No matter what situation we find ourselves in, if its even remotely stressful in any way, or possibly could be stressful, anxiety will take that and run with it. We have to be constantly on our game to either head off anxiety before it starts or minimize its effect on us once it begins to try to assert it’s power.
One of the things that anxiety is so good at it, is being versatile. By constantly changing its tactics on the fly, we have to stay vigilant on our own behalf and fight this battle against a relentless foe.
Make no mistake though, friends, anxiety is not unbeatable!
If you remember back to a previous trick we talked about in this series, anxiety wants us to think that every situation is going to turn out awful, and be the worst thing we have ever experienced. Which brings us to the next trick, an off shoot of that tactic is that anxiety also wants us to live in fear.
Living in fear is no way to live if we want to have a peaceful, happy, life full of contentment. Anxiety loves nothing more than to not allow that to happen, and it will try to use fear to its advantage. That’s one thing about anxiety, it pulls no punches and leaves no stone unturned; no tactic is off the table.
Fear in itself is not a bad thing, we are all born with this healthy instinct. It’s there to alert us of danger and to help keep us safe. If we happen to come up on a wild animal while going out on a walk, fear will cause to keep our distance. If there is unsafe part of town that is known to be dangerous at night, fear (and good common sense) keeps us from going there.
Fear is not rational or irrational, logical or illogical, valid or invalid. Fear is simply something we experience. It can definitely be intense at times, yes, but it’s still simply an experience*. If we analyze and focus on fear all the time, we give it more power than it needs to have. That’s where it leads to anxiety and where the confusion can set in; what we think is fear, is actually anxiety. We end up feeding the monster of anxiety, through fear, when we may not even realize we are doing it.
Fears of the unknown, a fear of death, contamination fear, a fear of flying, catastrophic fear, a fear of success, and a fear of failure are all commonly noted as a “fear” yet they are actually experienced as the emotion of anxiety. – Psychology Today
The fear of fear, if you will, is where things get out of control and where anxiety takes over. We get so worried about something, completely dreading it in every way, and anticipating the worst, that it consumes us. This is where we have to use logic to break down the situation, and see it for what it is. By analyzing what we are fearful of, we can see that it’s actually anxiety that has us feeling so miserable and scared.
Be careful though not to confuse analyzing with dwelling. Dwelling on the fear of something can cause us to dread it, and that dread is where anxiety loves to live within us.
- Take the time to look at what you are dreading, is it really a fear or is it anxiety.
- Logically work through the scenario in your mind and you’ll immediately begin to strip anxiety of its power. Write it out if you want, or talk to someone you can trust to get their input too.
- Then once you do that, don’t dwell on it any longer. Decide on a course of action and run with it. Dwelling too much on what we already worked through can cause even more anxiety, and that’s the last thing we need when we just took its power away.
Where does this take us as survivors of abuse?
As survivors, we had every right to be afraid as children. Someone was using us for their own sadistic pleasures and selfish wants and we couldn’t stop them. That fear was absolutely justified because of the trauma. It’s also justified after the fact, in that it’s okay to be fearful of potentially bad situations or people. We just need to be careful not to let fear run our lives to the point of thinking that every one we come in contact with or any thing that we do is going to be dangerous.
Doing that is where anxiety takes over, because it’s simply not logical to think that just because we were abused, as horrific as it was, that every single person is out to get us now as adults. I say that very delicately and kindly.
If we give into that feeling, we are cheating ourselves out of good, healthy, relationships of all types. By doing that, we are reinforcing negative thoughts about who we are and what we are capable of handling. Our self-confidence, which may already be in question because of the abuse alone, is lowered even more. Our self-esteem, which again may be low as the result of the past, can sink to even greater depths.
Isn’t that what we are fighting against as adult survivors? To not live in fear of future repeating the past? That’s why we put in all the hard work of healing, to not dwell on so much negativity and fear that it turns into a situation where we are unknowingly feeding the monster of anxiety.
Know this friends; we don’t have to live in fear, we don’t have to let anxiety continue to control us, confuse us, and invalidate us. We have the power to take anxiety’s power away if we just believe in ourselves and use our wise mind to challenge anxiety’s lies and break its chains.
Be sure and catch up on the other articles in this series on Anxiety’s Tricks, what they mean and how we can conquer them.
*Paraphrased from You 1 Anxiety 0 by Jodi Aman. Chapter 4 – Section 4.
- Pictures courtesy of Pixabay. Social Media images created by Matt Pappas using Canva.
- Jodi Aman approves this series on Surviving My Past and the weekly Periscope Videos. I encourage you to check out her book and get your copy via her website or on Amazon.