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Ending the Tug-of-War with Anxiety

Posted on February 13, 2014

“Experience has shown that, ironically, it is often our very attempts to solve the problem that, in fact, maintain it. The attempted solutions become the true problem.” – Giorgio Nardone

If you struggle with anxiety, it may seem like you’ve been fighting a tug-of-war with a team of anxiety “monsters” pulling at one end of the rope and you pulling at the other end. Yet, no matter how hard you’ve pulled to defeat these monsters, they always come back stronger, pulling harder. It may look like there is nothing else you can do while you’re engaged in this sort of battle – you’ve got both hands firmly clenching the rope, and your feet are dug in, stuck in the same position. Back and forth it goes. You’re stuck in an endless and exhausting fight for your life, or so it seems.

Your options may appear limited in this situation. Yet you do have other options. Now, your mind may suggest that you pull harder, try harder, or dig in more. Maybe your mind suggests that there is a better medication or a new coping strategy that will give you the strength to win. But here’s another option – you don’t need to win this fight. This may seem like a really strange idea… AND it’s a potentially vital idea too, because it will allow you to consider this: what would happen if you decided to stop fighting against your anxiety? Think about that. Suppose you just decided to surrender and drop the rope. As you connect with this possibility, notice what happens to your hands and feet – they’re free – and you’ve regained some space and options that were impossible while you were in the middle of the battle, because you’re now positioned to use your hands, feet, and mind for something other than fighting your anxiety.

To help you see how you might play out this new option in your life, imagine that something or someone that you deeply care about was on the sidelines next to the tug-of-war battle, watching and waiting for you and the fight to finish. Suppose it was your child waiting for a hug, or a friend wanting to spend time with you. Or perhaps it was a project or a holiday. See if you can visualise that important thing in your life that is just waiting…waiting for you to finish fighting your anxiety.

Now, let’s have a closer look at what happens when you drop the rope. The anxiety monsters haven’t gone away just because you’ve stopped fighting. They’re still there, taunting you with the rope, hoping that you take the bait and take hold for another round. And you certainly could do that. Or you could decide to keep your hands and feet free so that you can use them to engage in something that you care about – those activities and relationships watching and waiting on the sidelines.

Dropping the rope and ending the struggle creates a window. If you aren’t consumed with reducing and controlling anxiety, avoiding the next panic attack, stemming the tide of another painful memory, or putting out disturbing thoughts or worry, then you create a window of opportunity, and you create space to move towards the life you’ve put on hold. When you drop the rope, you are free. So, what do you want your life to stand for? Why do you keep struggling with anxiety, hurt, and pain when it costs you so much? You can take back your life from anxiety without controlling anxious thoughts and feelings, and at Creating Connection, Brisbane Psychologist Felicity Farmer can help you find fresh alternatives to the tug-of-war with your anxiety by learning to nurture your capacity for acceptance, mindfulness, and compassion, and to use these qualities to shift your focus away from anxiety and onto what you really want your life to be about. As you do, your life will get bigger as your anxious suffering gets smaller. No matter what kind of anxiety problem you’re struggling with, we can help guide you toward a more vibrant and purposeful life, so contact us today on 1300 484 711 or email for an appointment.

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“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf”

- Joseph Goldstein

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