All anxiety is born out of the desire to control a specific situation. Learning to surrender to the situation will automatically reduce anxiety levels.
The idea of learning to surrender to a situation is exactly the opposite of what anxiety tries to make us do. Anxiety tells us that if we do not “control” a specific situation, something bad will happen. However, it is the idea that we can control anything at all that escalates the anxiety-driven thoughts and responses to a situation.
For instance, in addition to many other classifications of anxiety disorders, I am also a driving phobic. One day towards the beginning of my recovery I was driving on a highway that I was not very familiar with. It was rush hour and traffic was heavy and going very slow at times. I found myself feeling extremely anxious at times.
When my anxiety would rise, my entire body would stiffen and I would become very aware of physical sensations that I was experiencing.
I was trying to use tools and stay aware of my thoughts in terms of what was anxiety and what was “real”. But the anxiety seemed to be winning the smaller battles during that ride.
At one point traffic was sitting at a standstill and my anxiety was rising. I literally said to myself, “you have nowhere to be, who cares if this takes all night?”. And my anxiety instantly dropped. My body felt relaxed and the fear I was holding onto disappeared. It was like magic.
During that ride, I had a few other experiences all the same. My anxiety would start to rise and I would surrender to the situation and to the moment. I am here, I can’t change it, and its ok. When I did surrender, each time my anxiety disappeared instantly. It was a great experience for me to see it personally work in real time.
Anxiety has two characteristics; one is that there is always a “futuristic” component to our anxious driven thoughts. The “what if” something should happen in the future at some point. It could be a few seconds into the future, or even days, weeks or months into the future.
The second characteristic of anxiety is that it is always based on control. We are trying to manipulate something about a specific situation. What we are trying to manipulate could be anything from the way other people think, to the weather; there are no limits to what our imagination will dream up to try to get us to control something. But the common denominator is that we cannot control any of it.
When we accept the idea that we cannot control any of these things, and we surrender to the situation we are in, our anxiety loses strength.
Another way to describe the act of surrender is if to think to ourselves “who cares what happens right now” and not be afraid of any outcome. Usually our biggest fear we would have in saying that is that our anxiety would increase. So certainly taking the stance of “who cares what happens” is very difficult for us too when we are suffering. This is certainly not an exercise that I would suggest people start off with immediately.
However, when your anxiety levels are lower and you are feeling a little more secure in yourself, I suggest that you try to give in to your fear and surrender to it. Say to yourself “who cares” and sit back and just observe what is happening.
And absolutely as you are gaining empowerment and feeling more confident in going through the recovery process, there will be times that it would be good for you to practice saying “who cares” and surrender to the moment.
I assure you that if you give up the idea of control, your anxiety will absolutely become less. The level that you surrender will determine how much your anxiety lessens. But as with anything that I suggest; practice, practice, practice!
If you try it once and it doesn’t work, that doesn’t mean that it will never work. Same thing for using the tools. The more we practice, the more comfortable we get with this new behavior, and the more effective it will become. And this is the foundation for “behavior modification”, which is in fact recovery itself.
Never give up! Persistence!
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