Anxiety can play a bit of a game with us. One of anxiety’s main tactics is to take us out of our present moment experience and into an endless series of possible negative outcomes. One of the best combatants to this strategy is to welcome and even enhance our experience of distress in the present moment. What, you say? Welcome distress? Not way! I’ve spent a lifetime trying to avoid the distress of anxiety symptoms!
Reid Wilson wrote a great article on this topic recently and he makes this interesting statement: “I’m learning that each time I’m tempted to resist a moment of distress, anxiety, or painful reflection about the past, I invite greater suffering….At that point, I’m stuck in avoidance and can’t move forward to actually solve the problem. But if I can open myself to the painful reality of the moment, I actually suffer less.” This profoundly counterintuitive wisdom can serve us all in anxious moments. A client very recently reflected to me that one thing the therapy process had taught her was how to experience negative emotions rather than avoid them. She and other clients with whom I work have learned to turn their attention towards their anxiety symptoms and even try to get them to increase. This paradoxical approach gives the client the upper hand by playing a game with new rules. For some, the #1 rule is that God created in such a way that we can allow a vast expression of human emotion and be OK. Anxiety would like you to believe otherwise. Anxiety would have you believe that if you feel it, YOU WILL NOT BE OK.
Wilson also says, “this shift from “symptoms=bad” to “symptoms=interesting” can utterly transform the way (we) view (our)selves and the world. By accepting what the present moment offers, by not resisting, (we) widen (our) present possibilities.” Changing one’s relationship with anxiety from that of ‘terrified victim’ to ‘courageous experiencer’ turns the rules upside down and opens us up to learning so much more about what drives the anxiety.
For Reid Wilson’s full article, entitled, “Finding the Courage to Stay in the Moment”, CLICK HERE.