Putting Anxious Thoughts on Trial – Hypnotherapy Ely and Newmarket
If you struggle with anxiety, then all of those anxious thoughts that go around and around your mind can seem like an endless, frustrating, fearful cycle of dread and worry. Your anxious thoughts drive your anxious feelings and then, feeling worse, your mind fills with even more worst case scenarios and catastrophic outcomes.
The more anxious you feel, the more those fearful thoughts seem to spin faster and become more habitual and entrenched. And the more you think those anxious thoughts, the more you feel all the physical symptoms of anxiety. You’re filled with worry, fear and dread and you stop doing things and try to avoid any things that are linked to your anxiety.
And all the while, that cycle of thoughts, feelings and behaviours becomes seemingly more automatic and habitual. You feel less and less in control of your own thoughts and feelings and you can struggle to find any respite from anxiety within your own head.
Even though you know that most of your anxious thoughts aren’t logical or rational, they keep spinning and racing around your thinking. Maybe you can distract yourself from them for a while, yet they just keep coming back again and again. Now, of course you know they you are thinking those anxious thoughts and they are happening inside your own imagination and focus. So rather than responding to them or engaging with them, it’s time to start challenging your own thoughts and putting your own anxious thoughts on trial.
Hypnotherapy For Anxiety
The research and evidence has demonstrated the effectiveness of hypnotherapy for anxiety.
There are dozens and dozens of individual reviews on my website that support this, yet we also have the scientific evidence that supports the benefits of hypnotherapy for anxiety.
Valentine, Milling, Clark, and Moriarty (2019), brought together the results of all controlled studies of hypnosis for anxiety to quantify the effectiveness of hypnosis in treating anxiety. They found that hypnosis is a highly effective intervention for anxiety, and concluded from the evidence that:
“The findings of this meta-analysis show that hypnosis is a highly effective intervention for anxiety. Our results indicate the average participant treated with hypnosis achieved more anxiety reduction than about 79% of control participants at the end of active treatment and about 84% of controls at the longest follow-up“.
This is hugely impressive evidence and really demonstrates the beneficial impact of hypnotherapy for anxiety. There’s a bit more on that research in this previous article of mine: The Effectiveness of Hypnotherapy as a Treatment For Anxiety
Challenging Anxious Thoughts
Anxious thoughts are always about things going wrong, thinking that you won’t be able to cope and catastrophic worst case scenarios. Everything you imagine and tell yourself is based on things going wrong in some way. And once you think that first initial anxious thought your mind start to go with it and starts to imagine all the ongoing adverse consequences of that worst case having happened.
And anxiety can flow into any sort of area in your mind. You might worry about what others think and being judged negatively or looking stupid in some way. You might worry about your work not being good enough or being found out as an impostor somehow by others. You might worry about crashing the car, being attacked by a dog, about freaking out in the dentist chair or on an upcoming flight. Anxiety can flow into any manner of thoughts about people, places, times, situations and circumstances. That anxiety can always find something for you to overthink and worry about.
Even if you avoid a situation, or somehow get through it okay, often your anxiety just reappears the next time a similar thing comes your way. You worry about that presentation or meeting, about that drive of flight, about going out and interacting with others. It goes fine, you get through it and you feel good, or at least relief for a time. And then the next time a similar thing arises the whole anxious cycle happens again. Anxiety can be mentally and physically exhausting.
Anxiety is essentially an unhelpful use of your own imagination and focus. You engage with those anxious thoughts as if what you are imagining is certain to happen and you tell yourself how awful if will be when it does (which often ends up with imagining death, illness or losing your job and your family and friends). Because you feel so anxious you lose sight of whether what you are imagining is certain to happen, whether it’s just a possibility amongst many others and you lose track of the things you can proactively to do manage the situation and your own thoughts and feelings in a more constructive and helpful way.
That’s one of the reasons why it becomes important to be able to challenge and undermine the thoughts in your own focus and imagination. Generally we tend to think about something and then run with it inside of our minds. We lose track of whether it is accurate, factual or just a perception of things. In no time at all, that initial anxious thought can build up momentum inside your head and suddenly you have moved far beyond how things actually are right now.
All of those thoughts that are driven by anxiety can take over and dominate your mind until it feels like you can’t think straight, are going a little crazy and that there is just too much noise in your head. Yet as well as learning how to calm anxious feelings, it’s also possible to challenge, interrupt and reign in your thinking so that thoughts don’t spiral out of control. I’ve covered many strategies and concepts around how you can challenge anxious thoughts in these previous articles:
And if you are struggling right now with anxiety and all the wanted thoughts and feelings it brings, then there are many hypnosis downloads that can help you with getting back to being more calm, confident and in control: Anxiety Help Hypnosis Downloads
Putting Anxious Thoughts on Trial
Alongside some of the other strategies mentioned in the articles linked to above, one thing you can do with your own thoughts is start to challenge their validity. Rather than buying into an anxious thought only because you thought it, you start to challenge it and put it on trial to find out how much substance it has. A thought in your head can seem very real (whether or not it provokes anxiety) so it’s a useful skill to learn how to be able to check how authentic it is.
In fact, whenever a thought that makes you feel anxious, low or bad comes into your head, it makes sense to counter it with more balanced counter thoughts. It’s very easy to be black and white, or all or nothing, with thoughts that carry emotions such as anxiety. You can write the thought down, recognise if you are just making up something that is distorted, notice if you are actually simply scaring yourself in your own imagination, and then you can challenge that thought with three more balanced thoughts.
Unless you can predict the future (in which case there are better things to use that power for than thinking the worst), then recognise that any anxious thought is more likely to be make up in your imagination than necessarily based upon facts and evidence. And acknowledge to yourself that even if things do start to go awry, there are things you can do to reduce or mitigate any uncomfortable feelings or to influence how events unfold. Anxious thoughts try to trick yo into believing you are powerless in the face of catastrophe whereas things may not turn out as catastrophic as you imagine and there are certainly things you can actively do along the way (and you can remind yourself that whatever happens, you’ll handle it, get through it and be okay).
Because we all have a negative bias in our thinking, and we are all very capable of being creative in our imagination (and we tend to be pretty poor at predicting the future anyway), if I find myself lost in a thinking maze of what might happen, I deliberately ask myself whether what I’m thinking is fact and based upon evidence to support it, or whether it is just a perception or something I’m making up inside my own head. On many occasions I find that I’m making up a possible negative future, or extrapolating events from now on in ways that are not set in concrete or bound to occur in the way I’m imagining.
In some ways, this method of challenging anxious thoughts is a way of putting them on trial inside your own mind. After all, if you were standing in front of a judge and asked to give evidence why your anxious thinking was a fact, simply saying that it must be true because you thought it probably isn’t going to carry much weight!
When putting anxious thoughts on trial, we are seeking to check their validity, In your head they seem very real and fearful, yet that doesn’t mean they are actually accurate, based upon fact and how things really are. Our thoughts are not necessarily an accurate account of reality. Rather than emotional thinking, we want to have a more logical and rational perspective on events in our own heads.
And if you want to follow a more structured version for dealing with your anxious thoughts follow these steps:
- Write down the troublesome or anxiety provoking thought that is bothering you. What exactly are you imagining or saying to yourself inside of your own head? Get it our of your head and onto paper.
- Then ask yourself what evidence there is to support that thought (other than that you thought it!). What are the facts here? What evidence is there that this anxious thought is accurate and correct and certain to happen? If you were standing up in court, what evidence would you be presenting to show that this thing is fact, certain and set in stone. What is the evidence here?
- Having done that, then look for the evidence against the anxious thought. If someone you love said the same thing that you are thinking, what would you say to them about it? Have you ever thought along similar lines and then things turn out differently to how you imagined? Could what you are thinking be wrong or not certain to happen in the way you are imagining? What evidence is there that this thought is not totally true, certain and accurate?
- Then weigh up the evidence for and against what you have been thinking, telling yourself and imagining. Aim to come up with a final verdict that is realistic, balanced and factually accurate. If you conclude that you have been imagining things without evidence, fact or substance then start to imagine something more balanced. And you may also want to remind yourself of the resources and strategies you have that can help you to manage any forthcoming situation more comfortably. What can you actually constructively do about the upcoming situation or to manage the things you do control, your own thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions.
Very often when I’ve run through this with a client, they have to acknowledge that their thinking is not based on fact and evidence. You wouldn’t take a legal action against someone and then stand up in court and say that the other person is guilty because you say so or simply because you think they are. In the same way, you don’t have to buy into a thought that comes into your own mind and treat it like fact merely because you thought it (even if you have spent a lot of time thinking it or thought it many times).
So when you notice you are thinking unhelpfully and emotionally, start putting your anxious thoughts on trial. Hold your own thoughts to account, scrutinise them for their accuracy and robustness and develop the ability to evaluate the facts and evidence within your own thinking. Put your own anxious thoughts on trial.
To your health and happiness,
Award Winning Anxiety Hypnotherapist in Ely & Newmarket
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