chocolate or having an orgasm. If you like chocolate and orgasms – start showing gratitude immediately.
Watch your mind – Try to be more aware of the words you are feeding your subconscious mind. Stay away from negative/absolute words and phrases such as “I hate today! My life will never change!” You will get what you give.
Stay in the moment – Your mind is always 10 (or in some cases a million- steps ahead of you) … bring it back! I bet, right now you can’t wait for this article to be over so that you can do that thing you wanted to do next but you’re not done with this thing which is that thing you wanted to do before.
Don’t believe everything you think – Your brain is 6 million years old. Over the years it has developed survival mechanisms that no longer serve us the way they use to. Thankfully, we don’t have to watch out for the Saber Tooth Tiger anymore! Fear is important but allow it to work for you and not against you.
Keep a tight circle – You are the average of the five people you most associate with! So, if your BFFL is making you anxious, you may just need a break(up). Start consciously removing people who no longer serve you out of your life. You can still love them…from a distance.