writing through anxiety

You can't believe everything you think. For years, I identified as a worried, anxious person, always dreading that something terrible was going to happen. I couldn't remember what it felt like to not be worried all the time. Almost every phone call or assignment or piece of mail created anxiety for me. Everything. While it would seem that my circumstances were fueling my anxiety, my enlightened view now is that truly, my thoughts about my circumstances were fueling my anxiety.

We all tell ourselves stories through our thoughts. And anxious thoughts create a limited story about who we are, what we can and can’t do and who we can be. Maybe the anxious thoughts never completely go away. But we can change the way we react to them.

E X A M P L E :

THOUGHTS: Having thoughts that something is going to go wrong today. That I'm going to crash. Thinking about how embarrassed I will be if someone asks me a question that I don’t have the answer to. Having thoughts that I never feel prepared. Telling myself that no matter what I'm doing, it's never quite good enough. Having thoughts that I am always too little, too late.

THEME: Everything is against me. I’m not enough. I'm unprepared and unworthy.

EMOTIONAL REACTION: Sadness. Heaviness. Withdrawal. Frustration. Jumpiness. Distraction. Lack of Focus.

DEFENSE TACTIC: Expecting the worst. Trying to plan and control everything. Avoiding new, unfamiliar things. Not speaking up or expressing myself. Complaining. Blaming. Hiding.

As you break down your thoughts like this, the way you process your emotions changes. Instead of the feelings being heavy and opaque, they become more transparent, broken up into smaller sensations that you can see and understand. You can look at yourself and say, "No wonder I'm feeling this way, look at the thoughts I'm having. Look at what I'm saying to myself."

The example shows how thoughts feed behavior. This exercise forces you to step back and learn how to feel sensations like anxiety without allowing them to take over and become all that there is. You attach your identity less with the anxiety and more with the wider perspective, as you are aware that you are simply reacting to your thoughts. From this wide open vantage point, you can see the stillness, the knowing, that exists around the temporary anxiety and you can begin looking at everything from that higher vibration. It could be as simple as saying to yourself, "I see the anxiety in me, I feel the effects of it in my mind and body, but I am still whole. I am more than these feelings.” If your awareness is a sky, then your thoughts, emotions, and moods are all just passing clouds. We suffer when we attach ourselves to circumstantial thoughts that are passing by.

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This is an excerpt from my self-discovery workbook, Writing the Layers.