Keeping Anxiety at Bay

Keeping Anxiety at Bay

​I was talking to someone the other day who is struggling and she said, “I’m just trying to keep my anxiety at bay.”

I had this vision of someone trying to keep a ferocious animal from attacking her child. How incredibly difficult and exhausting it would be to feel like you are fighting a losing battle, yet believing it would be irresponsible not to fight.

Is anxiety like a ferocious animal that we have to fight?

What if anxiety is just a feeling we get in our body? What if we don’t have to fight feelings?

What if anxiety is just a string of thoughts held together by our attention? I am just asking you to consider that.

A friend told me that she felt like my suggesting the possibility that anxiety is just thought in the moment may invalidate someone’s experience. Heaven forbid, my intention is never to invalidate anyone.

However I don’t see how focusing someone on an illusion is helpful. The illusion is not that someone shouldn’t be nervous or anxious or scared about life. That’s human.

The illusion is believing that nervousness, anxiety and fear are coming from “life” outside rather than from within ourselves.

All feelings come from the inside-out, not the outside-in. I am not looking to invalidate, but rather point someone in a different direction.

If we don’t need to fight our feelings, then do we need to work on keeping them at bay? Is it possible that all the thinking we have about our anxious thinking and all the energy we exert to try and stop it actually creates more distress than what we were anxious about in the first place?

Maybe the responsible thing to do is learn more about the inside-out nature of life so that we could see how our beliefs about anxiety hold our anxious feelings in place.

Insightfully seeing how anxiety is a thought-created experience in the moment would alter the need to keep it at bay. It can’t be kept at bay because there is no bay. Only another thought-created moment.

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By Aviva Barnett, MSW

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