We don’t have to believe our anxious thoughts, nor trust our anxious feelings. We can change their relationship to anxious thoughts and feelings so that anxiety doesn’t run the show.
With anxiety, we need to know that we all have sudden automatic intrusions of upsetting thoughts, seemingly out of nowhere (“I could jump off this balcony” “what if I giggle in church?” “what if I suddenly yanked the steering wheel into traffic?”)
What we can change is our reaction to these automatic events- we have the capacity to take them seriously or not, to differentiate between arousal as real or false messages, to determine whether our thoughts contain useful information or just plain noise.
There’s something called ironic process. The mechanism by which we attempt to relax is accompanied by a heightened vigilance designed to check and monitor whether the technique is working. This process is responsible for many failed anxiety-management techniques.
Anxiety symptoms become more tolerable when the patient learns to view them as automatic, conditioned, natural, and part of the human experience.