The Sources of Anxiety
To address your anxiety issues you will need to be steadfast. This means you must have determination and patience. Maintaining these two qualities will see you making meaningful changes in your life.
The benefit of working with a certified therapist is that they work with you collaboratively; supporting, questioning and promoting progress toward your stated outcome.
We start by exploring the hold that anxiety has over you, how it has changed over time and look at the possible origins and patterns so as to know what to look for and interrupt them.
You will be able to express your feelings, fears and doubts in the session so sharing and giving voice to your worries. This also helps to define your anxiety so it can be worked with.
The main focus of the work is what is happening to you in the ‘here and now’, in conjunction with your desired future outcome; how you want to feel, be and think.
Anxiety and Our Authentic Self
However there may be historical influences on what you ‘should’, ‘must’ and ‘ought’ to do, think and feel. These tend to be the rules and values learnt from care givers and authority figures. Held in our Parent inner state, they can, if incompatible with our authentic self, have a controlling and limiting impact on our behaviour.
Past experiences including our thoughts, feelings, hopes and fears about them are held in our inner Child state. Here can be found the conflicts between what you want to do and what you believe you cant do or what others want you to do.
An example of a conflict is when we believe on some level, that to be accepted by those around us we need to please them and keep them happy. In this situation our feelings of OK’ness are dependent on others being OK with us.
In this example, the feeling is that if we don’t please others, do things right and keep them happy, then something bad will happen to us or others. This can create a terrifying and paralysing wave of anxiety that holds you in a stuck place.
Identifying Thoughts, Feelings and Behaviours
Recognising your underlying feelings and thoughts is an important part of addressing and stopping the anxiety from escalating. This is also developed by attending to your internal dialogue and determining if the message is self-critical, controlling, self-defeating etc.
By turning our attention to the thoughts that reinforce anxiety, the limiting messages and beliefs can be identified and then be countered. Remember your negative thoughts are not the authentic you.
The origins of the anxiety you experience is typically historical in nature and frequently based on the fear of failing, not being good enough, being overwhelmed and out of control etc. Repeated thousands of times in the background, limiting thoughts and feelings reinforce and feed the fear.
Often when attending to those negative messages we uncover that they are part of a life strategy to protect our self from situations that are potentially distressing or dangerous.
The anxiety can then be seen as a way of reacting to a potentially harmful situation real or imagined that inadvertently becomes the both the threat and the attack.
Over time this cyclic pattern of reaction and response gets stuck in overdrive and escalates. The anxiety of being anxious then becomes the symptomatic issue.
When a life strategy is no longer working for you then it is time to update that strategy for one that does.
Overcoming Anxiety about being Anxious
There is one core approach to overcoming anxiety and that is accepting how you are feeling. Not fighting it, not trying to struggle or avoid it.
Rather to allow it to be and to observe it whilst being curious. The observation is often referred to being Mindful, however I use the term Observation as it allows us to hold ourself and the anxiety.
However before accepting it and the anxiety dissipating we usually struggle against it. This energy feeds the feeling of anxiety we are trying to avoid.
Typically there are three key phases when overcoming anxiety.
1. We start to attend to our anxiety. There is an emerging understanding of some of the reasons, benefits and power of our anxiety. New ways of thinking and doing are tried and progress is made. It seems as if the anxiety has been defeated and we feel relieved and optimistic.
2. There is a sudden and expected event involving a complication or obstacle. The reaction of anxiety in the moment comes flooding back and old patterns of feeling and thinking threaten to repeat.
3. Being aware of this stops you from being overwhelmed. Using ‘here and now’ observation and reasoning you choose to respond rather than react. You pause and reflect on the first key phase of adopting the new ways of thinking, feeling and acting.
You repeat the above until you the level of anxiety is manageable and appropriate to the situation
Here and Now Thinking
By using a Transactional Analysis and a Cognitive Behavioural approach over time the anxiety response is interrupted and challenged. In this way therapy for anxiety can reduce and diminish those anxious feelings and thoughts.
Challenging those limiting thoughts through ‘here and now’, reality checking enables changes to be made. This self empowerment leads of a reappraise of our self esteem. In this way a more healthy robust and self-image is nurtured.
Then the activity that triggers the anxious reaction can be tested in a controlled and safe way. We can chose to expose ourself to past triggers having put in supportive measures beforehand ie time limited, with other people present and agreed boundaries.
This exercise helps build tolerance and de-escalate the arousal of anxiety.
In some instances triggers maybe simply too overwhelming. This could be a busy, hostile workplace where the demands are too much. In these instances it may be better to look at what you can do to make changes, ie leave and get another job.
Therefore it is important to remember that anxiety can also be a message to make changes in your life to achieve positive outcomes.
By working with me at my practice New Direction Solutions for anxiety counselling southampton we can make a therapeutic alliance so you can lead a more happy and content life.
Self Help – Ways to reduce your anxiety: How to Stop Feeling So Anxious Now
Anxiety – impacts, origins and self-support: Anxiety Counselling Southampton
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