A 10-Step Guide to Uncovering the Wisdom in Anxious Thoughts

Peaceful Woman

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” ~Pema Chodron

Contained within your fears is genuine wisdom waiting to be discovered. Don’t underestimate this.

In order to tap into this wisdom, you must interview your fears, meeting them with curiosity and compassion. Allow them to speak their wisdom to you. Listen deeply; get into the details in order pin down exactly what they are trying to communicate. Honor whatever it is you find.

You see, these fears are like little children. They will kick and scream until you meet them with empathy. So do just that. Meet them with your full attention, sincerity, focus, and honest inquiry.

They will calm back down to their submissive, lovable, true state of being. And what’s more, they will teach you something you do not yet know.

Your fears carry wise messages that, over time, will lead you to your purpose, and happiness.

Now, let’s begin.

Answer the following questions. Go through this exercise, answering each and every question for each and every fear that is triggering anxiety.

Begin with the thought that is bothering you most, or is the most pervasive in your mind.

Anxious or Negative Thought #1: ___________________________

1. Have you been faced with this thought before?

2. Did you die?

3. If you did not die, then what was the outcome?

This question enables you to build upon the facts. It is almost always true that our fears will never manifest into reality. They tend to be made up events in our mind that have never actually happened and most likely never will.

Recalling the factual outcome of past anxious thoughts helps you realize that what you fear is only a false scenario, existing only in your mind; it is not actually real.

4. What were you doing before the thought arose in your mind?

For example, what were you reading, viewing, saying, doing, eating, and with whom were you interacting? What emotions or feelings were created?

5. How do you want to feel?

6. What can you do right now, in this very moment to feel the way you want to feel?

Find positive, factual examples that contradict your fearful thought and support a deeper, meaningful, life-giving perspective in accordance with how you want to feel.

7. What can you do throughout this day/night to feel the way you want to feel?

8. How do you feel now?

9. What is this thought teaching you?

10. Based on your inquiries above, what do you believe is the deeper message? What have you learned?

Now take this deeper message to arrive at a positive affirmation. Speak this affirmation to yourself throughout this day or week.

I used to, and sometimes still do, have trouble sleeping. It would give me the worst anxiety. So here is an example of how I have reasoned through it using the steps above:

Anxious or Negative Thought #1: Will I sleep tonight? Or, I hope I sleep tonight.

Here is my self-inquiry…

1. Have I been faced with this thought before?

Yes, many times.

2. Was the outcome death?

No, I am still here. Thankfully.

3. Since I didn’t die, what happened the last time I had this thought? What are facts?

I grew more and more anxious the sooner bedtime drew near. I was scared I wouldn’t be able to sleep and I’d end up being exhausted the next day. These thoughts accelerated my anxiety, and made me feel jittery, off balance, and even more restless. I couldn’t sleep and lay awake all night.

4. What was I doing before I had this thought and what was the state of my emotional environment?

I was reading a magazine and came across an article about insomnia. It sparked extreme anxiety in me, as I quickly began to jump to conclusions in my mind that I had insomnia.

The “what if’s” started to invade my mind asking questions like, “What if I had insomnia? What if I never sleep well again?” The questions created a burning sensation in my chest, I felt tingly and overcome in fear.

5. How do I want to feel right now?

I want to feel at peace. I want to feel calm in my heart and mind. I want to be at rest with my thoughts and reward my body and soul with a good night’s sleep so that I can feel ready to accomplish whatever tomorrow brings and share my light with the world.

6. What can I do in this very moment to feel the way I want to feel?

At this moment I can and will focus on the fact that I have been here before and have always made it through. I can remind myself that I have gone days with no sleep many times before and I am still among the living. Not just living, I am thriving.

I have slept amazing on more occasions than not and I love the feeling of waking up feeling fully refreshed.

7. What can I additionally do throughout this day and night to feel the way I described above?

Tonight I can and will go to bed really early and see how it goes. I can read my book, remember how much love I have in my life, and express love toward myself in the form of surrender and acceptance of what is. I can reminisce on things I have to look forward to. I can meditate.

8. How do I feel now?

I feel less pressure. I feel sort of accepted by myself, cared for, and less stressed. I don’t feel as much anxiety; my breath is getting deeper, longer.

I feel a wave of peace washing over me. I also feel supported by the tools I can use to help me along the way. With each night, I am gaining faith that this too shall pass.

9. What is this thought teaching me?

These sleepless nights teach me the importance of relaxation, positive self-talk, and quiet personal time. When I do sleep well tonight, or some other night, I will write down how/what I was feeling that night as a point of reference in my mind. I think that is the biggest teaching.

10. What is the deeper message behind all this? What have I learned?

I think the deeper message is to always keep moving forward. Focus on the positive and those things that bring me peace. Keep on growing and know that “this too shall pass”.

My affirmation: Just as the sun always rises in the morning, strong and steady, so shall I.

This exercise is designed to stop your mind from racing. It will break the trance you’re in—hypnotized by the river of your fears.

As you meditate on each specific, maybe even repetitive and mundane thought, you are able to quiet the inner chatter. Through placing singular focus on one fearful thought at time, fully addressing it and gathering the information you need, you are able to see beyond the fear.

You will come to find that each fearful thought contains wise tidbits of information—lessons that you can implement into your life. Once implemented, the fear is no more. You have met it with acceptance, understanding, and meaningful action. You have become one with it.

So often it happens that our negative thoughts operate on autopilot. One simple fear sparks a fire that quickly leads to an inferno, and pretty soon you’re burning.

One negative event, failure, or tiny little fearful thought can snowball into broad generalizations. You begin questioning your worth, intelligence, health, well-being, and existence based on one obstacle in the road.

Reprogramming is, in essence, turning the autopilot off and allowing for a change in course. However, this takes time. Be patient with yourself.

This exercise, along with other tools you consistently implement into your life, will work in small ways to course-correct.

Through gentle introspection, interviewing your fears, and gathering important information, you are able to move forward with a soul-centered perspective onto the road of purpose, happiness, and life-fulfillment.

Peaceful woman image via Shutterstock

About Brittney Van Matre

Brittney Van Matre is a recovered worrier, writer, travel addict, spirituality seeker, and self-discovery expert. After spending six years in a perpetual state of worry, she “overcame” crippling panic through self-designed tools and world travel. She has since traveled to over 25 different countries, relocated to Amsterdam, and is determined to help guide other anxious women on an inner journey toward their own healed perceptions.

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