Rewriting Your Anxiety Story (Part Three)

This article is part three of a three-part blog series on How You Can Escape the Anxiety Story.  Click here to read the rest of the series.

Although it may take time, effort, energy and loads of imagination to create and continuously replay your Anxiety Story, you will be glad to know it only takes a second to throw a monkey wrench into the gears of your story. That monkey wrench is simply a return to reality. The best way to achieve this is to see the Anxiety Story for what it is: a story not necessarily based in reality. A return to reality is also much easier if you learn to practice a concept called mindfulness.

Mindfulness is awareness.

If you are mindful of how your mind works and the world around you, you are far less likely to be pulled willy-nilly into every thought that romps across your brain. You don’t have to fall prey to a train ride to hell on your thoughts.

Your thoughts are just thoughts. They are not reality. And, above all else, the thoughts come directly from you. Since you created the things, you have absolute permission not to jump on board with them and take their hell-bound ride. You can opt out of the entire Anxiety Story if you purge the urge to hop on that train.

Purge the urge

Practice being mindful of your habitual responses and urges, and not responding to them. Fair warning: this is much easier said than done. Not responding to habitual responses will be amazingly difficult to do for even the simplest things, so don’t start with situations that make you anxious. Those are way too tough for starters.

Instead of anxiety, start with something like, oh, let’s say a cookie. Do you have a cookie every night when you finish dinner? Tonight, don’t. No cookie for you.

You will all be appalled at how strong an urge you have to eat that dang cookie. You are supposed to eat the cookie! Don’t do it. Don’t go dipping in that cookie jar. Just sit, be still, and feel that urge, that tug of shenpa, trying to pull you toward it.

Wallow in that pull. Feel the power of that pull. Let that pull scream and moan and pull some more, but don’t let it pull you toward the cookie.

Whatever habitual thing you choose, practice the same concept. Feel that tug, be mindful of it, and let it pass. It will pass. And every time it passes, you weaken it a little more. Eventually, there’s no more tug. Goodbye, shenpa! Don’t let the door hit you in the dupa!

Once you get good at weakening the tug with easier habits, you can move on to the tougher cookie, so to speak. You can move on to anxiety.

Purge the anxiety urge 

When anxiety starts to creep into your veins, you’ll feel that urge to do what you’ve always done when you get anxious: to run that same crummy Anxiety Story yet again – but this time don’t run it. You have a new mission.

Just sit.

Listen to your mind scream at you to do what it says you’re supposed to do, which is play the crummy story. Your mind will try to scare you into repeating the story by threatening all sorts of things that have never happened and never will. It will do anything to get you to press the play button on that script.

Not this time.

You don’t need to do anything. You don’t need to know anything. There’s nothing to remember. You need to just sit and wallow in it. Yes, it’s not going to feel all that pleasant, but no, that feeling will not last forever.

Sit and wallow.

Listen to your mind and watch it without reacting to it. Your mind will try every trick it knows, but eventually the urge will whimper and go away, defeated and weaker. The next time it won’t be as hard because that shenpa isn’t as strong now. Before long, it’s gone.

Start interrupting the story.

Mindfulness helps us see what is causing our suffering and all the different ways we are drawn into bad patterns by our habits and urges. Every time we become aware of and resist the tug to repeat a behavior, we weaken it. Whenever we don’t, we strengthen it and make it harder to resist next time. There’s always an effect and therefore a choice, every time. 

Exercise: Purge the urge!

The next time you are purging the urge, write down exactly what it feels like, what you’re thinking, and all the different ways your mind is trying to trick you into giving in.

How did the shenpa evolve? What lies were ridiculous, which did you nearly believe?

Once you’ve gone through a purging of the urge successfully and noted its developments, the process won’t be as surprising every time it recurs. You’ll also know that it ends if you commit to refusing to respond to it.

This article is part three of a three-part blog series on How You Can Escape the Anxiety Story.  Click here to read the rest of the series.