It’s a dark, crowded movie theatre. The girl on the screen is walking alone through the dim, musty old house, hand stretched out in front of her, groping her way through the dark. She moves, slowly, cautiously, breathing audibly. The camera switches to a view of her front the front, where we hear someone else breathing, reaching an invisible arm out towards her. Our killer just barely brushes her hair. She senses something, but keeps creeping forward. She approaches the doorway behind which the killer lurks, her breathing haltingly shallow. She’s sweating. Breathing. Reaching. Walking.
“Don’t go in there!” The tension gets to someone in the audience, and they can’t restrain themselves. How many times in our own lives are we that person, screaming out in the dark, terrified by the circumstances that surround us? For those of us who live with severe anxiety, this could be every day.
Wondering what’s around the next corner can be a horrible part of daily existence for people with anxiety. The unknown taps into a tremendous amount of latent fear.
For some people, being in a large crowd can bring on a fit of panic. For others, it might be speaking in front of a large group. People have fear of germs. People fear that they’re not good enough. Some people are scared to leave their houses. The one thing that all of these worries have in common is fear of an unknown consequence, fear of what’s around the corner.
Clearly, these fears are not rational, but that doesn’t make them any less real to the person who’s suffering. These fears are tangible, palpable things that can dominate someone’s life. Facing them on a daily basis is a courageous, energetic act.
Yet some people are the complete opposite. They embrace the unknown. They look at life as a series of adventures that are waiting to be had. They look at the unknown and see opportunity and growth. They can’t wait to see what’s around the corner.
Experience and knowledge and growth are what’s important to the adventurous people. They walk into the dark rooms looking for the light switch. They walk up a hill wondering what’s on the other side.
Curiosity drives these people. They have a thirst instead of fear. Where fear forces some to sit still, thirst drives the adventurer forward.
What marks the difference between those driven by thirst and those saddled by fear?
Plain and simple, it’s just a matter of perspective. People with anxiety look at the world through a lens of fear. Adventurous people look at the world through a lens of curiosity. Our perspective on the world dictates so much to us. When we say that all someone needs to do to help themselves is change their perspective, it sounds so easy.
But is changing our perspective really that easy? Of course not. So many of our anxieties have become habitual, it’s not going to be that easy to change. So what can we do to help ourselves change our perspectives so that we’re not ruled by our fears?
Visualize yourself conquering your fears. Just sit down and imagine yourself facing your fears. What would a successful experience look like? Can you even imagine one? Think about what it would take to conquer your fear and see yourself doing that. For me, I’ve got a fear of returning to work. I’d need to visualize what a typical day is like and see myself getting through it without fear.
Rehearse. Take a close look at the steps you took in your visualization. These are the same steps you can take in your real life. Practice them one at a time until your become comfortable with them. I’d start with getting up in the morning and getting ready for work, then making the drive to work, and so on.
Expose yourself. Go out into the world and take small steps towards reaching your goal. For example, I’d get into the car with the intention of driving to work. If I’d only make it part of the way and need to turn around, that’s ok. I could try again another time and see if I can make it farther. Once I made it to work, I’d sit in the parking lot for a few minutes just to get used to the idea of being there again.
Repeat. The more we can practice facing our fears, the more we’ll begin to feel comfortable handling them. The more exposure we have to what frightens us, what causes our anxiety, the more we’ll gain confidence in ourselves. When I take a few trips to work before I actually have to be there, I’ll have developed a comfort level in being there, which should help reduce my anxiety.
People with anxiety may not like to think about what’s around the corner. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t take steps towards making facing their fears easier. With time and practice, we can re-condition ourselves and change our perspective on the world. In doing so, we’ll be able to conquer our fears and live our lives like it’s more of an adventure.
Jason has suffered from depression and anxiety for over twenty years. He can be contacted at:https://www.facebook.com/jason.large.12?fref=nf