I was your typical searcher when I suffered from anxiety.
I was always searching for ways to find relief, make it go away, control or fix it.
My thought process at the time was always ‘I have to get rid of what feels uncomfortable’. I read many books, searched around the internet just looking for someone or something who could make this thing that was dominating my life go away.
Learning to stop looking for a way out of anxiety
My whole life was consumed with finding the answer to being free of my anxiety. I have no idea why I carried on this way for so long as it was obviously not working. I think deep down I felt the answer was still out there and so the search would continue until I had nowhere else to go.
It was at this point I started asking some deeper questions like;
‘Why do I always feel worse when I try to rid myself anxious feelings and emotions?’, ‘Why does trying to control my emotions always make me feel more stuck?’. ‘Why does trying to ignore and distract myself from these uncomfortable emotions never work?’.
Well, the answer was because I was trapped in a never-ending cycle.
When I felt an uncomfortable emotion or a rush of anxiety, I would fight like hell to change my current state, instead of allowing myself to experience it and letting myself come out of it naturally.
This reaction is what non-accepting is; it is the opposite of allowing. When I first came across the concept of allowing, I made the mistake of trying to turn it into another technique.
I would say, “Right, so to no longer feel these feelings I have to allow them, OK I’ll try that”, then it would be “Damn, they are still there, this isn’t working”, but I had missed the point entirely and was trying to use the concept of allowing as another way of not feeling these uncomfortable emotions.
Allowing yourself to feel different emotions
I eventually realised that all techniques were utterly pointless and that you can’t be free of emotions you aren’t willing to experience, as this is the very reason they are coming up, to free themselves from your inner space.
By struggling with your feelings or mental state, you are trying to force or manipulate a different state, one that you have no control over. Try manipulating a happy state when you feel down and you will see my point, you will achieve nothing apart from exhausting yourself.
The reason we do this is because we don’t want to feel these uncomfortable emotions, so we attempt to distract ourselves from it, try to control it or make them go away, which is a natural drive. But this is not the way to be free of anything, you cannot be free of anything you try to avoid, control or manipulate. In doing this, the emotion goes nowhere, it stays stuck and in a lot of cases we just keep layering more and more on top until we hit a threshold.
The trouble is, by doing trying to manipulate a different state, you not only still get to experience the uncomfortable emotion but also the suffering you feel from resisting it. Also when you battle with or try to distract yourself from the emotion, it doesn’t go anywhere, the emotion just stays stuck inside you, ready to attempt to release itself again.
Do you see how we have little to no control over how we are feeling? The only thing we can do is to let go, relax and allow ourselves to feel how we do at any particular moment. This is not about your mind or emotions being calm, this about you being calm behind it all.
It is the resistance to your emotions that cause the majority of your suffering, not the feelings themselves. It is the constant battle with them that keeps them from being released. You can read and practice as many techniques on relaxation as you wish but unless at some point you are willing to experience these emotions, then nothing will ultimately change. All you will be doing for the rest of your life is chasing some form of relief.
Many people think that by allowing themselves to feel something that these feelings will increase and manifest into something worse but this is a misconception. It is the allowing that frees the emotion up, it is the allowing that keeps you from being stuck in your head all day trying to figure everything out. It is the allowing that ceases the exhausting battle you are having with yourself. It is the allowing that helps you move your focus back to life instead of yourself.
Coping with anxiety
I came across a website last week that said ’10 ways to cope with anxiety’ and then went on to list ways to keep it at bay. I am so against this approach; I only freed myself from anxiety when I allowed every aspect of it to enter my life.
I hid from none of it and no longer tried to keep it at bay or talk my way out of it. To be free of any negative or painful emotion, then we have to be willing to experience them. Trying to deny or suppress them will just keep them within us and the reason no progress is ever made.
Recovery is never about managing or coping, and it certainly wasn’t something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I would rather spend a period of time, allowing myself to feel these emotions and be free than spend the rest of my life battling with them..
To recover from anxiety, you don’t need anything, no ten ways to cope, no mantras, no safety behaviours and no techniques. You just need to be more accepting of anxiety being part of your life for now and be open to experiencing it.
The only thing that changed with me was my attitude; there was no magic tablet or formula. I just stopped fighting with myself and quit trying to escape or control my current state. I went out and started to live again, taking how I felt with me.
When freedom eventually came to me, then there was nothing left to manage to or find relief from, and that was always where I wanted to be.