What to do when anxiety hinders our journey
Nowadays everyone has a friend who suffers from some form of anxiety, or phobia, and the issue can become so strong that it hinders every day life. So, are we all doomed and just supposed to be medicated for life?
The answer is (you guessed it) a resounding nope.
Unless the anxiety and panic attacks are life threatening and/or need immediate medical attention and for a short while, medicines are not the best options in the long term. And of course if you suffer from psychotic episodes and you are in the care of a psychiatrist, this article is beyond our realm of action.
Returning to the subject, what make me think that we can conquer anxiety? The fact that when you go deep down into the core reason under anxiety and phobias, you will see again and again that they are both intimately connected by a single problem: fear. And to be exact, it’s the fear of common things such as failure, pain, rejection or not being good enough.
Therefore once we discover exactly what is causing the anxiety, we can tackle it and move on. Because moving on and rebuilding our lives, our careers or self confidence is the basis on my mission as a coach and therapist, let’s talk about it!
As we discussed in my previous article about procrastination, our mind will do anything to save us from having any pain. Anxiety is a deeply ingrained protection mechanism, and once we understand what the mind is protecting us from, we can free ourselves from the old belief we built some time ago and is no longer useful.
For example, if your parents are super worried about you being scratched by an infected cat, and start screaming when you attempt to touch one, you will remember your childhood experience and you will fear cats even as an adult.
Dr. Dispenza and many other neuroscience experts say that fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. When you have fear you are not living in the present. You are just listening over and over to the same recording.
Keep this in mind as we go on to explore what anxiety is based on, using an example.
When I was just starting out as a Clinical Hypnotherapist I worked with a young man who had everything you would ask for: good looks, polite manners, a successful career, financial stability, health and so on. Yet he dreaded giving public speeches. He would just freak out: when would face a crowd, his legs would go jelly, his mouth would dry up and he would simply….go blank. In other words, he was so worried about failing that he failed before even trying. Sounds familiar?
During a hypnotherapy session we first regress the client to the very moment when the fear came about. It turned out in this session, that when this man was a young student, there were several instances when he felt from his parents a massive pressure to become as successful, polished and educated person just like them. (Don’t we all do that to our children? It’s for their good, we say. But there are ways of sharing our hopes for our children’s future.
My client knew that failing any exam would really disappoint his successful parents. In short, he felt he was not enough. He would never be as good as them. The pain was real.
So this bright young man gradually lost his confidence, to the point of being on the verge of a panic attack prior to public speaking.
His anxiety was not caused by an external event but by his subconscious mind, which was only trying to protect him. In a way, his mind was telling him, ‘If you fail this, you are going to feel terrible, and your parents are going to feel really bad, but don’t worry, I will take care of you, you will never have the chance to fail because I won’t even allow you to start talking.’
I used several techniques to reframe this false belief, and to let him know that he was enough, and in the end of the session, this young man thanked me and said he was feeling liberated from a heavy weight he carried for many years.
Within half an hour from the session, he was unexpectedly asked to go and stand in front of an audience of about 100 people to share a few thoughts about something. I watched him walk confidently to the stand, facing everyone calmly, and then… he just spoke as naturally as the most refined speaker. I was so pleased for him. This happened again a couple of hours later when he was asked to perform an impromptu jingle that his group had just designed to glam up a fun marketing idea. He was fantastic and looked completely relaxed. He was actually enjoying himself!
I bet that there are several things that some of you guys are not doing right now because you have a fear that causes anxiety: perhaps you refuse to fly abroad, or to change the way you do something, or maybe you are terrified of getting married again after a painful divorce. It could be that your class mates used to tease you and now you have no self confidence, or you failed your driving exam three times, so you think you just can’t drive. Whatever you are fearing, you are missing out a lot of good things in life! An unfilled dream of a career change, or of following your passion, are all typical examples of our mind telling us, ‘You won’t be able to do this! Be safe!’
What’s happening there is that your mind is telling you all the things that can go wrong if you dare moving towards new horizons.
First of all let’s see what is really going on when we experience a level of anxiety.
There are several rules of the mind that are part of the process that makes us confident – or not. As usual I am quoting from Marisa Peer’s talks – with permission as she has personally trained me as an Advanced RTT therapist.
1) Your every thought and word form a blueprint that your mind and body work to make your reality. So when you imagine that you will shake during a specific event, such as seeing a spider or talking in public, you are gearing yourself for failure. What you see in your mind is sending electrical signal to neurons in your body and in the quantum field around you. You literally are what you think!
2) The strongest force in humans is that we must act in a way that consistently matches our thinking. You have just imagined that you will feel ugly and you won’t be able to do something, so your body can only follow what your mind has decided!
3) Every thought you think causes a physical reaction and an emotional response within you. If you think that a dog will attack you, because you have seen this happening before, your blood will rush away from your face, your legs will go jelly and your heart will beat much faster. Meanwhile, the poor dog has not clue about this and is just wondering where the cat he just spotted has gone to hide.
4) Imagination is more powerful than knowledge when dealing with your own mind. What you picture in your mind feels as real as anything: think about nightmares – they are only happening in your head, and still your heart is racing and you are sweating!
5) In a battle between emotion and logic, emotion always wins. Your mind has connected a powerful emotion to an event that has happened in the past and every time you think about a similar event, the mind will bring back that very emotion and reinforce it. You might have been hurt by a dishonest business partner, or maybe your wife has cheated on you, and now when you have the chance for a new business venture or a new relationship, all you feel is your chest being crushed at the thought of being cheated again or losing your investment for the second time. So what do you do? You flee! You know it’s not logical but your brain has gone to fight or flight mode and emotion wins.
6) When you are feeling anxious or having a full blown panic attack, your mind is doing what it thinks you want it yo do: preserve you from pain. So you need to have a deep conversation with your mind and challenge all these assumptions that are hindering your progress.
As you can see – anxiety, low self confidence, panic attacks can come from many events buried in the deepest part of our subconscious mind. When these events are traumatic and cause PTSD, by any means go to a therapist and deal with the trauma. Your life will change. RTT is a good modality to access those events in a safe way so you can reframe your mind and move on. In other articles I will also talk about EMDR, EFT and Emotion Code as alternative healing modalities.
When there isn’t a huge trauma but the fear is still there, there are many things you can do right now to ease the anxiety and eventually conquer it:
- When you realise you have a negative thought such as ‘There’s no way I can trust anyone again’ stop yourself! You are in subconscious programming mode. Challenge your thought. Ask yourself, is this a fact? Can you prove that every single person on earth is not to be trusted? The moment you challenge a limiting belief, it starts to crumble. On this topic, Ann Bradford rightly said, “Tell the negative committee that meets inside your head to sit down and shut up!”
- If you are about to give a speech or do something a bit challenging in public, maybe singing, sitting a test etc, notice when your heart starts racing. Then tell yourself, ‘I have prepared very well for this, I will do just fine, and my heart is so excited about his, I can feel the energy about it, and I want to share it with others!’ You are reframing the shakes into a positive energy!
- Use positive words about your present and past experiences. Instead of thinking or saying, ‘I’m rubbish at playing the piano’, say, ‘I will be a lot better when I can practice half an hour a day.’ Change the self chattering that is putting you down. Do you ever catch yourself thinking, ‘Why such a cute woman would have dinner with me? I am so fat, so un fit, so…’? (You fill this) If this is your life story, stop putting yourself down! Say to yourself, ‘That cute woman will like my humour. Wait until a cook my favourite curry for her! Plus, we like the same books. It’s going to be a great evening!’
- When your mind starts listing all the bad things that will happen to you when you introduce change, start listing all the good things that will happen to you, and then ask yourself, who will lose up the most if I don’t do this change? Surprise yourself with an honest answer! Many times, if you listen carefully to those voice in your head, some well meaning friend or relative has told you that you cannot succeed in that field and you actually believed it. One of my clients could not approach any woman or go on a holiday with a friend because he had a confidence problem since he was about 8. His parents had occasionally teased him about talking to the opposite sex and he assumed it was a wrong thing to do, something to be embarrassed about. After a single session he found his joy of living again and last I heard from him, he was going to start a new venture and go on holiday abroad.
- If after all you tried you are still stuck with severe anxiety, find a good and caring therapist and discover together the root cause of the issue so you can be free to move on with your life. It might take up to 3 sessions but it will be so worth it! The transformation will be powerful and you will wonder why you haven’t done this before!
One final quote from Alfred Lord Tennyson, who said,
‘Tis better to have love and lost than never to have loved at all.’
Thank you for being with me today. I hope that my tips have helped you to have more clarity and confidence in your life. In the next article we will talk about this topic in more depth. I will give you six steps to overcome negative thinking and fearful mindsets. And we will talk more about the difference between living in the present and living in the past.
Watch this space!
A short video from Marisa Peer about anxiety is available on Vimeo.