The other night I was telling my therapist how I was dreading going to a friend’s party. I wanted to go to the party. I wanted to show up for my friend. But, I also had a lot of reasons not to. There would be many people there. There would be many people there that I didn’t know. What it all boiled down to, was me not wanting to go to a friend’s event because of my social anxiety.
Then, my therapist said something that really resonated with me. The way I’ve been living my life, is with my anxiety sitting in the drivers seat. Not only has my anxiety metaphorically been sitting in the driver’s seat but it has also been driving me around and controlling everything I do. My anxiety has been controlling my thoughts, my decisions, my life, and ultimately me. My anxiety had become the largest factor in deciding whether or not I would do something, and whether or not I would spend time with a close friend.
My anxiety was controlling me and doing a great job at it!
However, my therapist next encouraged me that we could turn this around. I wasn’t stuck in this state, and I wouldn’t have to live my life, passenger to my anxiety, forever. She vowed we could work until I was the one sitting in the drivers seat, my anxiety the passenger, and they’d pay for it!
There was some comedic relief envisioning me taking control of the car, getting into the drivers seat, making my anxiety be a passenger, and making them pay for the ride. However, the intention is solid, and my therapist was right.
Anxiety, like stress, might not be something we can overcome. It is not something we can be cured of. But it is something that can be compartmentalized and towards which our perspectives can shift.
It is possible for us to learn that we can control our anxiety rather than let it control us.
And I want to share this with anyone living with anxiety. It feels like a true monster at times. But with practice and dedication to treatments like therapy, anxiety becomes a monster that can be calmed, tamed, and ultimately put in the passengers seat.
Anxiety, like stress, might be a natural part of life, and it can be helpful to our human experience at times. However, the trick to dealing with anxiety is in retaining our position in the driver’s seat and anxiety’s place in the passenger seat. That way we retain control of our lives and control of our anxiety. And ultimately can live the way we want to. Not the way our anxiety wants us to.