One of the biggest fears that people with anxiety have is that there is something seriously wrong with them. They then become more anxious about the fact that they think they’re not normal and there’s something seriously wrong that needs fixing. This can turn into a vicious spiral.
Every one of us has thousands of random thoughts passing through our minds every day. None of us can completely control our minds, not even the greatest Zen masters. Most of us have little to no control of what thoughts, feelings and emotions ‘pop up’ for us.
Also, everybody occasionally has deep, dark, scary thoughts. This is a normal part of how our minds work. The problems start when we get ‘hooked’ and carried away by these thoughts – we find ourselves ‘on the donkey’s back’. Becoming ‘hooked’ and carried away by those thoughts is the problem, not the thought itself. Learning to get off the donkey, to unhook ourselves from the thoughts is the way to get your life back. However, this is a mindfulness skill, which takes time to learn and practise.
Consider it this way. If you are an ordinary car driver and you took your vehicle onto a rally track driving at high-speed, then you would probably only survive a few minutes before you crashed out of control. This is because you’ve not learned and practised the skills to control a car that is out of control most of the time. An experienced rally driver has spent thousands of hours practising to drive a car that is actually out-of-control a lot of the time. They don’t give it a second’s thought; they intuitively know what to do, they know how to respond to it and it has become automatic for them. They don’t let an incredibly frightening experience undermine their ability to do what’s needed to manoeuvre swiftly out of trouble.
The same is going to be true with your mind. Most of us have not yet learned the skills needed to manoeuvre confidently through life with a mind that’s skidding anxiously out of control most of the time. With mindfulness, you can develop the skill to unhook from these scary thoughts within moments of them arising. Then you can refocus your thoughts and actions around doing something you value.
In those rare circumstances where there is a medical or physical cause of the anxiety, mindfulness is still an excellent choice. Just because somebody has identified a physical problem doesn’t mean there isn’t something that can be done to make the situation better. In my experience mindfulness makes the overall experience of life much better, however difficult the circumstances.