Anxiety and worry are common and something that many of us deal with, at some level, almost every day. When we get lost in fearful emotions, it is easy to lose sight of what matters most—what we want to create in life.
These anxiety-based emotions become like a trance and you hunker down into old reactive habits. When this happens, there is a natural tendency to go on “autopilot,” which fuels the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT) reactive roles of Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer.
You may become your worst critic and feel victimized to your worry, then look for something to numb or distract you from your anxiety—and our cultures are full of ways for distraction and numbing out! It will drain your energy and creativity if you are not able to recognize the pattern and learn to let go.
The good news is that everyone has the capacity to learn to let go.
Letting go begins by noticing what your mind is focusing on and skillfully redirecting your thinking. It also requires that you observe the suffering that your thoughts are causing you, otherwise there will be little motivation for you to let go.
The first step to letting go of anxiety is to simply notice your thinking… while you are thinking. This allows you to be more aware in the moment and to watch with compassion the mixed emotions that arise from your thoughts.
Pause for three minutes right now and “listen” to your thoughts come and go. You may notice dozens of mini-thoughts arising. Some thoughts go down a meandering path and expand, while others simply disappear. That is the nature of the shifting sands of your mind. Noticing how your thoughts come and go, without judging them, is a huge first step toward letting go.
As you practice being aware of your thoughts, the second step is to notice a quality of liking or disliking what you are thinking about. Do you like the background sounds of your environment? Do you like the temperature? Are you annoyed by the sound of the traffic? Do you dislike the person talking to you? (And on and on…)
You may like something, so you want more of it. When you dislike something, you want less of it. If you are not aware of this constant appraisal going on in your thinking, you are at high risk of feeling like a Victim to the emotions that get stuck in your body which result from your unconscious appraising.
You cannot let go of something unless you recognize it. Once you see the attachments to your liking or disliking judgements, you can acknowledge them before they gain momentum and overwhelm you. It is difficult to let go if you have not acknowledged in the first place the thinking that induced the anxiety.
In summary here are tips to learn to let go:
- When you feel anxiety arise, stop, take a deep breath, and ask yourself, “What am I focusing on in this moment?”
- Drop your resistance to your mind as a constantly thinking machine and, instead, simply notice your thoughts as they rise and fall without taking them so seriously.
- Notice the subtle nature of what you like or dislike as a result of your thinking.
- As you become more aware of how your thinking and appraisal system works, you gain distance and freedom from automatic reoccurring thoughts that create your anxiety in the first place.
You are learning to let go! Once you do, as a Creator, you can then make an empowered choice in response to the situation. You will become more aware of what you really care about that evokes your passion and joy.