How to Visualize Your Anxiety
In a previous post we discussed briefly what it means to visualize your anxious symptoms. Giving your anxiety a face is a powerful way to begin to make peace with it. Anxiety about everyday things like making rent, public speaking, and starting a new job are normal until they begin controlling your emotions. Anxiety is defined as, “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” What we know about anxiety is that thoughts regarding the source of our anxiety only perpetuate the feelings of anxiety. When we fret about being anxious we become more anxious. When we worry about having a panic attack we are more likely to have one.
Because anxiety is such an amorphous and abstract entity it can be helpful to visualize it as a person or a thing. If your anxiety was a person what would they look like? Would they be male or female? Tall or short? What would their voice sound like? What color hair would they have? Maybe they aren’t even a person. Perhaps your anxiety is a black cloud that looms above you. Maybe it looks like the grim reaper. Whatever your anxiety “looks like” to you just visualize its appearance.
Once you’ve created this visualization imagine yourself in the place that causes you this anxiety. If you have insomnia maybe this is your bed. If you fear public speaking this can be the business meeting where you present projects to your clients. Once you place yourself in this setting take note of the feelings that arise. You’ll notice you get anxious just picturing yourself there. Now it’s time to bring in your anxiety. Literally walk to the door (remember you’re visualizing this) and let your anxiety inside. Shake its hand and invite it in to sit down. Talk with it. Ask it any questions you might have. You’re essentially just having a conversation with yourself and you’ll notice this technique works in an interesting way to get to the root of a lot of your anxious issues. Why does your anxiety behave a certain way? What can you learn about it?
Over time the anxiety during this visualization won’t seem so daunting or scary anymore. It’s no longer just an abstract feeling you get but rather something sitting right in front of you. The goal of this exercise is to make peace with your anxiety so that the next time it comes knocking you can happily open the door.