The Real Reason for Your Anxious Thoughts



By: Patrick Stiles

When did you last feel extreme anxiety, panic or worry?

Go into the emotion.

What’s underneath it?

Now before we go further… I want to say that facing down your anxiety will not kill you. Even if you get an EXTREME surge of anxiety that feels overpowering.

What is the emotion underneath? What is in the very core of this feeling of anxiety? Nervousness? Worry?

For me… Normally it is one thing: Fear.

Do you feel this when you go into your anxiety?

Like fear of finances, work, the future, obsessing over the past and overanalyzing it. Narrating the present moment, judging, comparing and projecting.

If so, what are you REALLY afraid of?

For me, when I was living the Corporate American dream of workaholism in my mid-twenties, I was terrified of not-making it.

Not getting it right. Desperately trying to prove my worth with my net worth.

Chasing other people’s definitions of success because I thought that would make me happy. And if I had the envy of others around me, then I thought that meant I would have arrived.

I’d be happy. I’d be worth respect. I’d have proved I was worthy. In every sense of the word.

My story is too long for this article, but I’ll tell you this: peace is not found in a promotion or in money. Or what other people think of you.

But you already know this. At some level.

We’ve all heard it – money doesn’t buy happiness.

And you probably have very different fear and anxiety drivers.

But in my experience… Fear is usually the primal emotion buried underneath your anxiety.

Everyone is afraid of things – whether it is not being good enough, not lovable enough, or not making a better life for their kids.

It is like we’re so afraid to make a mistake with our lives, like there is only one want to be human.

The tricky thing about anxiety, panic, worry and fear is that they mask themselves as fear and anxiety about things that they really are not about.

Are you really worried about a promotion or your bills?

Sure they seem like big deals… What will happen if you don’t get that promotion?

I used to go to thoughts of being homeless at such a question.

For you maybe it is being alone for the rest of your life, some terrible outcome for your kids, or your health (my other favorite topic to obsess over after work and finances).

But what is the true fear?

It isn’t being fired either. (Trust me, being fired is a great experience in the big scheme of life).

But maybe the primal emotion under all this is providing. Surviving. And protecting your family, or being accepted.

If so – welcome to the club of being human. 🙂

You’re not the first person to be afraid of these things.

When you’re not under threat of going into an anxiety attack. Really do go into your latest worries. And ask yourself what is underneath.

Typically we have categories that all tie back to our biological drivers.

Kids & procreating
Providing for our families
And being accepted socially

Ask what is the REALISTIC worst case scenario of what could happen here, if everything went wrong.

Then ask if you can do anything about the matter.

If you can, then making a list and taking action is in order. Even just thinking of your options will help you feel like you’re gaining power over your worries.

And if you can’t let it go. Knowing that is your brain (aka the “fear factory”) running a muck with your thoughts.

If your thoughts are persistent, or when you feel a previously obsessive fear creeping up, a strong affirmation can help put it in its place.

Something like:

“Everything is okay.”
“I’m healthy.”
“I’m fine.”

Those are the 3 mantras (if you will) I’ve developed over the years to keep my head straight in these situations.

Post below to let me know how you get a handle on your obsessive thoughts and fears. And what is underneath your anxiety.


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