We all act out of habit. The same thought patterns circulate in us, making us feel the same feelings, have the same impulses, do the same actions over and over again.
Even if those thoughts slightly change, they can always trigger the same impulses and feelings in us. I know I've experienced this with anxiety.
The anxiety I experience has always been with me, ever since I was a child, but it has transformed and changed throughout the years. When I learned to deal with one thought, one symptom, another one popped up, resulting in the same kind of anxiety and panic. Even though it was the same anxiety, it seemed new, because the thought and feeling that accompanied it were different.
That's how all of our feelings work. My husband doesn't usually experience anxiety, he tends to feel anger. The thoughts that trigger his anger have changed throughout his life, but the feeling of anger is always the same.
Where I'm going with this is that it is always our thoughts that fuel our feelings. When we learn to deal with one particular thought, another one will come in its place to trigger the same feeling.
I'm guessing this is what people mean when they say that until we learn from a something, it will continue to happen to us.
When I'm feeling strong anxiety, I often try to remember my worst panic attack. My head was so full of worries then that I couldn't speak. I thought I was suffocating, fainting and having a stroke at the same time. It wasn't fun at the time. But when I think back now, I know that nothing of what I thought was happening was actually happening. I wasn't suffocating, I wasn't about to faint, and I wasn't having a stroke. I just had a mind filled with horrible thoughts that seemed too real.
But when I look back at my worst panic attack, I actually find it kind of funny. It's also fascinating how a person can cause so much suffering to themselves out of nothing but a thought.
What I can conclude from everything I've experienced with anxiety is that the mind cannot be trusted. We have to learn to see that what our minds tell us is ridiculous, like we see it when we look back. We have to learn to see that in the moment. That's why I think back to my worst panic attack and make the connection--what is happening right now is the same kind of ridiculous.
Everything is fine. Everything will be fine. The only problem is that we believe what our minds tell us even when it's untrue.
Our minds pick and choose the tiniest physical sensations to support their claims, and we cannot see all the signs that point in the exact opposite direction--that we are fine.
An exercise for anxious moments:
1. Touch your thoughts lightly and let the bubble float away.
Whenever I catch a thought in my mind at times like these, I like to imagine touching them lightly, and at my touch they turn into a bubble and float away. I just touch them lightly and let them float away.
2. Turn toward your feelings.
It is a very instinctual response to want to push every feeling away in an anxious moment. But once we placed our thoughts in bubbles and let them float away, there is nothing left telling us that we need to be afraid, so we can turn toward our feelings with curiosity.
We can see that that uncomfortable feeling in our stomach is just tension, just like the dryness in our mouth. We can look at ourselves with compassion--every feeling that is in there has been the response to all those thoughts we are now forming into bubbles.
3. Relax into the moment as much as you can.
From all of this, it's clear that the source of anxiety is the mind, our thoughts. The body will always respond to the thoughts we believe.
So what we have to work with when we want to work with anxiety, is always the mind and its thoughts. We can practice noticing these untrue thoughts that trigger our anxiety sooner and sooner, and lightly touch them, allowing them to float away in a colorful bubble instead of holding on to them and allowing them to suffocate us.
So let's get to sending those beautiful bubbles, my friends, all the while knowing that so many of us are doing the same--you are never alone.
A guided meditation on the topic can be listened to here.
"Don’t let your mind bully your body into believing it must carry the burden of its worries." - Astrid Alauda