One of my favorite therapeutic techniques is externalization. It’s the process by which we separate our issues from ourselves. This comes naturally for those with diabetes, as I often see references to “the diabetes monster” or other images or language to embody diabetes. But I do this a lot with anxiety.
I often describe anxiety as a sincere yet horribly misguided friend. Anxiety wants to help you. It wants to protect you. It wants to save you. It wants you to be happy. But in reality, it knows shit about being happy. It’s too afraid, and it wants you to be afraid too because it thinks you’ll be safer that way and safe means happy. Except for all the times when it doesn’t. Which is often.
It’s hard to argue with anxiety. Many of my clients have a hard time challenging their cognitive distortions or negative self-talk because it’s so darn convincing. Anxiety is really convincing and sometimes anxiety actually does keep us safe or gave us the heads up and so we think it’s trust-worthy.
Anxiety, like depression, can have its place. Anxiety can keep us safe. Depression can be a normal response to sad things. But sometimes we hear messages from Anxiety or Depression (or Diabetes or Loneliness or Guilt) that are lies. Sometimes they go above and beyond what is healthy and appropriate. Those are the times we can say:
I understand, Anxiety, that you want to keep me safe. I understand that you think this will help. But I’ve been down this road and it’s not working out for me anymore. I need to try something new. I may not know what that is right now, but I need to explore what my choices are.
What do you want to say to your Anxiety?