Anxiety is awful, no doubt about it. And when we experience awful unpleasant things we get frightened and want to avoid them.
But one of the real head-spinners of anxiety is how we become afraid of fear.
What we’re talking about here is “secondary emotions”, when an emotion makes us feel another emotion. Two things tend to create secondary emotions:
- Ideas and beliefs we have about feeling certain emotions (fear makes me weak, sadness makes me a sook)
- And in the case of fear being traumatised by intense fear: either an actual traumatic event, or an overwhelming panic attack
Fear of fear also makes us want to block or avoid the primary fear, and when this happens the tangle begins. Normally two things happen – fear of fear is like a self perpetuating machine, it quickly spirals out of control. At the same time it’s the most natural thing in the world to want to try and avoid the internal experience of fear. But the bad news is we’re really bad at this. This “thought suppression” as psychologists call it has been extensively studied, and the evidence is when we try and suppress thoughts it actually INCREASES out preoccupation with them!
==== So, I hear you asking, what are we supposed to do? Just be frightened? ====
YES, well, sort of.
The trick is to APPROACH, NOT AVOID. This is what I call the “paradox of anxiety”.
And when it comes to feelings, thoughts, ideas and body sensations the best way to approach them is to utilise the techniques of mindfulness (click here to hear a radio interview with me on this). Mindfulness teaches us, through experience and practice, that when we just watch a feeling or an emotion, it passes. It’s only what our mind does with thoughts and feelings that make them hang around.
==== Which brings me to my next point … ====
As you may have read by now, I have developed a system to help you overcome your social anxiety.
This system is based on my clinical experience treating social anxiety, and includes 4 very specific steps to follow:
- Focus on your MIND
- Focus on your BODY
- Focus on your BEHAVIOUR
- Focus on your RELATIONSHIPS
These are the 4 steps (pillars) which the entire system is built around.
I call them “THE 4 PILLARS OF PROGRESS”.
Each individual pillar includes a range of specific techniques you can practice to increase your ability to just watch and tolerate fear and anxiety, without having to get frightened. It’s hard work, and requires heaps of practice.
But fear not, it will work.
So stay tuned, the SYSTEM is not far away!