Kerry stares numbly at the notice on the bulletin board announcing the permanent closing of his plant. It’s the only job he’s had for twenty five years. What am I going to do?
Diane wipes her sweating palms on her jeans. She feels like she is having a heart attack. Her final exam this semester involves making a class presentation. I can’t do this! I’m going to freak out!
Tobias looks at the clock behind the desk where he is checking in for surgery. In two hours he is supposed to be on the operated on for cancer. What if I don’t make it through the surgery? What if they can’t get all the cancer? What if it’s worse than what they expect?
Tara lies awake. It is 3:00 a.m. She has an interview today for a promotion at work. What will I do if I don’t get this job? It’s my third try in the last four months. My unemployment is running out.
I don’t know anyone who has not been afraid or felt anxious, including me.
Fear and anxiety can paralyze us. Worse than that, either of them can make us retreat, crawl into a hole and give up.
For years I worked with people to help them not feel afraid or anxious. That is hard work, from either the client’s chair or the therapist’s chair!
In recent years I have had a shift in my attitude toward these twin killers. Because of this attitude shift, my focus with clients has changed as well.
The trigger for these changes was my becoming more aware of my own internal dialogue during moments of fear and anxiety. Here is how my self-talk used to sound:
“This is too much for me.”
“I can’t face this.”
“I don’t know what I’m going to do!”
“What if I don’t (make it, survive it, endure it, overcome it)?”
“I can’t move forward.”
“I don’t know what I’ll do if……”
What I noticed about this one way dialogue was the repeated use of personal pronouns – “I,” “me.”
Suddenly I had a number of realizations come tumbling into my consciousness. (Isn’t it interesting how once we open our mind to viewing things differently, new insights can come flooding in?)
Realization number one: I was making each situation all about me, as if I was all alone in facing them.
Realization number two came fast on the heels of number one: All the statements I was making to myself were true. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I couldn’t face it. I didn’t know what I’d do if….
All the statements were true because of realization number three: I had carved God completely out of the equation. He was nowhere present in my conceptualization of my situation.
Realization number four said to me: I have to put God in front me in all these situations. If I will let God lead, I can follow Him anywhere.
This last realization was the one that allowed me to breathe easier, to relax, and to smile.
But I was left with trying to understand where fear and anxiety come from. Neuroscientists who believe man has evolved over millions of years from a brute caveman answer that these emotions come from our primitive brain, the one that kept us from being eaten by dinosaurs.
Because I don’t share those scientists basic premise, I have had to consider other possible explanations.
I know that Satan’s desire is to make man miserable and in that misery to destroy him. Satan knows that when man is miserable he will resort to most anything, especially ungodly things, to escape.
That’s when it occurred to me that fear and anxiety are tools of Satan. He is the one who whispers in our ear, “You can’t ……” and “What if…….” and “You’ll never……”
Once I realized this I almost laughed out loud because the answer was so simple.
Now when I feel anxiety or fear in my heart I turn Satan’s tools on their head. I put my arms around them and embrace them. I speak to them and say, “Thank you for coming by and reminding me that I need to be sure I have God in front of me. I really appreciate you dropping by.”
And I began sharing this insight with clients who experienced improvement in their level of functioning in the presence of fear and anxiety.
I recently received additional, unexpected confirmation that my approach works when I attended a workshop by Reid Wilson, PhD, on the treatment of anxiety disorders. While Reid did not reach for the spiritual explanation as I had, he did say we need to teach people to run toward their anxiety, not away from it. He has an excellent self-help website http://www.anxieties.com.
So the next time you feel anxious or fearful, don’t run or cower. Pull your anxiety and fear closer to you. Be happy they stopped by.
Feel your feelings. Listen closely and discover what you can learn from them.
(Thanks for dropping by my blog. You can receive an email notification whenever a new article is published. On the front page of “the front window” on the left hand side at the top is a place for you to subscribe. – David)