We come now to the final stretch in this series on anxiety. The last two installments serve as a natural segue to this one. There, we looked at ways the mind can work against us and actually facilitate anxiety.
Here, let’s learn a little bit about how to use the mind to go on the offensive.
As I said earlier in this series, while anxiety manifests as an emotional state, it starts in the mind. And so must the attack against it.
I want to give you a series of three simple questions to ask yourself – when the thoughts behind the anxiety show up in your life. Remember, you don’t change an emotional state (in this case anxiety) by trying to change the emotional state directly. The way we change an emotion is by changing the thoughts that created it.
Let me say that succinctly for you: If you’re going to change an undesired feeling, you have to change the thoughts that birthed it.
Three questions for changing your thoughts:
1. Is it true?
This one alone would stop most anxious thinking! Most of the thoughts that generate anxiety are about situations that could happen or may happen or might happen… not things that will happen.
But the problem is – the mind is not a fan of vagaries. While processing the anxiety-producing thoughts – the mind will deal with them as certainties. In other words, we experience could, may, or might happen as WILL happen.
Anxiety loves to accelerate. It loves to speed up both your thinking and your feelings. This first question gives us the perfect stage on which to prove this fact.
I’ve heard countless anxiety sufferers say to me (rapidly) “I know it’s not true but…”
The first thing I have them do is slow down their thinking, calm their mind, and then listen to themselves as they repeat that statement to me slowly.
[su_quote]Remember, anxiety loves speed… so slow down your thinking,[/su_quote]
Almost always you can see the client pause a bit… and reflect… just after saying the last word in that opener – “but…”
Then, she or he will usually say something to me like: “Well that’s a problem isn’t it. If I know it’s not true then why am I …”
Don’t let your mind run through that phrase quickly and in rote fashion: “I know it’s not true but…”
Make it slow down to say that. Think about the phrase as you hear it. Change the emphasis and say it out loud. Don’t say “Iknowit’snottrueBUT…”
Say simply “I know it’s not true.” Leave off the “but.” It’s a transitional word to failure.
Trust your good mind to put the accurate and factual statement to work for you – I know it’s not true.
Before long as you continue, quietly and calmly – no speed allowed – to consider this, change will begin to take place in your mind.
“I know it’s not true” will begin to bear positive fruit.
Early on, you will likely feel a bit silly (if not angry) that you have allowed something that is not true to cause you so much trouble.
You can gain a solid beachhead against anxiety with this technique.
Refuse the speed, inaccuracy, and yes… even excuse-making… of “Iknowit’snottrue BUT…”
Exchange it for the healthy and empowering “I know it’s not true.”
Say it to yourself out loud, slowly, and calmly. And then quietly reflect on that statement. Let the truth of it sink into your spirit. Stay in that moment until you feel the power of it, the calming presence of it, and the truth of it.
Next, we’ll look at the second of the three questions.