I was flying back to Geneva last week and the guy sat beside me on the plane was talking about his wife’s fear of the skiing, and could I ‘cure’ it.
I said I couldn’t cure ‘fear’, nor would I want to, it keeps us alive and safe! Could I ‘cure’ anxious thinking, for that’s what it was, yes I could. Or moreover, I can guide you into how to pay less attention to it.
You see, people often confuse fear with anxiety, or specifically confuse fear with anxious thinking. Let me explain:
Fear is the normal hard-wired safety mechanism we all have. It’s our natural flight or fight reaction, and it comes with an automatic quiet wisdom. And there’s nothing we can do to change it, nor would we want to! Keeping away from dangerous situations is a good thing – it keeps us alive!!
Anxiety – or rather anxious thinking – feels a bit like fear, and it comes from a revved up low state of mind. And given we’re always feeling our thinking, without understanding our own role in creating our experience through our thinking, it can feel pretty unpleasant and ‘real’.
We all think, and there’s nothing we can do about it. Nor are our thoughts real – even though they look and feel real!!! They’re all part of the mind-made illusion we all create. However, we can do something about which thoughts we pay attention to. It’s a bit like buses, we know that if we don’t jump on this bus, another bus will come along and we can jump on that one instead. And hop off when we want to, too.
And if you get stuck, and gripped by anxious thinking, trying to make meaning of it – for example by attaching meaning to your circumstances – just means it’ll hang around a bit longer. That’s just pouring more (anxious) thinking on thinking, and just serves to clog up the system! And just recognising it as anxious thinking, something we create in the moment, it starts to melt away.
As fellow coach Garret Kramer call’s it, by staying in the game – by carrying on skiing – you start to unclog the system and new thinking will naturally come along to replace the anxious thinking.