The Rochester Dickens Festival & The Power of Your Anxious Imagination:

Last weekend I headed down to Kent with my family for the Rochester Dickens Festival. Now if you've never come across this fantastic event, it celebrates all things related to the author, Charles Dickens, as he had a strong connection with the town (many locations in Rochester appear in his books).

We first discovered the festival one year when, after completing a marathon down the road in the morning, we headed into Rochester, as the nearest town in the afternoon and found ourselves amongst dozens and dozens of people dressed up as characters from Dickens' novels and in period costume. 

We headed back this year just to be part of the festival as it is such a fun and enjoyable event. There's the procession of all the people in costume down the High Street and led by Fagin (form Oliver Twist) and the local pipe band, there are many different street performances, a fun fair by the Castle and a wonderful, welcoming and friendly atmosphere throughout. I absolutely loved it!

I even got my own line in a quick fire drama performance of Oliver Twist that took place in the street. So ok, I got to say one thing but I think I carried the whole show with my perfect delivery! Actually, after holding up a sign that said 'Ahhhhhh' and getting the whole crowd to say it, the guy on stage turned to me and said 'now you sir, on your own!' But still, I gave a great impromptu delivery of it in my own humble thespian opinion!

Something I always find interesting it to think back on how such a moment on the spot would have terrified me in my anxious days. I'd have been fearful of the possibility of any involvement in front of such a crowd, and would have mentally beaten myself up about it afterwards. Nowadays I just thought it was quite funny and teased my kids about how they could tell everyone back at school about how I'm such a star! 

Dickens himself was a fantastic story teller, which is why his novels and TV adaptations of them, remain so popular to this day. And in much the same way as Dickens drew upon the people and places around him in his stories, so we all draw upon our perceptions and what we see, hear, feel and think to create our own story about who we are and what we believe ourselves capable and worthy of in life. 

And in much the same way as Dickens used his creativity and imagination to engage his readers and listeners, so with anxiety, you can find that you imagine all sorts of worst case scenarios and possible unwelcome outcomes. And even when you deal with one scenario, you may well find that the anxiety simply flows into some other scenarios of things going badly, even if that is just worry that you may feel anxious.  

The Rochester Dickens Festival

It really is the most wonderful festival, even if you are not a complete Dickensian freak (and we are certainly no more into Dickens than the next person). There is so much to do and see with dozens of people costumed up, such as this amazing lady dressed as Miss Havisham from Great Expectations (who said she had been taking part for well over twenty years!), who kindly agreed to stop for a photo with my daughter: 

anxiety scenarios dickens festival

And here I am with my girls, doing my own version of Miss Havisham (while they do whatever it is they are doing with those expressions!):

anxiety hypnotherapy ely dickens

And, if you want to get a bit of a flavour of the event, I also recorded some of the procession that took place through the High Street and which was a wonderful spectacle to behold (in fact there is some footage of the Saturday and Sunday parades in the video):

The Power of Your Anxious Imagination 

I don't think there is any arguing that Dickens was a master story teller who was able to create wonderful tales with memorable characters and all sorts of twists and turns. And our imagination can be a wonderful thing. We use it to plan ahead, to decide what to eat and where to go and to remember people and places and all sorts of other things. We might look forward to a holiday and run all sorts of excited and positive thoughts through our minds of what the place will be like and what we'll enjoy doing there and so forth.

And pretty much everything that has been created around us, from chairs to tables to buildings to computers, must have started off as an idea in someone's imagination. The same is true for the dramas and films we watch and enjoy and the fiction we like to read.

But in the same way we can imagine and be creative in sorts of positive ways, with anxiety, our imagination can go into overdrive about possible worst case scenarios and things that could go wrong or negatively in some way. And sometimes it can seem pretty relentless in the way all those anxious thoughts can whirl and spiral through our minds, all the while creating feelings of anxiety and dread.

It can become a bit of an ongoing cycle and pattern of imagining those negative scenarios, feeling anxious about them and then finding yourself thinking those thoughts even more. And because anxiety deals with future possibles, you may find that you can think of all sorts of imagined things that involve anxiety, panic and negative judgments. You may even logically know that most of those things are unlikely to ever happen, yet the anxiety continues to flow onwards doesn't it?

Even when you manage to close of one avenue or direction that those scenarios were flowing in, all that anxiety,  combined with our ability to be creative and to imagine anything and everything, means that like a river, the anxiety just flows into some other things and thoughts. 

That means that a key element in any anxiety management strategy has got to be to calm down the anxious feelings that lead to, and are associated with, those thoughts and also to interrupt the thoughts themselves rather than letting them roll on and on (or just distracting yourself for a bit and finding they come back into your mind later on, perhaps in a quieter moment). 

In my next blog I'm going to give you some ways to do just those things that will help you to break the pattern of your anxiety. In the same way that Dickens is almost certain to have toyed with different story lines, characters and outcomes in his imagination before deciding which way to direct his creativity, so we can all learn that thoughts are not facts, they are perceptions and things we imagine, which means that we can start to take back control over what we think and how we think, and that means we have ways that can ease anxiety and allow us to get on with life, thinking the thoughts, feeling the feelings and taking the actions that we want to be experiencing.

I'll be back with those strategies and techniques next time!

To your happiness,

Dan Regan

Hypnotherapy Ely, Newmarket, Skype

If you are fed up of battling with anxiety and dealing with all those anxious thoughts and feelings then why not contact me today to arrange your complimentary consultation so we can meet and chat about how we could help you find freedom from anxiety?

And you may also be interested to learn what other people have said after working with me to overcome anxiety: What They Say