I’m very excited to start this new weekly series called, The Tricks of Anxiety. It’s certainly a topic that so many of us can relate too; more than 40 million people in the United States alone suffer with some form of an Anxiety Disorder.
That means it’s a gigantic problem for countless people regardless of who we are or where we come from. Anxiety is more than happy to go after every single person that it can and keep them stuck in its grasp for as long as possible.
I started doing a weekly interactive video series on Periscope for this very reason; because it affects so many on a daily basis, and believe me I’m no stranger to it either. After reading through the book, You 1 Anxiety 0, by my friend and psychotherapist Jodi Aman, I felt empowered with the tools and knowledge to keep Anxiety from running my life any longer.
This book changed my outlook on life, and how I deal with Anxiety, just like it has for so many that have read it. In my weekly video series, we read through the book and talk about it as we go along. I would definitely encourage you to join me on Sunday mornings at 10:30am EST if possible (or catch the replay afterwards).
We’ll be expounding upon the weekly videos, working through the tricks of Anxiety as they relate to survivors of all types of abuse and those that suffer from PTSD, Dissociative Disorders and other mental health related topics from past trauma. Even if you aren’t an abuse survivor, I’m sure you’ll find this series validating and encouraging as you support the survivor in your life or as you work to try and be the best YOU that you can be.
So, without further delay, let’s jump right into one of the tricks that Anxiety loves to us, “it makes us feel like it is protecting us”.
It’s such an evil trick, a total mind-screw, when Anxiety tries to tell us that it’s protecting us, and that it’s looking out for our own best interests. It tries to make us feel safe and secure in our misery. Anxiety is relentless too; it tries to get us both coming and going, if you will, covering both sides of the spectrum. Here’s a few examples that I came up
- Don’t go out for dinner and engage with your friends, you know it’s going to be terrible. They won’t like you, the food will be bad, the lines will be long…just stay home!
- Don’t talk to your friend about your struggles, they’ll never understand, nobody will ever understand.
- Don’t reach out for professional help, you are broken and helpless. Just let it stay in the past, it’s easier that way.
- Why do you want to dig up those old memories, it won’t do you any good to work through them.
Another way that Anxiety wants us to believe that it’s protecting us, is when it makes us think that something bad is going to happen again, because something bad happened before. So, we endlessly worry about what might happen, in an attempt to prepare ourselves for what we think is the inevitable. If we focus on the potential bad situation that we “just know” is going to happen eventually, at least we’ll see it coming right? So, we protect ourselves from something we can’t even see or possibly think might happen.
Here’s an example from an abuse survivor perspective:
You were abused when you were little, Matt. That kid molested you and did terrible things to you. He took away your self-esteem, your ability to trust, your ability to reach out, and he was so slick about it that you didn’t even know what was happening. So, it stands to reason that if you open up and trust someone, they are going to take advantage of you in every malicious way possible. Nobody is trustworthy, so you are better off staying alone and keeping to yourself, so you don’t get hurt anymore. Even though you are an adult now and nobody is going to sexually abuse you anymore, they will still find ways to double cross you.
See what Anxiety is doing there? It’s not only affirming you by feeding off your past trauma, but it’s also reasoning with you and telling you why you shouldn’t ever trust anyone or open up to anyone, because just like that abuser so long ago who was out to get you, everybody now is out to get you too. Protect yourself Matt, don’t let yourself be hurt again! Stay alone dude, you don’t want to relive that pain, again do you?
Meanwhile you are already reliving the pain because Anxiety is making you focus on it, and at the same time it’s keeping you stuck by making you think it has your best interests at heart. Once again, Anxiety has you right where it wants you.
So how do we take back this particular power that Anxiety has used to hold onto us for so long?
- See the short, guided meditation that Jodi included in her book. I’ve made it into an easy to use, shareable graphic that you can reference anytime you need. I did this meditation, and I can tell you that it’s an amazing feeling. Standing on that imaginary cliff of despair, and hearing Anxiety try to tell you that it’s protecting you; this meditation can release that false protective hold that it has on you.
- Step back and look at each situation from a high-level point of view; in other words, rationally look at what’s happening from the outside perspective. One of the best ways to rob Anxiety of its power is to question it. This is something that we will use regularly in this series because it’s such a key factor in both empowering ourselves and weakening Anxiety at the same time.
When we are right in the middle of Anxiety telling us all the ways that we need to stay alone, secluded, safe, and away from the invalidation of others, we can’t see each situation or person for what it is or who they are. Rationally break it down and see for yourself if this person or that situation is truly not healthy for you or if it’s just left over fear from a previous event in your life. Amazing things happen when you see life and everything about it with a true, open, rational mindset vs an emotional Anxiety filled mindset.
You can do this, we can do this, and we will do it together; ridding Anxiety of its hold on our lives. Be empowered friend, the very fact that you want to be free from Anxiety is an amazing first step!
Pictures courtesy of Pixabay. Social Media images created by Matt Pappas.