Anxiety is miserable. And most people reach for a pill or push it away to reduce it. But if we think of anxiety as a signal or as the tip of an iceberg, we can take steps to more permanently ease it. Anxiety tells us deep biological programs called core emotions have been triggered out of conscious awareness. These core emotions are designed by evolution to be felt and expressed. When we push them away, we feel anxiety.
Learning about core emotions and how they work in the mind and body is the most important thing we can do to change anxiety. Tools like the Change Triangle guide us to name our core emotions. Emotional conflicts can be more effectively dealt with when we can identify and work with the underlying divergent emotional experiences.
What follows is an explanation of two techniques I teach my psychotherapy clients and participants in the Emotions Education 101 class I teach:
Technique #1: Identify both sides of your conflict and speak them in your mind with an "and" instead of a "but." For examples:
I love you AND right now I’m so angry at you that I feel like I hate you.
I feel sad AND happy.
I am depressed and I know I am lucky in many ways.
I am lonely AND I prefer to be alone.
Summary: Name and validate when you have anxiety, look for any underlying conflicts, validate each side of the conflict with an "and" instead of a "but." Notice how that feels.