Escaping the Trap of Anxiety
“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.”—Peter Marshall
Those two words immobilize so many of us. They keep us from reaching our happiness, pursuing our dreams, or living up to our potential and often keep us stuck in an all too familiar rut. They also set up a challenge between you and your authentic self. ‘What if’ keeps you living on the edge of a cliff, daring you to take that great leap of faith, and paralyzing you with questions and concerns that leave your head in turmoil and you forever teetering on the brink. We commonly call this anxiety—a crippling demon that immobilizes so many of us, and wreaks havoc for so many others.
Our lives are short and precious, yet so many of us waste time living in fear, denial and avoidance. We monitor ourselves to stay ‘safe’ and distract ourselves from finding a place of joy and well-being. Artist and musician Peter Gabriel talks about how, for many years, anxiety had the best of him. He describes using his music to parallel his journey through a life based on meeting other’s needs and always doing what he perceived to be ‘the right thing’, rather than seeking out his own happiness. In his song ‘Digging in the Dirt’ he sings about gaining the necessary self-awareness and courage to stop being stuck in the same unproductive patterns.
The reality is that those of us suffering from anxiety often do the same thing. We continue to repeat the same patterns, living in a self-imposed prison of the mind—something another musician, Don Henley of the Eagles, called a ‘prison of our own device’. We do this, every day wishing and hoping in vain that things could be different, but unable to get out of our own way. Gabriel sings ‘I am never where I want to be’, aptly describing how those of us suffering with even day-to-day anxiety will sooner stay stuck in our own discomfort than risk change.
Battling the Bully: Anxiety
Living with anxiety brings with it a lot of negative consequences. It can be a constant battle with your own mind, as well as a challenge to take back control. You may find yourself constantly questioning your choices, and looking for ways to set yourself free from that prison in your mind.
Most of those who struggle with anxiety understand how it seems to move in and become very bossy. Anxiety dictates the rules, and its victims are held hostage from any kind of reason or logic. Anxiety says ‘I am going to plant seeds of doubt in you and you must react with fear and worry’. Compounding this is the reality that, more often than not, the message sent by anxiety is wrong—it’s one that misguides and misleads us.
As a therapist, I can’t know each of my client’s entire back story, what their history looks like, or what they may have endured or persevered. Everyone’s story is different, and, unless you’ve walked in someone’s shoes, you can’t know every little thing about where he or she is coming from. When it comes to anxiety, however, different histories often lead to similar outcomes—an inability to break free of that mental prison, move forward and enjoy life.
My role is to guide you down a road of self-discovery where you can gain greater awareness of your patterns, a deeper understand of yourself and find the courage to recognize your unique personal truth. Once you become willing to be honest with yourself, you will be more open to overcoming negative thinking and unhealthy behavior.
It’s essential to be open to accepting real change is possible, and that you can experience a greater sense of personal well-being. In your willingness to be honest with yourself,and owning that you are not living up to your whole potential, nor living your most authentic life, you can find the freedom you desire.
The pain of anxiety will never completely go away. At times, it may even be necessary. That pain, however, doesn’t need to consume you, or even live with you. You can simply visit with it from time to time, understanding that you have the power, and can turn it away when you feel it has overstayed its welcome.
Taking Back Your Life
Taking back your life begins when you make the choice to confront your negative thinking and challenge it. This starts with asking yourself a simple question: ‘Am I in control of my thinking or are my thoughts controlling me?’In doing the opposite of what anxiety wants and dictates, learning to be comfortable with uncertainty, and being willingness to act, even in the face of your fear will afford you the freedom you seek.
In his song Solsbury Hill, Peter Gabriel, he asks us as you feel your heart pounding with trepidation are you willing to leave the struggles behind, endure the pain for the sake of something better. Gabriel reminds us that taking the leap of faith towards a new, uncertain—and perhaps painful—place is worthwhile.
“Don’t fear failure so much that you refuse to try new things. The saddest summary of life contains three descriptions: could have, might have, and should have.”—Unknown
Do you feel like you’re stuck? Are you paralyzed by negative thinking, or caught in repeated patterns of behavior that get you nowhere? If you would like to explore breaking free of your mental prison and finding a new path in your life, feel free to contact me to set up an appointment.