Diffusing anxiety-fuelled worst case scenarios
I don’t know about you but I’ve always had a tendency to imagine scenarios in my head about what might happen in the future if I do this thing or make this decision and so forth. These days, now that I understand more about scenarios and how to control them, these scenarios tend to be more of a neutral contemplation or even about good stuff happening.
But when I used to struggle with severe anxiety, these scenarios would be like major feature film worst case scenario type disasters happening; like not being able to answer a question in a meeting and looking an idiot, or of standing up to present and going blank, or somehow messing up in what I said or did when out socially.
Whenever I work with clients with anxiety, this capability to imagine all sorts of future worst case scenarios and disastrous “what if?” thoughts tend to appear.
Our imagination is a wonderful thing, especially if you pause and consider that everything ever designed, built or made, from your computer to your chair, and every work of fiction you’ve ever read or TV show you’ve watched, started off as something in someone’s imagination. How awesome is that?!
Yet feelings of anxiety will always colour your imaginings with shades of things going wrong or badly in some way, leading to feelings of more anxiety, leading to more of those anxiety fuelled thoughts. So how can you dilute them to such a point that the anxiety has to subside?
Anxiety And Imagination
I can clearly remember the day, several years ago, that my Dad called to say that his lung cancer had returned and that there was nothing they could do to treat it this time. It was just a question of how much time he may have left before the inevitable. Naturally, all sorts of thoughts and emotions ran riot through my mind that day.
And that evening I found myself tired, emotional, upset, worried, standing in my kitchen. It was the end of the day, I was switching everything off and that tendency to imagine scenarios crept into action. Before I even realised it, I had been standing there for a pretty long time. I’d gone from replaying the conversation that day with my Dad, into the future in my mind to his death, to the funeral and even to starting to imagine being there saying some kind of eulogy and having imagined conversations about my memories of my Dad and what a great man he was.
Luckily I caught myself and rewound that movie all the way back to now – like putting on rewind in my mind until it got all the way right back to now. Yet it shows how easily emotion can fuel those imagined scenarios.
Yesterday I was talking to a client who has taken a simple yet effective technique to diffuse anxiety-driven scenarios and is now reaping the rewards of taking control over her imagination.
Rather than worrying about things that she used to make up in her head and that will probably never happen, she started to apply this neat process to that initial worst case scenario.
The Scenario Scale
Because when we struggle with anxiety, we get fixated on that scenario and we run it forward in our mind with things getting worse and worse. Maybe it’s sending that e-mail that leads to imagining being criticised, maybe it’s that saying something wrong and looking stupid scenario or maybe it’s one of those leaving the house and feeling anxious so I’d better stay at home type thoughts or any other of a thousand anxiety-fuelled scenarios.
When we feel anxious that one scenario runs and leads to feeling worse and worse. It’s like we only have one channel in our heads and that channel plays only the worse case scenario. Yet if that is the worst case then there must be a best case (or at least a better case): mustn’t there? And then there will be all sorts of other scenarios between those extremes, perhaps some that are only slightly negative or slightly positive and maybe many other more likely and realistic ones in between.
Have you ever been into an electronics shop to buy a TV? As you stand there looking at rows and rows of TVs, all playing slightly different things, or the same things at different times, you find that it’s a little overwhelming and you can’t really focus very well on any one screen.
And that’s what you do here. Just like my client, you come up with more and more scenarios from that anxiety-filled worst case, all the way through to the best case, and many in between. And in the same way that you can’t focus on any one screen in the TV section, you’ll find that your mind can’t get stuck on the anxiety channel.
My client found that the more she practiced this, the faster she could do it. It meant that when she had something to do that had previously caused her anxiety, she now found herself switching into a sense of calm control.
To your success,
Hypnotherapy in Ely and Newmarket
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