Anxiety loves to keep us distracted by keeping our focus on the external “threat.” It thrives here. It also thrives off staying vague.
For example, the brain perceiving that getting up on stage in front of a large audience is a threat (maybe the most common fear). The vague fear might be: “I’ll get nervous!”
It’s common to just stop there though and assume getting nervous would be awful. But, it can be helpful for many people to make anxiety get specific:
- Why would getting nervous be so bad? “Because other people will notice!”
- Ok, and why is that so bad? “Because then they’ll think something is wrong with me!”
- Ok, and if that happens, then what? “They might all start laughing and pointing at me!”
- Definitely uncomfortable, but then what after that? “They’ll all reject me!”
- And? “I just won’t be able to handle it! I won’t be able to cope.”
As we continue, we slowly start to expose anxiety’s flawed assumptions and lies. This doesn’t make anxiety go away instantly, but it does gives us the courage to continue on with the things we value despite the anxiety being present.
Vague fear —> less control over our behavior —> more anxiety, long-term
More specificity —> more control over our behavior —> less anxiety, long-term