Overcoming anxiety

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Don’t think about a purple elephant.

When you read that, what happened?  A purple elephant in all probability came to mind.  I’ll bet you can even tell where your elephant picture appears in your mind’s eye and describe it if asked!

This is a natural consequence of your unconscious mind not being that great at processing negatives.  When you say don’t… not… and any other negative ahead of what you want to move away from, your mind may well take the opposite message and keep regenerating exactly what you want to avoid.

Knowing this, we can think of worrying as a process of negative goal-setting.  We know that we move towards what we think about, and seeing that our unconscious mind is not so hot at processing negatives is important. When you begin to imagine the worst possible future, you unfortunately direct your unconscious mind towards it, making it more likely to happen. 

Now, this isn’t an exhortation to start acting like Polly-Anna and be in denial of reality, blind optimism is not any more useful than continual pessimism.  Thankfully, there is a third way.

What is beneficial is some balance.  If you’re worrying about failure, why not ask yourself ‘How will I recover?’ 

Better still, when you’re pro-crastinating, asking ‘What if I did nothing?’ can give a sense of the dis-advantages of now that are giving the stimulus for you to consider a change in the first place.  

Finally, you can ask yourself, ‘What if I succeed?’  Often, our fears are as much about success as they are about failure.  Do you need to adjust your goal to make sure you truly want it?  What tweaks are needed to make it really right for you?  What needs to be true for you to put all of yourself behind it?

This journey of exploring three scenarios, staying as you are, overcoming your worst-case scenario, and living with success can give you a sense of movement and choice.

What would you like to have happen?

Go to the profile of Fe Robinson, Psychotherapist

Fe Robinson, Psychotherapist

I am here to help you thrive, whatever life brings. I offer Psychotherapy, EMDR therapy and Couples Counselling to clients based in Durham. I am UKCP Accredited and an EMDR Europe Practitioner, and offer Clinical Supervision to counsellors and psychotherapists locally. I have worked in private practice, the NHS, and in charitable organisations, with a wide range of clients and conditions.

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