Anxiety is defined as “painful or apprehensive uneasiness of the mind usually over an impending or anticipated ill; fearful concern or interest;…an abnormal or overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.” (1)
When anxiety takes over, you are propelled out of the realm of the probable and into the improbably. Anxiety accelerates the common into the cataclysmic at rapid speed. Anxiety, then, is produced not by what you actually experience but what you tell yourself; your thoughts determine your reality. When those thoughts are anxious, anxiety is what you’ll experience, no matter what is really happening. What you tell yourself — your thought-life — matters.
Everyone has a thought-life, the inner dialogue that goes on in your head. Some people barely recognize those thoughts are there, running in the background of their lives. Others experience their thought-life as a semi-audible conversation, inhabited with the voices and messages of people from their past and present.
Anxious people spend a great deal of time in the what-if world. Once anxiety is triggered, a person can go from zero (calm) to sixty (panicked) in seconds, generally through a series of rapid-fire inner questions with correspondingly dire answers:
- What could happen? = The worst
- What does it mean? = Disaster
- What will happen to me? = Something horrible
In the rush to anxious judgement, there’s rarely time to investigate those questions. Are they even valid? Where do those questions come from? When your thought-life naturally defaults to disaster, you will naturally experience disaster.
One of the ways to combat such a thought-life is to intentionally push out the negative with the positive. “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things” (Philippians 4:8). When you turn your thought-life toward God — who is all these things — you take the focus off of you and your disasters.
Behind the panic of anxiety is a storehouse of hidden assumptions. Uncovering this trove of assumptions, then, becomes vital to understanding the basis for anxiety. People with anxiety spend so much time dealing with the present consequences of their anxiety, they seldom have the time or energy to go back to the root causes — those hidden assumptions. Because these assumptions remain hidden, they take on the mantle of fact. But as assumption is not necessarily a fact.
An assumption is something taken for granted. Things taken for granted tend to bypass serous inspection. The hidden assumptions behind anxiety are no different. They become part of a personal lexicon of absolutes. With anxiety, however, these absolutes are negative and create a pervasive climate of negativity. People are different, with different hidden assumptions undergirding their thought-life but, for anxious people, I have found a common thread:
- I do not have the skills or ability to overcome this problem.
- I am not good enough or strong enough to overcome this problem.
- Because I’m a failure, others will reject me.
It’s time to switch to a different channel and change your thought-life. For too long, you have been listening to your own voice of fear that is coloring your world. The monster you’ve been feeding is loud and demanding. God is bigger than your fears and more powerful than your monster. He knows good things will happen, because he has promised those good things; and when God promises, he delivers.
Fill up your mind, heart, and soul with positive, uplifting messages. Surround yourself with positive messages that you can hear and see as constant reminders of God’s love and care for you.
If you or a loved one is struggling with anxiety, The Center • A Place of HOPE can help. Call 1-888-771-5166 / 425-771-5166 today and a specialist will answer any questions you might have.