You will have recovered from your anxiety disorder when you overcome your anxiety sensitivity, or second fear. Anxiety treatment can’t and shouldn’t mean that you’ll never be anxious again. Becoming anxious is a normal, healthy adaptive reaction to doing challenging things with uncertain outcomes. I would never want to take the capacity to become anxious away from you. Instead, I want to teach you to respond to anxiety in a way that helps you rather than hurts you. You overcome fear of fear by inviting in fear when it shows up and choosing to see it as an opportunity, not a threat.
This week I also asked several members, to ask themselves, “If I didn’t feel anxious, what would I do?” and “If I am feeling more than just anxiety, what else do I feel?”
These two questions seem simple, but they target two very important concepts:
“If I didn’t feel anxious, what would I do?” targets values driven behavior. We’re trying to wade through the anxiety to the values underneath it and act according to that value, rather than according to what our anxiety urgently tells us we must do.
“If I felt more than just anxiety, what else do I feel?” increases our emotional awareness. All affects feel threatening when anxiety feels threatening. Feelings such as loneliness, sadness, non-OCD guilt, and longing can be data that points us in the direction of values-driven behavior if we allow these feelings to teach us without adding fear and shame.
To increase psychological flexibility, to increase access to value driven behavior, and to increase the capacity to use feelings as data, we first learn to notice, label, and allow anxiety without adding a fear-based layer of avoidance and control.