What if your thoughts aren’t correct? What if they aren’t really even the truth? Thoughts are not events. They are not objective; they are subjective.
OBJECTIVE VS. SUBJECTIVE THOUGHT
In the world of anxiety, there is a vast difference between the objective and the subjective.
Objective means something most people would agree upon. The dictionary definition of objective is “in the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers: having reality independent of the mind.” Objective things have a reality independent of the mind because the mind can, sometimes, really mess things up.
Subjective is the opposite of objective. The word subjective means “characteristic of or belonging to reality as perceived rather than as independent mind.”
So there is a reality to what happens that is independent of what you think about it. For many people, this is a foreign concept. Truth, to them, consists of their impressions, thoughts, opinions, biases, feelings, and assumptions. I think, therefore it is. Subjective thoughts are perfectly suited to feed the monster. The thoughts are yours; the monster is yours. The subjective thoughts you feed your monster are tailor-made to strengthen it.
This is not easy for some people to accept. Their subjective perceptions are so strong that they drown out objective reality. These people live within a world of delusion where what they think will happen will, even if all evidence points to the contrary. It is a world where the subjective crowds out the objective. It is a world of monsters and terrors and things that go bump in the night.
Now, granted, not everyone with anxiety goes to this extreme. There are some people who actually believe false things are true; we call them delusional and obsessive thinkers. There are other people who merely fear that false things are true; we call them anxious, worried, concerned, overwrought, and stressed.
When anxiety and panic set in, it’s helpful to stop and intentionally calculate the odds of what you fear. Fear lends certainty to even the most far-fetched possibility. How many people die every year of snake or spider bites? The number is astronomically small, yet people live daily with a fear of both. Of the many people who fly every year, how many actually die in plane crashes? Again, the number is extremely small, yet a fear of flying affects a large number of people.
In the midst of feeling anxious, it can be difficult to think objectively, but it is extremely important.
HOW TO BE OBJECTIVE ABOUT YOUR FEARS
If you’re fearful of flying or snakes or spiders, you can always look up the statistical odds of injury or death. Depending on what you fear, however, there may not be any statistics. I
If you’re worried about something like losing your job, you’re going to need to think back over the course of your own life to find the data. For example, how many jobs have you had and how many jobs have you lost? If you have lost jobs in the past, are conditions now the same as they were then?
If you’re worried about something like being humiliated in public, consider how many times you’ve been in a public situation versus how many times you’ve actually been humiliated.
Fear establishes a toehold in your mind, then infiltrates your thoughts, establishing a stronghold in your mind, leading to a stranglehold over your life.
ASKING FOR HELP
Depending on your level of anxiety, you may not be able to work through these calculations on your own. You may need to discuss these issues with a professional counselor, someone trained to walk you through the process and help you separate objective knowledge from your subjective perceptions. If that’s the case, don’t feel bad about it. All of us have issues we have difficulty seeing in our lives because we’re so close to them. It’s why talking things over with trusted family members or friends is invaluable.
The important thing, if you aren’t able to work through this on your own, is to ask for help.
Anxieties breed in secret. Hidden fears intensify. Place your fears outside yourself and you’ll be amazed at how quickly they are reduced to actual size.
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