Recently, I wrote a piece about how we can stop seeing our anxiety as enemy No. 1, as an infectious disease we must expel or eradicate. As the very thing we hate with all our being. Because, after all, it’s part of our being. That is, the anxiety–while frustrating and uncomfortable and sometimes even terrifying–is an internal experience.
As one expert in the piece said, “When the enemy is an internal experience, then it’s an internal conflict. Conflict takes a lot of energy, and often involves a lot of suffering.”
So what is the thing you see as an adversary? As an opponent? As the thing that stands in the way of everything?
Maybe it’s your sensitivity. Your stubbornness. Your nervousness. Your insecurity and lack of confidence. Your other lack of something. And that other lack of something.
Stop seeing it as the enemy. Even for a few minutes.
Put down your sword, your rocks, your ammunition. Take a break from the yelling and the insults and the anger. Don’t declare war just yet.
Pause. Just pause. For a bit.
In my anxiety piece the experts suggested seeing anxiety as a messenger. See how you might see your “flaw” as a messenger too. What does your sensitivity tell you? What is your stubbornness trying to reveal? What are you nervous about? Might that nervousness be valid? Might listening to it help you in some way? What are you insecure about? What is your lack of confidence trying to communicate?
Where can you grow? Can you use this to learn more about yourself? To learn some valuable lesson that can support you? Maybe it’s a lesson in self-forgiveness or self-compassion or self-care. Or maybe it’s a lesson in being compassionate to others, in caring for a loved one. These are all vital lessons for each of us to learn.
In my anxiety piece one expert also suggested revising the story. Here’s an excerpt:
[Lea Seigen] Shinraku gave this example of a typical narrative: “I feel anxious –> I shouldn’t feel this way –> something’s wrong with me –> how do I make the anxiety go away so I can feel OK or normal? –> The anxiety is getting worse; I have to make it go away now!”
However, you can try a new story, such as this one, she said: “I feel anxious –> I might feel better if I focus my attention on the present moment –> how do I do that? –> I’ll try focusing on my breath –> That doesn’t help. –> I’ll try focusing on the feeling of the soles of my feet on the floor –> Hmm, I feel a little better.”
Your current dialogue might be: “That really upset me. Wow. Can I be any more sensitive? Nope! What is wrong with me?!?! I hate this. I hate that I’m like this!”
Your new story might be: “That really upset me. Why did I get upset exactly? Can I talk to this person (if it concerns a person)? What can I do? Actually I’m too upset to think right now. I’m going to sit here, listen to some music and feel how I’m feeling. I’ll problem solve after I’ve calmed down.”
Your current dialogue might be: “I am so insecure. About everything. I wish I were more like Christina. She’s always confident. And I’m just a mess. A ridiculous, whiny, insecure mess.”
Your new story might be: “I am so insecure. What happened today that triggered these feelings? Does this tend to trigger my insecurity normally? Do I want to work on this? Because I can. I can work on being more confident. Or I can work on taking the path I want to take, while walking with my self-doubt, side-by-side. But I’ll just walk a bit ahead. And maybe I’ll consider working on this with a therapist.”
You can even write out your old and new stories, if that helps. (For me writing is pretty much how I make sense of everything in my life.) Reread your new stories. Return to them when your mind keeps replaying the old tales. Which is OK. Revisions take time to process and get absorbed.
You can even write whatever your “enemy” is (e.g., “my sensitive nature” or “my nervousness”), and then think about how you’ll relate to it in a self-compassionate way–or in a neutral way. Or in a less antagonistic way. In a way that isn’t a battle.
This might feel odd or silly or really hard. That’s OK. Give it a try. No pressure. And if it doesn’t seem to help, come back and try it another time.
What happens when you entertain the idea of not seeing one of your qualities as a big enemy? Of dropping your weapons and just taking a break?