Have you been working hard to get rid of or control anxiety, worries, self-doubt or stress, and yet despite your struggle and best efforts finding that the feelings remain, and maybe even are feeling like they are getting stronger!
A metaphor that comes from Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) a form of CBT, points to a different way of responding to your anxiety and worries.
The metaphor invites you to imagine that your struggle with anxiety and worry is like being in a tug of war with an anxiety monster. Between you and the monster is a deep pit, and so in order to try and get rid of the anxiety monster you have been trying to win the tug of war and pull the anxiety into this pit. You may have been trying various strategies to win the tug of war such as “positive thinking”, relaxation exercises, distraction, keeping busy, alcohol, “being strong”, and yet despite all of the time, effort, energy and hard work you are putting into this struggle, you find that you have not been successful at winning. In fact, you find that the anxiety seems to be getting stronger and harder to defeat. The problem with this ongoing struggle is that when you are engaged in this tug of war it is keeping you away from other things in your life, potentially your relationships, social life, interests or work.
So, what do you do when what you are doing isn’t working? Unfortunately, we have a tendency to either try harder or to give up, often switching between the two. Trying harder means more struggle but unintentionally this can make the anxiety stronger, whereas giving in to the anxiety effectively means doing what it tells you, e.g., avoid, keep your guard up.
But, there is an alternative.
If your experience is telling you that despite your best efforts you have not been able to get rid of the anxiety by winning the tug of war and pulling the anxiety monster into the pit, then your experience is suggesting you try something different.
The alternative is to drop the rope, to stop trying to win the tug of war and get rid of the anxiety. Whilst this option might feel like you’re losing, it actually frees you up from the struggle in order to be able to focus on the things or people in your life that matter to you. The anxiety monster will keep trying to get you to grab the rope and re-engage in the tug of war, and sometimes (being human) you will, but with practice you can get better at dropping the rope and over time the anxiety monster becomes less influential and less important.
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (including ACT), can help you to develop the skills to be able to consistently drop the rope and end the struggle with your anxious thoughts and feelings, instead allowing you to invest your energies into your goals and values.
Contact Dean for more information on how he may be able to help you:
© Dean Watkins 2016