So *many* times when anxiety’s shown up in my life, I’ve had thoughts like, “my life would be so much easier without this,” or “if only I weren’t anxious, I would seriously have the best time of it,” or “the reason I can’t do XYZ is because I’m so anxious.” Which could lead one to think that the only thing to do with anxiety is to get rid of it, right? But the (seemingly) unpleasant truth is that anxiety is an emotion, and because we are human beings who are wont to experience many many emotions over the course of, oh, say, breakfast we are bound to the reality that: anxiety is on the spectrum of human emotions and we are going to feel it from time to time.
So let’s start out by stating the simple fact that anxiety is not going to be eradicated from our respective emotional landscapes. Anxiety is not meant to be gotten rid of. Anxiety is, like it or not, here to stay.
So if you have thoughts similar to mine and you have the idea that your work, your relationships, your parenting, your habits, your finances, your health, your spirituality, your exercise (or non-exercise), your social life, your downtime, today, this year, your life, YOU would be somehow better if anxiety were not a part of it…well, let’s apply the simple fact we started out with: that’s not an option. Anxiety is not be wholly, once and for all, removed. It just doesn’t work that way.
And guys, here’s the thing: if you really think about it, you don’t want to eliminate anxiety from your life. Anxiety, in and of itself, is not the problem. It’s just an emotion like any other: sadness, joy, grief, excitement. And let’s be honest, we’ve all numbed out plenty of negative emotions in our time (Chardonnay, over-working, Netflix-binging anyone?) and all of the good emotions go away with the bad emotions, except they don’t actually go away, they just sit there and fester and we’re still completely stuck with ourselves and whatever we perceive our problems to be no matter how we try and evade them and ignore and get rid of them. So in the end we’ve just kicked the “actually feeling your feelings” can down the road a bit and probably introduced a new problem into our lives because now we’ve gone and spent a bunch of money or wasted a whole weekend watching TV or started wondering if we we aren’t drinking too much (like, every single day) and the problems piling onto the problems are becoming a bigger problem and we have completely forgotten that the only thing we were after was numbing the pain of anxiety in the first place. Which now, actually, come to think of it, doesn’t seem like the worst problem ever and actually it would be kinda nice to rewind to a time when that *was* the problem and we could just deal with that instead of the other mess(es) we have created trying to avoid anxiety…
I got a little rant-y there, didn’t I?
Thinking anxiety is a problem is a problem. And the way that most of us go about experiencing anxiety is definitely a problem. So, methinks, that’s what we’re here to really do: to transform our understanding of anxiety and our experience of it. Not to just get rid of it.
Shifting the goal around anxiety from “eradicate it forever, I’m losing my mind” to “I want to get to know and understand this” is the best gift you can give yourself where this emotion is concerned. Since anxiety is showing up for you, and it might be showing up pretty regularly, getting to know and understand it is an act of self-care. Just like anyone else that you care for, it’s important to be familiar with and develop an appreciation for yourself and what’s going on inside you.
And by reframing your ongoing narrative from GO AWAY to, “alright, what do you have to show me today?” you’re going to begin to develop that familiarity with and appreciation for yourself and the things that are going on inside your very being…