Anxiety is a funny thing.
It’s funny because it doesn’t rely upon truths or reality. Anxiety doesn’t even need logic.
It’s our ancient lizard brain being dramatic. It’s our body’s way of telling us we’re unprepared for something that’s about to happen.
More importantly it’s our body’s way of telling us that we BELIEVE we’re unprepared for something that’s going to happen. And in every single situation we ARE prepared, or at least we ARE capable of handling anything that happens to us. Including disease, loss and death.
The magic to overcoming anxiety is to then convince our unconscious lizard brain that we ARE prepared for what ever it fears is coming.
But how do we do that? How do we create our own freedom from anxiety?
Change What We Believe, And We Change How We Feel
When we’re young our caretakers create the map of our reality for us.
Mom or Dad or Coach or Teacher or Priest… our most important mentors help us develop our initial building blocks of beliefs. Thee beliefs we have about ourselves, about the world, and about the way we should expect the world to unfold for us.
The problem is that these people are often trying to keep us from dying. And in doing so they often give us constricted boundaries in order to save us from disappointment and pain.
And two things happen when we’re domesticated in this way… we are given beliefs we never question, and we often confuse these beliefs for reality.
As adults we forget to question these deeply ingrained beliefs. We’ve just agreed to them and moved on. Except more often than not these beliefs no longer serve us in a positive way.
For example, we learn to follow the rules and do what we’re told so that we can feel like “good boys and good girls.” The idea that we need to seek approval from others is useful to a child who’s parents are trying to get through a long stressful day. But seeking approval as an adult no longer serves us, but instead hurts us. Seeking approval leaves us victims to the approval of others.
The other thing that get’s domesticated into us to treat our beliefs and emotions as facts.
Another trick to helping us escape our own anxiety to challenge this silly idea.
Feelings ARE NOT facts!
Just like the menu at a restaurant shows us what the good will look like, it is NOT the food it’s self. And our beliefs about reality help us understand things, those beliefs themselves ARE NOT the reality.
This is confusing to explain.
For example… if I’m home alone drowning in dread and fear during a panic attack it’s liberating to remember that those feelings aren’t facts. Feeling dread, like the world is ending, doesn’t literally mean the world is ending. Perhaps that’s extreme.
Here’s a smaller example. Feeling the craving for junk food when on a diet. When I’m dieting I’ll often think; “Oh, I’m craving sugar, I must need to eat sugar.” When in reality my cravings are a side effect of a couple things… maybe low blood sugar. But also maybe the gut bacterial in my gut that survive only on carbs and they are singling to my body to eat more carbs.
In either case the reality is that I could go three weeks without eating and still be fine. Literally. I’ve watched Make And Afraid and those people never eat for weeks and they survive just fine.
Learning to accept my body’s desire for sugar, and then NOT eating sugar, has empowered me to finally lose weight AND feel a new type of freedom.
Just like the menu at Papa Johns Pizza is NOT actually the pizza, sometimes our beliefs trick us into thinking our THOUGHTS and BELIEFS are based on reality.
But “The map is not the territory” as explained by the founding principles of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) in Alfred Korzybski’s book Science and Sanity written in 1933.
How often do we see people become so committed to something they believe that they ignore facts or road signs? A great example are the few people I’ve met who literally think the earth is actually FLAT and that some how the government or NASA has been giving us misinformation all these years. And dispite reasonable discussions and talks about scientific tests they blindly excuse away my side of the argument as “data given to me by paid scientists who are faking all the photos and footage showing how round the earth really is.
Except in reality we CAN remove that brick because the rest of our house will be kept up by all the other bricks until we replace the old one that’s failing us.
What I’m saying is that we ALL have deep foundational beliefs that need to be replaced because we accept them when we were young or impressionable but now we’re older, wiser, and realizing that old belief no longer serves us… and is actually hurting us. In the form of fear or anxiety or panic.
Ao again… what I’m saying is that our thoughts and beliefs direct our body to feel a certain way.
So in order to FEEL differently we can do something easy that won’t help us long term (like distract ourselves from our anxiety through tv, media, food, sex, music, and drugs) and which his only soothing our symptoms or we can SOLVE the real problem and thereby curing ourselves long term.
Depending on the belief or thought that’s causing this anxiety this can be easy or it can be hard. It doesn’t really matter if you’re motivated enough to make the change.
Because ultimately we ALL get what we want. It’s just that most people want comfort and instant gratification over hard work and determination. Most people want the couch over the gym. Or pizza over salad. And that’s why most people are fat and sick and anxious and sad, instead of confident and courageous and hardworking and happy. Because, like the book title says, “The Obstacle Is the Way.”
Our anxiety is only a symptom, it’s not the cause of our suffering.
What’s the fix? What’s the solution to shitty beliefs? Well that’s the best question!
So far my experience tells me this: awareness. Awareness of self. Self awareness. How ever you want to word it.