Anxiety is an Altered State of Consciousness:
In our everyday life, we understand and appreciate the difference between our thoughts and our actions. We can imagine situations and actions with the clear understanding that these are merely thoughts, and there are no consequences of these thoughts in real life. Our thoughts can be looked at as a safe and convenient way to rehearse actions that we might never do in reality.
Anxiety changes all that. As we become more anxious, the gap between our thoughts and our behaviors seems to shrink. When we are highly anxious, thinking about something can feel close to doing it. The "what if" catastrophic thoughts that run through our mind feel like they can happen. As we approach panic levels, our thoughts start to feel dangerous.
This is Anxious Thinking. Anxious thinking is an altered state of consciousness. Anxious Thinking makes the scary thoughts feel like they can really happen. Anxious Thinking changes the rules. In normal thinking, we understand that nothing in life is risk free, and we accept reasonable risks. We continue our activities with reasonable assurances of safety. Anxious Thinking cannot accept any risks. It continually asks for reassurances, and it demands that we avoid situations that frighten us. Anxious Thinking makes no distinction between feeling frightened because of catastrophic images in our mind, and the fear of being in actual danger.
Here is a review: Anxiety tries to bluff us into believing that we are in danger, and that we should avoid the source of the anxiety. Anxious Thinking makes our catastrophic thoughts feel like they can really happen. We feel like we are in danger, even though the source of our fears are the images in our mind, made to feel real by the altered state of consciousness called Anxious Thinking.
One of your first jobs is to give this fear the label of anxiety, and your thinking as Anxious Thinking. Labeling anxiety means telling yourself something like: "This terror that I feel is my anxiety. I am not in danger, I do not have to avoid whatever is making me feel this way. There is no danger to confront. I just have to stay with the idea that my terror is anxiety. My anxiety makes the scary thoughts going through my mind feel like they can really happen. I therefore can't trust my feelings when dealing with anxiety. This is an example of anxiety trying to bluff me."
Suggestion: It isn't fair to expect yourself to remember this while you are feeling high levels of anxiety. Write your own version of what you want to tell yourself, and put them on a card that is easily available during these times.
This is a lot to say, and this can be a very difficult job to do. The feelings of fear triggered by real danger is the same as the feelings of fear that accompany high anxiety. The physiology is identical. Our feeling are therefore useless in helping us make the distinction between danger and anxiety.
So we need to rely on facts and not feelings. Labelling your fear as anxiety and labeling your thinking as Anxious Thinking requires that you get to know the facts about anxiety.
- When you get feelings of terror, are you going to label it danger, or are you going to label it anxiety? This labeling is very important, because we deal with them in a totally different manner.
- The decision is difficult because there is no way to use your feelings to help you make a decision.
- The terror feelings associated with real danger is exactly the same as the terror you feel when you are experiencing anxiety. Feelings cannot help you make this decision.
- The anxiety makes the thoughts feels like the could really happen.
- Always try to label your anxious reactions as Anxiety.
- Even if you can't fight what the anxious thoughts are telling you to do, and even if you are forced to flee and avoid the feelings, you can still label them as Anxiety.
To Label is to Disable. Feelings Are Not Facts. Get the Facts about Anxiety