1) “THERE’s SOMETHING WRONG WITH ME – I’m not the same as others”
When we feel anxious and in that ‘survival – threat mode’ it can seem like we are the only ones who are struggling. We compare ourselves negatively to others. We ‘know’ we’re a failure. We ‘know’ we are stupid. We ‘know’ we aren’t measuring up. And we don’t pause to question this ‘knowing’ because our feelings (‘gloomy’, ‘out of control’, ‘not normal’, ‘insecure’ and ‘inferior’ feelings) confirm that it’s ‘true’ or a simple ‘fact’.
We feel separate from others. We are on high alert for what’s wrong with us (uneasiness, panic and fear feelings, churning stomach and so on) and wrong with our life (the state of our relationships, if we’re ‘behind’ others in work or life circumstances). We notice and pay attention to our faults and failings and put little regard or attention on our good points. We get ‘tunnel vision’.
Our friends and family might point out that it’s not true but that just feels like an annoyance, like they don’t understand, like they are lying and we’re ‘sure’ they would think differently if they really knew us.
We wonder what is wrong with us that we can’t be happy or do ordinary things like drive or take a flight or chat to people or get over a break up or get on in life.
We conclude there’s something wrong with us.
This is an error, and though someone who feels anxious will not believe it’s an error it’s good to be introduced to the fact that it is an error. That allows for the possibility of doubt to enter the mind of the anxious person so that they can begin to ask: What if there isn’t anything wrong with me? What if my system is going into anxious mode for a reason? What if that reason can be understood and helped to change? What if my system learned that it no longer needs this anxiety? What if it’s not ‘me’ and is just a mental process that I’m doing and is changeable?
Questions open the mind up to the potential of change. Sometimes a small crack is all that is needed to start the ball rolling and once it gathers momentum positive change is inevitable.
2) IF ‘he’, ’she’, ‘they’ or ‘it’ CHANGED ….THEN I’D BE OK.
Because we often feel the source of our anxiety is outside us (e.g “my boss intimidates me”, “my partner angers me”, “lifts scare me”, “the future terrifies me”, “the past upsets me”), we wrongly conclude that the solution is outside us also.
e.g “If he was nicer then I wouldn’t be so intimidated around him.”….” If she would just stop nagging then I’d calm down.”….”If there was a stairs I could take then I’d be fine”….” If I lived in France then I’d be happy.”….”If dad hadn’t left mam then I would have been ok” and so on.
We want circumstances to change or them to change; assuming if they did then the anxiety (or the fear, anger, upset, disappointment, unhappiness) would go away.
The truth is that all of our feelings are ‘inside jobs’. Our thoughts about our circumstances (or people, places, our bodies, life) are stressful so we feel stressed. Our thoughts about the solution are pleasant so we feel relief thinking about the (external) solution.
We’re largely not in control of what happens (especially when it comes to other people or external things); but we can gain control over and resolution with our reaction to what happens.
The ultimate freedom lies in gaining insight into and release from what it is in us that causes excessive anxiety. And then ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘they’, ‘it’ can do whatever they do and we’re in a position to have a choice about how much it affects us.
3) IT’s ALWAYS GOING TO BE THIS WAY- I’m stuck.
When we feel bad it’s common to project out into the future from the state we are in and to assume and fear that it will always be this way. This is especially the case when a pattern has been established. Every time we get anxious (heart racing, shaky voice, shaking limbs and fingers, cold sweats, racing thoughts, fearful and panicked) in a situation it becomes more believed that we will feel similarly the next time – and we commonly do. It doesn’t feel or look like positive change is likely or even possible.
Yet when we get a clear moment or are feeling better we project from that happy state and the future looks optimistic – in that moment.
Then we feel bad again and once more it seems like we can’t change and that circumstances won’t change.
If we continue to think and feel and act the way we always do then we recreate the same outcomes. But if any one of those change then so too will our outcomes. Think differently, feel differently or act differently and different outcomes become possible, then probable, then likely, then a reality.
This is something anyone can be guided to learn.
Change is the only constant. Feelings – even long standing ones – come and go. Circumstances – even ‘stuck’ ones or those in established patterns can and do change. And they have changed for people who once proclaimed that they couldn’t or wouldn’t change for them. We all know people like this, and we’re no different. Emotional healing and stability is always possible – either in part or fully (depending on all the factors).
Entertain the possibility of positive change and be ready for a string of encounters and events that can make that a lived reality.
4) NOTHING WORKS FOR ME – “It’s just the way I am – there’s nothing I can do about it.”
If we have tried in vain to change before; perhaps we have read books (but it’s difficult to keep up momentum and apply what’s in books when we’re anxious), been on various medication (which can give much needed breathing room to face a problem – but sometimes it masks a problem and doesn’t truly resolve it), done some form of therapy or intervention and yet don’t feel any different it’s common to conclude (wrongly) that there is something wrong with us or that we are ‘unfixable’.
This is not the case – but it can feel that way.
There are many approaches to creating positive change, and one that works well exists for everyone. Not everyone gets the same benefit from the same practice. Some swear by going for a run to clear their head – other’s feel stressed and annoyed on a run.
Any approach to positive change requires a number of variables to line up: 1) the person who wants change must be willing to engage in whatever process or program they decide to do 2) the process or program must be effective and one that the person can apply or work with someone to apply 3) the process or program must suit the person doing it (and be effective for them) and 4) if there is a therapist or coach involved they must be skilled in the process and able to adapt it effectively for the person. Once all of those requirements are aligned there must then be commitment to the program until the change has been made.
It takes effort and energy to give a program a chance (but not any more than most anxious people have). When the right mix of help gets together real and lasting benefits are gained.
5) NO ONE WILL UNDERSTAND THIS, or ME, or ACCEPT ME FOR IT– “I’m on my own”.
When we feel anxious we often think we’re ‘inferior’, ’failing’, ‘weak’, ‘wrong’, and because we find ourselves unacceptable we assume (wrongly) that others will reject us for it also. We often hide how we feel and don’t admit the full extent of it to loved ones.
By hiding it we don’t get a chance to ‘reality check’ our assumptions so we go on believing we’d be rejected and continue to feel rejectable.
It’s beneficial to learn that everyone has felt insecure, worried and anxious at various ages and stages of life. Many feel those feelings on a daily basis – and they are ordinary, every day people, and there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with them.
The anxious reaction, its causes and triggers are widely understood. How to resolve those reactions and beliefs are also well known and understood by plenty of professionals. And everyone has friends and family who have got through something similar who can assist. It’s amazing when a person dares to admit what’s going on for them how often they find out that other people around them went through the same thing and often how those people have tips and supports that can be a huge help.
The thought that ‘no one will understand this’ is a trap that keeps us isolated and feeling on our own. Give someone a chance to understand and they commonly will surprise us with their depth of understanding, acceptance and insight.
If you relate to this post and would like to chat about how life can get easier for you then feel free to drop in for a chat.
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Have a good week,