Friday, October 8, 2010

The Anxiety/Stress Management Myth

This one is the most damaging, fueled by the culture of feel good-ism. These conventions set up emotional physical pain as barriers to a life lived well. The message is "in order to live better, I must first think and feel better. And once I start thinking and feeling better, my life will improve for the better". This is a trap.

The bait for the trap is the emotional and psychological pain you experience with anxiety, panic, unwanted thoughts, or memories. In your mind, this pain isn't just pain. It's bad pain Your mind has judged it as unacceptable and has linked it with not being able to do what you care about. When anxiety and pain show up you go after it to make it go away or to weaken it. You also do this or that to prevent that bad pain from showing up in the future, and on it goes.

Time spent trying to manage and control anxiety is time and energy away from doing things that you care deeply about... So "anxiety management" and control actually double your pain: on top of the pain of more anxiety (the relief from it only very temporary), you also get the pain of loss or regret. You get the other pain when you fail to do something that really matters to you. Both forms of pain are a natural consequence of fighting a battle with your unpleasant thoughts and feelings.

Research studies have shown as much too: when you don't want anxious thoughts and feelings, you'll get more of them. And the more you don't want them, the more you're stuck with them.

Exercises in this book are designed to help you recognize the anxiety management and control myth for what it is -- a rigged, no-win game that has brought much unnecessary suffering to your life. You can avoid getting sucked into the anxiety trap by learning not to take the bait. You can learn to live better without first having to think and feel better. You can learn to bring comfort to the unpleasant experiences your mind and body are serving up and do what matters to you.

The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety ~ John P. Forsyth & Georg H. Eifert (Myths about Anxiety and its Disorders pp.62-64)


  1. yes, you'll get more anxious thoughts by not wanting them, for 'what you resist persists' (though I forgot who this quote is from..).

    thanks for blogging... :)

  2. According to Marshall Rosenberg's Non-Violent Communication, any feeling Is an opportunity to foster respect. Respect for those who may be having a feeling. Respect for oneself if the case applies. In a functional psychology, if the feeling reflects a need not being met it is sometimes mistaken as an unwanted feeling -fear, anxiety, panic. One can pursue what one wants in life in light of understanding what needs are not met and this makes the feelings essential for functioning. in a non-functional psychology, a person with overwhelming anxiety and hence an urgency of needs to be met - needs much more attention from the self and others to get those needs met. Colors on the spectrum. It has been a long time since I read much you wrote - love it. Thanks! -Sivani

  3. I know you didn't write that but was reading your wall! Sivani