Welcoming and studying anxiety

Andy Puddicombe May 23, 2014

Welcoming and studying anxiety

Missed part one? Read it here

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In the second part of our blog, we use mindfulness to examine anxiety more closely. If you missed the first part, check it out here -- In our previous blog on how to deal with anxiety, we talked about approaching the emotion in a logical way using the Rational Approach.

So now we should have a feel of where anxiety comes from, and why it can be hard to shake. If the Rational Approach alone has allowed you to step away from your pattern of anxiety, that’s fantastic. You could choose to stop the journey here. But if you’re not quite there yet, or you’d like to go a little further into reducing, or simply understanding anxiety, in our next step, we need to turn detective.

Step Two - The Investigative Approach. Welcoming and studying anxiety 

Having already worked through the Rational Approach to anxiety, we should have a good idea of its mechanics – how it builds and perpetuates. Now, we can investigate it.

The Investigative Approach requires us to witness our anxiety in a very particular way. Instead of thinking about ‘you’ or ‘me’, we just need to observe our anxiety as it is – a natural phenomenon.

What is it?
Where does it come from?
Where do I feel it?
What does it feel like?

We need to discover the answers to these questions, but hurrying or forcing them in a rush to put the mind at ease will only cause more thinking, and that’s not helpful in this exercise. So, firstly, it’s crucial we have a genuine interest in discovering the answers, simply for the sake of knowing.

Only by approaching with this curious attitude will we create a true and long-lasting shift in perspective over anxiety, and that’s just what we’re looking for. Secondly, we need to be brutally honest with ourselves and avoid being biased in our investigation.

Because, if we’re only investigating in the hope that our anxiety will stop – we’re not truly investigating, in fact we’re resisting. The difference is really subtle and it’s very easy for us to deceive ourselves. Being open, honest and genuinely interested in what we find out is the key here, no matter whether this brings us more, less or the same level of anxiety. It’s the process that’s more important than the result. You could say the process is the result. Just remember, when you’re investigating something as delicate as the mind, you must be gentle.

However much you want to discover answers, don’t apply too much pressure or effort. Instead, aim to welcome the feeling of anxiety, because the more we can welcome it, the easier it will be to investigate. And that’s what’s most beautiful about the Investigative Approach, because by welcoming anxiety, it moves from something to resist, to something we can embrace.

A Word of Caution

This approach is very effective. However, it’s easy to too get caught up in more thought. Combining it with step three, the Vulnerable Approach – featured in our final Anxiety blog – is extremely effective and completes our journey to reducing anxiety.

Andy Puddicombe

 

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ddearn

July 11, 2014

Having suffered with anxiety for many years I can testify that this Investigative approach really works. It's only when I stopped resisting being anxious, and applied a gentle curiosity, that my anxieties fizzled out. - It really works !