The mind is such an interestingly powerful creation. I remember when I was young, often watching horror movies probably when I shouldn’t have been.
We used to visit the video store and pick out movies to rent, and when I was around 9 I chose a Nightmare on Elm Street 2, which was probably not a wise decision on mine or my parent’s behalf.
I remember after watching it always having a fear of the dark streets outside because of Freddy. Watching It a couple of years later didn’t help the situation either.
But over time, we mature and learn that the Boogeyman isn’t real and slowly our fears dissipate, for the most part anyway.
The thing is, although we mature we still have the same brain created by evolution so we still have the capability for unrealistic fears – enter anxiety.
The brain is such a creative storyteller, even as adults when we know better, we are able to be convinced of these nightmares, these stories.
Often the stories are different, but the fear they create are all so real. That same terrifying feeling that something is seriously wrong. The sense of dread so terrifying that it results in physical fear – shaking, sweating, muscle cramps and the need to just want to survive the day.
For a long time, that is how I felt after suffering from a couple of anxiety disorders. But over time, with the right help and education, these fears can be overcome.
Perspective is such a wonderful thing. The best part about perspective is it comes from a place of an open mind.
Just like the child who was afraid of the dark streets, perspective allows us to look at things from a different place and look at all the possible scenarios objectively.
Perspective allows us to see that Freddy was just a figment of some awesomely creative minds. And at the same time, most of our anxious fears are exactly the same – a figment of an awesomely creative mind, your own.
Once we are able to step back from our fears and look at the facts objectively, with an open mind we can re-educate the brain and slowly help these fears dissipate over time, too.
Rewrite the Story
I like to call this technique flipping the script. That is, rewriting your anxious fears and worries. The things that circle around every waking moment haunting us with a fearful fight or flight response.
Rewriting the story is done by firstly acknowledging that these fears are simply just stories, nothing more and nothing less. They just come from a place of creativity – not the deep dark horror movie basement we like to think they stem from.
By creating a different relationship with the stories we can see them in a different light, they are no longer the enemy… they are just thoughts, neither good not bad.
Intrusions are Normal
The thing about intrusions is everybody has them. The only difference is the topic of intrusions. Some intrusions are subtle, for example, “Boy you’re getting old!” and others are a little more hurtful and dig deeper into our self-esteem.
But regardless of what intrusions we experience, how we react is far more important than wanting to get rid of them. It’s often quite normal to think that having intrusions is a bad thing. Thinking that the goal is to stop them.
If you look outside your window for a moment, is the weather beautiful or gloomy? Do you see a bright blue sky without a cloud in sight, or maybe it’s dark and stormy and you can’t see the blue sky?
Does the blue sky cease to exist simply because you can’t see it though? If it is stormy do you simply accept the weather for what it is, or do you hide away in fear?
For most of us, the weather is what it is. We just accept the way it is. If it’s winter we accept it. If it’s summer we accept it. It may annoy us to a degree, or fill us with joy at other times.
But regardless of how it makes us feel, we seldom struggle with the weather on a deeply personal level wishing it was something other than it is.
If we can approach thoughts and intrusions with this same mentality, we can begin to “flip the script”.
No Big Deal
The thing about flipping the script is it’s all about attitude. The key is to have a “no big deal” attitude.
If you’re anxious today, remind yourself it’s no big deal. If you’re experiencing intrusive thoughts, it too is no big deal.
Now I won’t pretend this will be easy. It will take a lot of time and practice, and a formal meditation practice for 10-20 minutes a day will greatly speed up the process (try Headspace if you’re new to meditation).
But flipping the script does work. Just give it time and patience and little by little you too may begin to see subtle changes.