We start to refer to it as the part of us we like the least, and even suggest we are trying to get rid of that part. Because anxiety has so many negative associations and experiences it can become the part of us we fear the most. It feels like our enemy because it really doesn't feel like it is on our team.
Whilst it's understandable how we come to this conclusion, it is unfortunately the least helpful reaction we could possibly cultivate in these circumstances.
As soon as we regard a part of us as our enemy, we start to actively get involved in either denying, ignoring or even destroying that part of ourselves. But the clue is in that word 'ourselves'. This part we call anxiety is actually ON OUR SIDE.
It's the part of us charged with the task of drawing our attention to the important things that will keep us safe and on the path of happiness. This part of you isn't trying to destroy you...it's trying to help you.
Every single part of your mind is hard wired in its motivation. It is looking for the best strategy for the most happiness. The reason we sometimes believe our mind is ignoring happiness in favour of unnecessary or extreme safety protocols is because safety is actually a huge component part of happiness. We can't feel happy if we don't feel safe and therefore maintaining our safety is a pre-requisite for any part of our mind looking to keep us happy.
So whilst this part is working incredibly hard to help us, what do we do?
We push it away.
We dread its arrival.
We ignore it as best we can.
Basically...we treat it like the enemy.
As a result these important messages your mind is delivering to you are getting ignored or rejected. This means that anxiety needs to shout louder to get heard.
This is when we start to become overwhelmed with all that anxiety noise. That part shouts at us and we believe it is malevolent and simply looking to spoil our day, when really it just wants to be heard. It just wants to deliver this valuable message so that we can take the necessary action to keep us on the road to happiness.
You know those times when we simply can't work out what we are anxious about?
That's because we stopped listening a while back and now any part of our mind trying to deliver a message has to shout as loud as it can. As a result it's just noise in our head now and all the tiny details of these message are inaudible.
So here's what we can do to change this.
You see the truth is, anxiety is actually our friend.
Anxiety is the part of us that is trying hard to keep us safe and happy. It's only shouting at us because we stopped listening. When the messages became too painful, we did our best to switch off to them. Now that part of us has no option but to scream about the tiniest things. Even the little every day things come with huge anxiety, because our mind has just forgotten how to deliver a message quietly.
Now it's just trying too hard.
So here’s a tip. Here’s how we get anxiety to quieten down and go back to a whisper.
Rather than shying away from our anxiety; instead of covering our ears and trying to ignore it, listen to it.
Hear what your mind is shouting about, even if it seems like too much.
Even when the noise makes the detail hard to find, keep listening.
When we start to really listen there is no longer any need for that part of us to shout. Then it can start to get back in the habit of whispering these messages. Suddenly we will find the mundane, every day stuff returns to the kind of anxiety levels that resemble nothing more than a passing thought in the back of our mind. Suddenly the big stuff comes without panic, and returns to being that high level of importance with only a low level of anxiety to accompany the message.
The big reward here is when we get used to listening to our anxiety. Then our anxiety gets used to being heard. When we listen to anxiety it can stop shouting and then it starts to listen to US.
That's when we get the opportunity to let that part of us know that we are safe; that we CAN deal with this; that we’ve got this. That's when the logical, adult part of us gets to reassure the anxiety part that all those fears are unwarranted. We get to look after that part. It know it is being heard, so it only has to deliver each message once, and because it's being heard it trusts us when we tell it that we don't need to be afraid.
Anxiety is a hard worker.
Don’t ignore it.
Don’t shout at it
Listen to it.
It’s trying to look after you. It's trying to help.
Anxiety is your friend.
My new book Clear Your Head is out on 17th July teaching you more ways to change your thinking around anxiety and get control of your own mind.
Please contact us and we can help you, whatever your question...