The most important practice to create recovery and change your behavior is using the tools and techniques.
When I first started on my recovery I did not accept that the tools and techniques were necessary. Actually, I didn’t think they would be effective for me. I was suffering from such high levels of anxiety, I thought I needed something “strong” to help me recover. I used to joke about needing a brain transplant. But honestly, in my mind, I needed something extreme. Granted, I did not know what that was, but tools & techniques did not seem extreme enough for me.
So the beginning of my recovery I didn’t practice the tools. I listened to what my counselor told me, but I didn’t make any changes in my schedule, throughout my day or in the way I approached anxiety in general.
To create recovery you have to engage the anxiety. The anxiety exists in your mind, the tools and techniques are the only way for you to engage with your anxiety.
Recovery is not created by talking, or by an intellectual understanding of anxiety disorders. This will not help you at all. Anxiety is a conditioning, and there is no mechanism built into us to subconsciously change this behavior. This behavior can only be changed by us! We have to consciously and intentionally change our response to our specific triggers and change the anxious behavior.
We automatically go down the “anxiety trail”. This is what we have learned to do. It does not matter how we learned this behavior or what started it, now that it has started it is an automatic response in our behavior to respond to our specific triggers.
The tools & techniques are the only things we can do to break our thinking patterns. Our anxiety driven pattern is circular in nature. Anxious thinking takes past experiences from the past and projects them to the future; and does this over and over and over again. This circular thinking encourages anxiety to continue and grow in strength. To change this behavior we have to break this cycle.
All the thoughts that we have only last in duration for a short time. I use a firework display for an image of our thoughts. A thought comes up, expresses itself and then dissipates; just as a firework does. And all thoughts are like this. Whether we are having happy thoughts, scary thoughts or any kind of thought, all thoughts last only a short time. So when we are obsessing over something or experiencing high levels of anxiety, what happens is that we have multiple thoughts about the same thing over and over again. It is not the first thought that is what causes us suffering, it is the follow-up thoughts.
The tools and techniques are what we need to stop slow up the follow-up thoughts. If we can stop at the very first thought, there would be no suffering. But because the thoughts continue on and on, we continue to suffer.
The tools & techniques do not push away anxiety-driven thoughts. Nor do they somehow stop anxiety-driven thoughts. The way tools and techniques work for us is by filling the space in our brain and creates an environment where anxiety cannot continue.
Another analogy; picture our brain like a sponge type of material. Throughout the sponge is little voids. In each of these voids, only a single thought can exist at one time. The more voids that are filled with anxiety-driven thoughts, the higher our anxiety levels are. As a thought dissipates in the void, we need to fill it with a non-anxious thought to fill that void. The more voids filled with non-anxious thoughts, the lower the anxiety levels that we experience.
By using the tools and techniques, we start to create new conditioning. New behavior. And we empower ourselves. We learn that we do not need to fear the anxiety, but rather we can actually manage it. And this is very empowering. We go from being a victim to anxiety, to being proactive in managing anxiety.
Practice the tools and techniques. Do not underestimate their effectiveness and their importance in creating recovery. I have said that the tools and techniques are the Holy Grail for recovery.
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