A Letter to Your Anxious Mind
For the mind that overthinks, worries, catastrophizes, races, and/or ruminates.
Posted Feb 22, 2021 | Reviewed by Matt Huston
While you are a vital organ that helps me in fundamental ways, I realize that I have a divisive relationship with you. I am hoping to improve the relationship, as I realize that if I work with you rather than against you, we can function synergistically, which will greatly benefit me.
You hold onto formative ways of thinking that become habit or an adaptation from your upbringing. You rely on older patterns of thinking and feelings because it is familiar, comfortable, and what you are used to. I get where you are coming from, but I also realize that what was purposeful in childhood doesn’t always serve me well in adulthood.
While I appreciate how protective you strive to be, sometimes you become highly overprotective. While you have good intentions to protect me from what you perceive as being dangerous, such as experiencing fear and rejection, it is helpful for me to experience these things to build effective coping skills.
Everyday experiences and relationships are inclusive of challenges, and I need to be able to manage and work through my uncomfortable thoughts and feelings about them. If I avoid natural human emotions, I will not be engaging in day-to-day life experiences and living my best life. Also, I cannot just cut off negative or unpleasant thoughts and emotions because it puts me at risk for blocking out positive ones too. This detrimentally impacts me and my relationships.
Your protective nature is also the impetus for your tough-love strategies. You compare me to others, criticize me, and try to convince me that if I think and feel something that it is representative of who I am. It sometimes makes it hard to believe that I am good enough and don’t need fixing, especially when you’re so unrelenting.
Additionally, you try to prepare me for what may await me. By bringing my attention to the worst-case scenarios and reviewing and ruminating over negative and catastrophic possibilities, you attempt to physically and mentally brace me for what may potentially come my way. While your intention is for my safety and to decrease my discomfort if something horrific were to genuinely happen, it scares and worries me, which makes me less functional if something were to truly occur.
I find that I may still get surprised, ashamed, frustrated, and disappointed when you think aggressively, impulsively, or irrationally. Although you have been influenced by so many factors, such as your past experiences, societal pressures, your family of origin, age, race, religion, and so much more, I expect more from you.
You are filled with rich perceptions, evaluations, judgments, and expectations. Sometimes that serves me well, while at other times, you can become extremely rigid and it makes it difficult to open myself up to new and expansive ways of looking and feeling about things.
You also lead me to overthink, worry, catastrophize, race, or ruminate. Sometimes you are so insistent that you be noticed and heard that you come at me with all of those thought processes at once. When you do I struggle. The discomfort from the “noise” compels me to want to avoid, get rid of, and have an internal “wish” that my thoughts and feelings can just disappear or that I have the power to rid myself of them.
No matter how hard I try, I cannot get certain thoughts out of my head. It seems like the harder I try, the more difficult it is, and they just loop, spiral, and exacerbate. When I attempt this, I end up having thoughts about my thoughts, feelings about my feelings, thoughts about my feelings, and feelings about my thoughts. This mind loop can be exhausting, painful and frustrating. Especially at night, when I attempt to fall asleep and there are no distractions or ways of avoiding my thoughts, they surface whether I welcome them or not.
I truly wish that I gave you permission sooner to just be, and let you know that you are truly okay just as you are. That all thoughts and feelings that surface are welcome, from the most comfortable to the most uncomfortable. I am learning that it is vital that I experience and pay attention to my negative thoughts and feelings because they teach me about myself, directly remind me of my values and what is important and meaningful to me, and help me to identify what I want out of life.
From here on in, I am going to choose how to behave, despite your input and banter. I will be driven by my values and best self rather than the thoughts and feelings you choose to highlight to me.
I will focus on being in the present moment and focus on the “what is” rather than the “what ifs.” I do not know what tomorrow will bring, I only know what is before me in this moment. If I continue to look toward the past and future, I will continue to lose sight of and lack appreciation for what is afforded to me right now.
I am not going to believe everything I think and am going to strive to be perpetually curious. I am going to openly observe my thoughts and am going to be flexible to experiences, asking inquisitive questions such as "How else can I see this?" and "What are other possibilities?"
I am committing to giving up my struggle with you. I realize it is not the chatter that is problematic but rather the struggle that goes along with it. Inevitably, the goal is not necessarily to get rid of my thoughts, but rather to lower the volume.
It often makes it challenging to have self-compassion when all of that “noise” is surfacing, causing me to question, defend against, and desire to avoid myself. If I hate or admonish parts of myself, I cannot fully embrace myself and all that I am, which is essential for self-love and self-compassion. These are essential states for self-belief, self-efficacy, and living my life to the fullest.
I thank you for being associated with my brain, my most complex organ, and the physiological part of you. I know you will consistently consider my mental and emotional well-being and try to guide and protect me, no matter how hard I resist. I will work toward further learning to appreciate and align with you. I know I can’t necessarily expect you to do the same, but nevertheless, I will accept you for all that you are because like me, you are truly enough.
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