Time and again I hear adults, parents, teachers and kids themselves ask for ‘coping mechanisms’ to distract from their anxiety. It is understandable that we habitually frame it this way, society is full of the unconscious belief that we should encourage dealing with pain by turning away from it – distracting ourselves from fear, from the unpleasant and the sense of overwhelming control it exerts on our life.
The reality is entirely different though.
I urge you to begin to see fear as just a small part of yourself, one small sub-personality, a part of you that has separated from you and begun to become overburdened and polarised in how it looks at the world. Think of it as it splitting from you in an extreme attempt to deal with life being hard. This part of you sees life through the lens of extreme danger and reacts by trying to protect and prepare for danger…like a soldier or body guard or a vicious animal (as is the case with anger at times). I need you to trust that these parts are trying desperately to help you in the way it can. They make life very hard in reality, often adding fuel to the fire, but they are doing their utmost to support you to survive what they believe is a life or death situation. It is the lesser of two evils if you survive to live another day.
You can feel hijacked by these parts, placed in the back-seat of a moment, a whole day or even longer when you feel altogether ‘extreme’ in what you do or say or think. Common parts that we all have are ‘the critic’ (ever found your mind wandering to thoughts of blame or ‘you are not good enough’?), ‘catastrophizing’ (thinking the ‘worst case scenario’ in everything), or ‘perfectionistic’ part (most commonly shows up during organising or accomplishing tasks etc). When these parts are in the front seat, all logic, perspective, control/ choice for ourselves all but vanishes and we are left at the mercy of their way of being. Have you ever said, ‘I just wasn’t myself at that time’? well, you were possibly more right than you thought!!
So every time you do those things that feel like just distracting know it is a hell of a lot more. When you go for that run, for example, you reconnect to yourself and the front seat, thus, shifting a ‘part’ back to the passenger seat. You introduce your vitality, passion, your aliveness and your Adult self to the moment. You energise and bring yourself into the front seat. You are no longer hijacked by fear, but soothed by yourself (your self). Reminding you of your ‘you-ness’ lets this protection know that you got this and today you have the capacity to take care of yourself in a healthier way, that you can begin to deal with whatever the situation is. So don’t underestimate what you carry alive inside you every moment of every day – That which is alive in you since you were born. Helping you feel less anxious is less about distraction then and more a search for the things, people and places that act as a reminder of your own innate strength. This is what dissolves feeling anxious, not distracts from it.