Anxiety: Stop Taking Ownership
We don’t just experience anxiety; we take ownership of the experience.
This might seem like a small enough distinction, but it’s an absolutely crucial one. Essentially, it’s the difference between saying “that’s a car crash” and “I caused that car crash”.
You might think this is an exaggeration. It’s not.
Anxiety can often feel like an internal car crash. And its effects are made a thousand times worse because so many of us automatically take ownership of it.
Like most people who suffer from anxiety, ownership of it is likely to seem reasonable to you. After all, if you don’t own it, who does?
But answer these questions, honestly:
- Are you choosing to have these particular thoughts and feelings?
- If you could choose to never have them again, would you?
- If your answers are no, in what way are you to blame for having them in the first place?
Ownership of your thoughts and feelings, just like the car crash, only makes sense if you are at the steering wheel.
I will be discussing more of the important differences between ownership and responsibility in the next blog. But, for now, it may be useful for you to start reflecting upon how you relate to anxiety.
I.e. Are you routinely taking ownership of something you didn’t cause? And, if so, does this add to or subtract from the suffering the anxiety creates?
Right now, you can begin taking ownership of something you really do own – your ability to make new and healthier choices. I would encourage you to begin by using this simple practice:
When the anxiety appears – whether through thoughts, feelings or both – instead of the usually self-involving narratives we all tend to employ, refer to your experience in the third-person. You can do this either out loud or in your head. For example:
The mind is experiencing anxiety.
The stomach is experiencing anxiety.
You can even be more specific. For example:
The mind is creating lots of unpleasant thoughts.
The stomach is filled with butterflies.
This practice is not designed to disconnect us completely from the very real experience of anxiety. It is designed to help us see the reality of the situation: by taking ownership of an experience for which we didn’t create, we are perpetuating our own suffering.
If you stay at it, you will see that this simple practice has the power to dramatically alter your relationship to anxiety; because when you don’t own something, it is far easier to just let it go.
I will be updating this blog regularly with self-help for anxiety practices, so that you can begin breaking this cycle. Or you can head over here where I talk about some ways that you can continue this journey now.
Also, I’d be very happy to hear of any thoughts or questions you may have, so feel free to leave your comments below!