What do actors do when they get a new script? In my limited theatrical experience, which happened far longer ago than I care to acknowledge, actors get together and do a read-through of the script. Sometimes, an actor is given the entire script and other times, the actor is given parts of the script, which are parceled out as the script is being written. I think the latter is more indicative of life. The scripts of our lives gets parceled out bit by bit, day by day, as events are happening.
When anxiety tries to slip in some of its doom-filled pages, stop and do a quick read-through. Determine what anxiety is trying to say. How does anxiety want you to act? Realize you are not obligated to follow anxiety’s stage directions. Instead, put big, bold X’s through anxiety’s pages.
I’ve seen this technique used in a variety of ways over my tenure as a therapist. One of my favorite examples was of a woman I worked with who argued with herself like an opposing attorney. I’d think there was someone in the office with her, but she was arguing with herself out loud. She’d start by reading out of anxiety’s script and then substitute her own. She played devil’s advocate with anxiety, all the while paying attention to the emotions each position stirred up in her.
There were times in the office (and I’m assuming at home) when she’d need to get out and take a walk, so her back-and-forth with herself wouldn’t be so disruptive for others. I found it a novel way to work through issues. By the time she finished, she’d settled on the script that allowed her to stay positive and move forward in the situation.
Other people find it helpful to run these competing scripts past trusted friends or family. Anxiety has a script, and you are trying to develop a script that’s different; but sometimes you can get confused as to which is correct. Especially with emotional or fearful situation, objectivity can be difficult to find. A third-party review can help you evaluate whether the script you’re writing for yourself will likely produce the results you want. However you manage this, finding the right script for you and your situations is another answer to anxiety.
Write It Out
Some people are auditory processors — they think with their mouths. Other people just aren’t wired that way. If you’re one of the latter types, I suggest you write out your script by hand or on a computer. Journaling your story has great power, especially your struggles between the negatives and the positives at conflict within you. Each time you take time to chronicle a struggle, you contribute to the handbook of how to overcome and succeed the next time. In essence, you write your own self-help book.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer, I encourage you to try journaling, just once. Consider this a baby step. You needn’t write everything down in the moment, but you can choose a time– perhaps when things calm down — to write and reflect on your experience. Put aside any anxiety about penmanship or grammar. Put aside any anxiety about others reading what you’ve written or what you’ve written not being good enough. Put down anxiety and take that baby step!
Once you start the habit of writing your own script, I think you’ll be surprised at the effect of this simple tool. If you’ve been reading from anxiety’s script for a long time, you’ll hear negativity in your head for a time. Hearing that voice doesn’t mean you need to obey that voice. Once that negative script starts, you can, stop it in its tracks and assert your own script, using your own voice.
Think about the type of character you’ve been playing with your anxiety as the director of your life. Then ask yourself the following question: Is that really the type of person you want to be?
Anxiety has written a script where you play the part of a frazzled, anxious, suspicious, irritable, short-tempered, and easily frustrated person. How would your life change if you could change the part you play into a character who is relaxed and not anxious, thoughtful and not reactive, seeing the good instead of pointing out the bad, approachable instead of putting up barriers? How do you want to be perceived by the other players on stage? When you take control of your own script, you determine the part you are going to play and then you act accordingly.
I think you will find that once you start changing your script and resetting your stage, others may find the freedom to change theirs. Every time friends or loved ones have stepped onto your stage in the past, they have entered a darkened, cluttered stage of fear, tripping and falling over your anxieties.
Not only will your stage be much more positive for you, but those who enter your life will also find a much brighter place! Instead of being afraid of what you’ll say or how you’ll react, when you relax, others may relax. Instead of assuming you’ll say no, others may regain the courage to ask to see if you’ll say yes. You never know, but your courage to make such a radical and positive change may encourage someone else to do the same.
If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, The Center • A Place of HOPE is here to help. Contact us today at 1-888-771-5166 and begin the healing process.