Anxiety and Imagination – The Rochester Dickensian Christmas Festival
This past weekend was spent at the fabulous Dickensian Christmas Festival, down in Rochester in Kent. I wrote recently about how we can use the message of a Christmas Carol with Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Future to help us take action and make decisions right now that will cause us to live the life we want to live (go and check that article out if you haven’t already).
In this article I’m mainly talking about anxiety and how our imagination and thinking can intensify those unwanted anxiety-filled thoughts, feelings, behaviours and emotions.
One thing I love about the work of Dickens is how he took experiences from his own life and the people and places around him and incorporated those into his stories to bring them to life. You only have to stroll down the main street in Rochester to notice all the plaques on the buildings describing how that place appeared in a certain novel of his. Rather than just creating everything from a blank canvas, Dickens took real life and wove it into the fabric of his work. It’s certainly one of the ways that he brought his work to life and gave it that essence of being realistic and believable to us readers.
And if you are struggling with anxiety you may very well be able to relate to that process. Anxiety has a way of taking the people, places and situations around you and starting to distort them in your imagination into all sorts of worst case scenarios. And just like a good Dickens novel, the more you get absorbed in them, the more they come to life in your mind and the more your anxiety escalates.
All those ‘what if this happens?’ type of thoughts can grow and grow until everything seems like a disaster waiting to happen that will lead to bad outcomes, negative consequences and you feeling even worse. Your mind goes into overdrive seeking out those possible future threats so that you can prepare for them or avoid them, yet because most of it is anxiety-fuelled distortion and perception, you may find there is no escape from your own thinking.
And in the same way that Dickens brought his world to life, your anxiety can make your imagination and thoughts feel like life.
One thing I love about the Rochester Dickensian Festival is how the streets come to life with the characters and people of that time:
Anxiety & Imagination
Now, of course, your imagination is a wonderful thing. Without our imagination, we would struggle no end with day to day life. For example, how would we decide what to wear or what to eat if we didn’t have some idea of what those future things would be like? From the most basic decisions and planning to the most complex, we need our imagination to help us think ahead, plan and contemplate future events and how they might unfold.
With anxiety however, those feelings and emotions ramp up your imagination and flavour everything with dread, fear and worry. Even if logically you may think something is unlikely to happen or not realistic, all that emotion and imagination will keep you stuck in the grips of your anxiety. I’ve heard anxiety described as being like a river; even if you stop the flow in one direction of your thinking, it will either break down that dam or just flow in another anxious direction. And as with most things, the more you experience anxiety, the more habitual it becomes to think, feel and act in that way (and the harder it can feel to try and break out of that habitual pattern).
Yet in the same way that you know when reading a good Dickens’ story that what he was writing about was an imagined tale, based upon aspects of real life, so you can start to apply that type of thinking to your anxiety and imagination. Although those thoughts may have the flavour of real life people, places and situations, that doesn’t make them facts.
Our thoughts are not facts, they are just our (often habitual) perceptions, beliefs and opinions. As we imagine stuff, particularly future stuff, we need to remind ourselves that this is all made up possible scenarios that may very well not happen at all. We need to remind ourselves frequently that our thoughts are not facts simply because we think them.
Let’s take the hot topic of Brexit as an example. At the time of writing, Members of the Parliament in the UK have just started a mammoth session of debate on the draft proposals. Based on the referendum result, about half of the UK population think Brexit is the best thing for the UK and will lead to many positive benefits that will allow the country to prosper. At the same time, about half the UK population think that Brexit will lead to disaster and isolation with the UK economy sinking faster than the Titanic. Yet the true answer is that no-one really knows what is going to happen into the future. Whatever happens might be great, or rubbish, or somewhere in-between. It’s all speculation, perception, belief and opinion. There is little fact here when it comes to imagining what will happen.
With anxiety, we need to challenge those thoughts and remind ourselves that they are not fact at all. You can remind yourself that they are just anxiety-filled mental distortions resulting from how you feel right now. As you reduce anxiety, those thoughts will tend to reduce, deplete and wither away because the fuel of anxiety dries up.
When I work with clients there are any number of ways to calm the anxiety feelings and to tackle the anxious thoughts. Remind yourself that they are just thoughts arising from your anxiety that you wouldn’t think if you felt calm and safe. Remind yourself that they are not facts. And you can remember that even if you think a worst case, by definition there must be a best case and a whole spectrum of other possible imagined outcomes in between.
And with practice and perseverance, you will find that, just like a Dickens’ story can come to life in your mind yet remains an imagined tale, so those imagined thoughts from your anxiety, become just thoughts and not facts that you no longer need to buy into in your mind and in your life. And as many of my clients have shared, you can close that chapter of anxiety and enjoy moving forward into a new chapter where you feel better and happier.
To your success,
Hypnotherapy in Ely & Newmarket
Are you looking for effective anxiety help? Book a free consultation and we can arrange a time to talk about working together to help you achieve your goals: Appointments
Be sure to take a couple of minutes to read this inspirational feedback from other people who sought help to overcome their anxiety: What They Say
And you can read much, much more about anxiety in these related articles: Anxiety
And check out these powerful hypnosis downloads that can start helping you right away with anxiety, confidence and more: Hypnosis Downloads