When obtrusive or anxious thoughts come knocking, sometimes in the middle of the night, or at 4 am, or whenever something unknown triggers us,” fight or flight” may not be the most helpful response. Fear and running from anxiety do not work. What if we looked at an anxious feeling and invited it in for questioning instead of trying to overtalk it with food, a drink, video games, or one of the many addictive things we do to override what is causing discomfort?
Anxious thoughts keep coming until we address them. What is the thought trying to tell us? Is it a warning or a reminder of something else that happened before and threatens possible repetition? Where is the thought being felt in the body? The head, the throat, the stomach, the back? What is the thought symbolically acting out to get our attention?
Inviting a thought in instead of overriding it may settle the matter once and for all when we face something that causes distress. Does this thought have a basis in reality? Is it likely to happen? What possible good information may be coming to us? What can we do to honor what we are hearing or is this a case of just showing it the door?
One of the blessings of therapy is being able to talk through our worst fears in a safe environment and, most importantly, not alone. Once the threatening thought or worry is met and greeted, it is amazing how diminished it becomes. Sometimes unhelpful thoughts and subsequent anxious feelings get the message and do not seem to be obliged to return or be entertained if they do.