Breaking the Anxiety Spell

How many times have you heard someone say,  I have anxiety, I am an angry person, I am depressed?  While it is wonderful that the person is trying to identify and communicate how they are doing in the moment, there is a subtle evil magic at play.  They are saying they ARE the thing they are describing.

I am my anxiety. Can quickly lead to- Anxiety rules my life. I must avoid things that trigger my anxiety. What if my anxiety shows up and makes me leave or look crazy?

I am an angry person. I am not safe to be around. I could explode at any minute. I can’t help it I am an angry person.

I am depressed. I am stuck with this. This is and forever will be my reality. Why bother trying. I am not worth the bother.

Subtle yet powerful magic

The person who is uttering these statements is essentially giving their power over to the emotional experience they are having. When in fact their emotional thoughts are LYING to them.

Their thoughts are trying to “hook their attention.” To make them play this insidious game where the thoughts take over and control the person’s choices and behaviors. But here’s the cool thing.

The magic is an illusion


As soon as you call the emotional thinking’s bluff it loses its power.  Sometimes counselors call this “THOUGHT LABELING” This is the process of noticing and recognizing a thought as simply that -a mental manifestation that doesn’t need to be paid attention to or believed because this is what minds do. They create a lot of chatter. Anything to cause you to lose your focus and go off on one of their tangents.

So it goes something like this:

“Oh no, I am so nervous, I am totally going to screw up this presentation.”

Totally normal instantaneous feeling and thought progression. One that can be acknowledged and accepted for a typical human experience when presenting. But your power is in saying;

“I am having a nervous feeling about this presentation.”

Stop and replay that

“Oh no, I am so nervous, I am totally going to screw up this presentation.”  


“I am having a nervous feeling about this presentation.”

Can you hear and feel the difference?  It’s subtle. But it’s powerful.

The second sentence is simply describing an experience.

The experience is NOT WHO YOU ARE!

Let that sink in a minute

I am NOT my anxiety.

I am NOT my anger.

I am NOT my depression.

I experience anxiety, anger and depression.

As do most humans. It’s a human experience. It is not what makes me who I am

Don’t believe everything you think!

The words we choose to use have the power to create the story or narrative that frames our choices and actions. If we believe we are our emotions then it makes sense to follow the emotion to its logical conclusion. But if we recognize that our way of describing our experience can alter our experience of it, then we are more powerful than we know.

And this is where you have a choice.  Anxiety usually tells us to run and hide and occasionally to stay and fight. You could do that. But every time you obey the anxious voice in your head, you grow it’s power over you.  


You could simply acknowledge the anxious voice - “Oh Hi Anxiety, nice of you to pop in. Yeah I want to do a good job too. Thanks for the heads up. Now quiet down while I do this!”  

And then take a deep breath and do what you need to do in the moment. Do that presentation. When the anxious voice shows up, tell it to be quiet -without paying attention to WHAT it is saying. The WHAT- the content is what draws us in and gets us stuck.  

You don’t need to cave to that anxious voice. You don’t need to obey your anxious, angry, depressed thoughts. You are not that which you are experiencing. The emotion will move on when it sees it’s not getting your attention anymore.  

A word of warning; there may be a period of time when that anxious voice turns up the volume and seems to get worse, because it is in it’s death throes-trying anything to stay relevant.  But keep on doing what you’re supposed to do and eventually anxiety will realize it has lost.

So here is my challenge for you 

  1. Start paying attention to the chatter in your head. See if you can see any patterns or lines of chatter that frequent your thoughts.

  2. Begin to label your thought with “I am having the thought that…” or “I am having a feeling that…”

  3. See if you can describe your experience in as few words as possible, no judging words allowed  (good/bad, best/worst, right/wrong, awful, can’t stand, crazy, die etc)

  4. See if you can change your language to help you take a step back and observe what it is you are thinking, feeling or experiencing.

  5. Notice if changing your language changes your experience to something more neutral. Note more neutral doesn’t mean the experience will no longer happen, it just means you may find you have more energy to handle whatever comes your way.

  6. Notice if the duration of your emotional experience becomes shorter and easier to handle.

As with all habits, practice will create skill and skill will build better resilience.  With this practice you can then say - Anxiety? No problem!