How to Rethink Anxiety and Come Out on Top
Is it time to rethink anxiety and its purpose or meaning in your life? What is your current perspective on anxiety? Beyond that, what is your relationship with your anxiety? When we live with anxiety or an anxiety disorder, it’s quite normal to struggle against it and fight, argue, and curse it—all in an attempt to make the anxiety go away. From this perspective, anxiety can be an abusive bully or a prison guard. Viewing anxiety this way leads to thoughts and emotions that are rooted in anger, resentment, and other negative reactions that affect your actions. Here's an exercise to help you rethink anxiety and do wonders for how you feel and live your life.
Rethink Anxiety Because Your Perspective Is Powerful
Before we rethink anxiety, consider your current perspective of anxiety and how that relates to your opinion of your anxiety. Without thinking too much about it, do this quick exercise:
- Name three words that describe the anxiety that you’re living with.
- If your anxiety were a living being, what would it be?
- What color is your anxiety?
- What shape is it?
- In one or two sentences, describe what anxiety is doing to you/your life.
In most cases, people’s responses are pretty negative. Anxiety isn’t seen as favorable or a positive presence. We remain stuck in the negative. Unfortunately, what we visualize—our perspective on anxiety—becomes our relationship with anxiety. We think and feel and act with that anger and resentment and hatred. We can’t break free. We can’t move forward into our lives.
Having a negative perspective on anxiety reinforces it because your thoughts are negatively oriented. Does this mean that you must start loving anxiety and seeing it as fuzzy baby animals? No, it does not. Your mind would see right through that and would continue to lock horns with anxiety. You’d still be trapped and miserable, and anxiety would still be your prison warden. But if you rethink anxiety and its relationship to you, your life can change for the better.
Rethink Anxiety with Metaphor
No Mud, No Lotus
A liberating perspective on anxiety is represented by the Buddhist phrase, No Mud, No Lotus.
The beautiful lotus flower, resting peacefully among the lily pads on a pond, comes from one place and only one place: the cold, oozing, sticky-yet-slick, mud on the pond floor. From the depths of the pond, through the ooze and the muck, grows the lotus. Up, up it stretches, moving ever forward. Finally, it bursts up through the surface of the pond and unfurls, gradually opening itself to the sunshine.
What would have happened if the lotus flower had cursed the mud? Viewed it as a prison warden? It would have fought and become tangled. It would have become stuck. The relationship would have been one of captor and captive. The lotus might never have burst past the surface to open to the sun and relish in the beauty around it.
Are You a Prisoner or a Lotus?
You have probably figured out that the lotus is you. The cold mud that attaches and sucks like a leech is your anxiety. How wonderful that you have a choice. You can visualize your anxiety as a prison guard and, fueled by negative thoughts and emotions, fight to be free but remain stuck in the struggle. Or you can see rethink anxiety as the lotus sees the mud (Anxiety Has a Purpose; Know It and Beat Anxiety).
The lotus’s perspective on the mud is one of appreciation. Without the mud, the lotus would wither and die. The mud is what allows the lotus to grow. The mud makes the lotus strong. No mud. No Lotus.
Return to the above assessment. Try answering those questions again, this time from the perspective of the lotus to the mud. Next, visualize yourself as a lotus and anxiety as your mud. Rethink your anxiety: It’s no longer your prison guard, and you have some wiggle room to begin to rise despite the mud. Visualize what you, the lotus, will look like, feel like, and act like.
With your new perspective and relationship with anxiety, you’re a bud unfurling.
I share another metaphor to help you rethink anxiety in this video. I invite you to tune in.
Peterson, T. (2018, April 27). How to Rethink Anxiety and Come Out on Top, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, September 24 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2018/04/a-new-perspective-on-anxiety-shifts-your-relationship
Author: Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
Absolutely love this shift. Perspective and our thoughts that shape it are an immensely powerful thing. If we can see the anxiety with a purpose, a lesson, and opportunity etc. we can learn to find a little more ease with it, and acceptance.
Thanks, Lizanne! I love the insight you added -- and I know others will, too.