When we struggle with anxiety issues it can really feel like we are the unfortunate victim in a game that has been rigged against us from the start. And whilst it is true that anxiety can seem incredibly unfair, holding onto this only serves to keep us trapped. If we truly want to move from anxiety to empowerment then adopting some new beliefs is really going to help us with that. Want to learn how? Then read on…
The Anxiety Trap
When I was really struggling with anxiety I was constantly cursing my bad luck. Why me? This isn´t fair! Why do I have to go through this? It took me a long time to realise that this constant barrage of negative thoughts was actually keeping me stuck in the vicious circle of anxiety.
When I first start working with many of my clients, they tell me how tired they are of fighting with the anxiety and how they wish it would just go away. What they desperately need to realise though, is that fighting with the anxiety is the very thing that keeps it going.
Full Catastrophe Living
These days just about everyone knows about the importance of acceptance in dealing with anxiety problems, back when I was really struggling though, there wasn´t much mention of it all. Fortunately for me, I came across an incredible book by the man who is often dubbed the godfather of mindfulness, Joh Kabat Zinn. This book ´Full Catastrophe Living´ taught me the importance of giving up the fight and trying to accept and even appreciate all the aspects of my personality, not just the positive ones.
You see, what many people come to realise once they start to overcome anxiety, is that they recognize these anxious thoughts, obsessions and neuroses as an important part of them. They begin to see anxiety as a warning that perhaps they are not living their life in a way that truly benefits them and that is in line with their values.
A new way to view anxiety
Many people also begin to recoginise, that if they had never experienced anxiety, then they simply wouldn´t have arrived to become the person they are today. You see, learning to overcome anxiety gives you inner strength, wisdom and determination. You can empathize more with other people and their own suffering and this helps you to build deeper and more meaningful relationships.
Taken from this perspective, we see anxiety in a new light and can start to move from anxiety to empowerment. So what exactly is empowerment and how do we go about growing it?
In an article for ´Psychology Today´, Michael J. Formica MS claims that ´Our sense of empowerment is a reflection of the increased personal value and self-worth that comes out of our experience of having real influence in one or more areas of our lives´. I think the term ´real influence´ is a very interesting one here.
Building your own personal power and changing your relationship with anxiety is all about influence. Many people though look for influence from outside them. Can they demonstrate influence at work or in the personal relationships? The problem is though that anything that comes from outside of us is not something we can build a stable platform of empowerment from.
True empowerment comes from inside
If you seek empowerment from the outside world, then you may well achieve it here and there, but the problem is that these experiences are often fleeting and depend on other people. This can even end up causing more anxiety as we desperately try to control things outside of our sphere of influence.
However, if instead we turn inside and address the things that we do have direct influence over (our attitude, focus & determination), we start to build a sense of empowerment that may have been missing. Anxiety is one of those things that we do not have direct control over, but what we can choose is how to respond to it.
By choosing to respond to anxiety with openness and curiosity we are literally robbing the anxiety of it´s power and giving that very same power back to ourselves. It takes determination and practice, but you can definitely do this. Anxiety to empowerment is a choice and once you start getting a taste for this kind of work, you don´t want to look back.