If you struggle from recurring feelings of anxiety, chances are that you place too much emphasis on how anxious you feel in certain situations. Take for example, if you habitually experience anxiety in social settings, such as large groups of people. A question for you would be this, what would it be like in these situations, if you weren’t feeling anxious? To achieve this state, it may be helpful to understand why your feelings of anxiety aren’t as important as they may feel.
Actions are More Important than Feelings
Most people who struggle with anxiety, draw a blank when asked this question. The reason for this is because they have unintentionally trained their minds to focus on their feelings rather what they are trying to accomplish in the situation at hand. In short, they are more concerned with feeling, than accomplishing things.
For example, if you attend a party or a festive gathering, your goal in that situation would be to interact with people at the party and enjoy yourself. However, if you were experiencing severe feelings of anxiety, such feelings would interfere with your ability to interact with other people at the party and enjoy yourself.
Now, if you have ever found yourself in such a situation, there are two ways to approach your feelings of anxiety. The first and more common is to focus on your anxious feelings and leave the party as soon as possible. The second would be to explore the reason or reasons why you are feeling so anxious. With the goal of addressing the reason in order to eliminate the feeling of anxiety and get back to the task at hand.
The first approach is ineffective in dealing with anxiety while the second approach is most effective for dealing with anxiety. The reason the second approach is more effective is because of the role feelings play for the mind and body. In short, the role of feelings, generally, is to inform you whether things are going well for you or otherwise.
Feelings Serve only to Communicate
For example, if you ironing an article of clothing, and your hand accidentally made contact with the hot plate of the iron, you will experience intense pain. This will cause you to immediately put the iron down and pull your hand away. As painful as the incident would be for you, it would be a good thing, as your pain would have saved you from inflicting permanent injury to your hand for obvious reasons. Likewise, emotional reasons work the same way, if someone you are trying to make friends with, glares at you, your feelings of concern and aversion to the person, will be your minds’ way of protecting you from a potential foe.
However, the difference between physical feelings and emotional feelings, are that emotional feelings are far more complex in the experience and information they convey to you. This means that it is not uncommon to misinterpret your experience of negative feelings, which causes these feelings to become more recurring and severe in your life.
Learn to Attend to the Message
Going back to the original example, in most cases, if you are experiencing anxiety in social situations, it could be your minds’ way of telling you that your social skills for that situation are poor. If this where truly the case, the solution would be to learn how to improve your social skills for that situation. This is where things get complicated for some people, as they may be dealing with feelings of shame and despair stemming from a hidden belief they hold, that they are unable to master the social skills needed or that they will never be accepted by that social group.
If this where the case, the solution would be to learn and practice cognitive-behavioral strategies for internalizing unconditional self-acceptance and self-love. Which will help you experience more success in asserting yourself in social situations with minimum conflict.
In summary, the reasons why your feelings of anxiety aren’t important is because the message they convey holds more value. If you found yourself asking and exploring the reasons for your feelings of anxiety, you will find yourself more focused on addressing these reasons than fearing another episode of anxiety.
Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions a counseling and life coaching practice in Tucson, Arizona. Ugo helps individuals and families in office and online. If you would like to learn more, you are welcome to call and book an appointment or fill out my contact form and click Send.