The Fear List: How I Transformed My Relationship Anxiety by Facing It
What if your anxiety as a guide to what you can do to heal your past and live the life you want to? Here is how to change your perspective on anxiety.
Anxiety sucks — so so badly. I have had so many anxiety attacks in my life I can’t even begin to remember them all. Of course, when I first started to experience anxiety attacks — and anxiety in general — that was not the case. It was as if I kept a laundry list of things that freaked me out in my head so that I could react to them similarly again in the future. And that list just kept growing and growing.
If you would have asked me at the height of my anxiety attacks, when my relationship-based anxiety was even affecting things like my job and family, if I thought my anxiety was a blessing I would have told you to kick rocks.
But now, when my anxiety attacks only come every few months, and last for minutes not hours, and the prickles of anxiety don’t consume my every thought, I feel differently.
I actually think of anxiety as a gift
As I mentioned before, my anxiety is mostly based in relationships. I have past relationship trauma — when it came to things like my partner getting upset about something or feeling the need to make someone else happy, I came apart. And it was bad.
My kids saw it, my mom saw it, my partner saw it, and eventually, my boss saw it too. There came a point where I knew that I needed to change or I would forever be a slave to my fear.
I started out on a healing journey that completely transformed the way I thought about anxiety — and any dense emotion, for that matter.
When I say dense emotions, I am referring to emotions that are not always easy to feel.
I like to think about emotions as candy
First of all, no candy is bad candy. Sure, there are some you like more than others but all candy is, in fact, candy.
Think of emotions like love and excitement as cotton candy; infinitely sweet and melting in your mouth. But emotions like fear and jealousy are akin to toffee; sticky and hard to chew, sometimes they even hurt your teeth.
Understanding that no emotions are bad emotions is only one piece of the puzzle. The other pieces come when you start to better understand what those “toffee” emotions are trying to tell you.
Dense emotions are a road map
They only come when you are triggered by one of three things: either a boundary, a past wound, or a value. And when you are triggered, you can actually begin to work on yourself and heal your past pain or establish solid boundaries.
When dense emotions arise, they are actually leading you towards something you can heal in your life.
If you didn’t have that dense emotion to guide you, you would not know what you needed to work on so there would be no way to continue to grow as a person.
On the surface it can seem like everything would be better if you just never had to overcome all that pain in the first place. But that is not life. Even the people who have never suffered through the kind of massive pain that we would typically think of as “trauma” have still experienced trauma and are affected by their wounds.
When you learn to heal you past wounds using your dense emotions to guide you, everything in your life begins to change. Not only do you grow but you also deepen your understanding of other people and their emotions.
The war against anxiety
If you are still trapped in the war against anxiety and just want to get out, I know how you feel. And trust me, I am in no way advocating you remain caught in that infernal battle. I am simply suggesting you start thinking of anxiety in a different way.
Start listening to what you are feeling because of whatever external triggering occurred and start to address those feelings.
The fear list
One of the quickest ways that I learned to start really exploring the blessing of anxiety is to make a list of all my fears.
You cannot slay a monster you don’t know you are fighting.
The first time I tried this I was shocked. The things that were causing me anxiety came out and I could actually name them.
Do you honestly know what you are fearing every time anxiety rears its ugly head?
Start with the fears everyone has, like spiders or being kidnapped, then dig deeper. Pour everything out onto the paper. You may be surprised to see what starts to come out as your mind gets more comfortable.
By doing this activity I learned that I actually feared all of my feelings. Thanks, in part, to this realization, this is no longer the case. Now when those dense emotions pop up I ask myself: where is this feeling coming from? What is the internal cause of this hurt? And then I chew the heck out of that toffee.