Dancing Worries

Worries on the Wind

For many of us, our worrying parts work very hard. If asked, these parts might contend that they are helping us — protecting us, even — by keeping us thinking ahead and preparing us for what could happen. Unfortunately, what our worrying parts do for us, and the intensity with which they do it, both frequently come at a cost — to our physical well-being, and to our peace of mind.

Imagine if these parts had their own sense of performing more extreme roles in our lives than they actually wanted to play. They would be glad to give up some of their responsibilities, if only they felt that they could. To feel free to relax, even just a little, they would want to believe that we no longer needed them to behave in the same old, exhausting ways. In all honesty, such an assessment would be absolutely accurate, wouldn’t it? We really would do fine without all that worry; we might even find ourselves thriving!

Just think: With this understanding, we could negotiate new roles for these long-suffering, worrying parts. They could always return to their old jobs – temporarily – if an experience of anxiety ever really seemed necessary; otherwise, however, they could support us in ways that would leave us feeling much more calm, relaxed, and confident. Perhaps they would want to serve as trusted advisors or consultants, helping us simply to notice what’s around us, and then to consider — rather than fret about — how we want to respond. Freed at last from chronic overwork, liberated from their extreme worrying roles, these parts might celebrate! Wouldn’t you?

What worrying parts of yourself would you like to release? How will you know when you’re ready? How will you proceed?

Featured image credit: Scott Burns Kahler

About Scott Burns Kahler, MA, LMFT, CPC, ELI-MP

Scott Burns KahlerScott is a psychotherapist, life coach, and the founder of Thought Tonic.  He dedicates his work to those who identify themselves as struggling with anxious thinking, and often their self-esteem, to help them experience their lives with greater calm, clarity, and confidence.

Scott maintains a counseling practice in Indianapolis, Indiana, and does coaching in-person, over the telephone, and by Skype.

You can follow Scott and the Thought Tonic blog.  See our Social Media page for options.

Questions?  Contact us.

Limiting Beliefs

What’s Limiting You?

Our thoughts and imaginations are the only real limits to our possibilities.  — Orison Swett Marden

In my last blog post, I introduced the notion that all of us go through our lives wearing pairs of invisible eyeglasses.  The lenses in these glasses, which impact what we see, are made up of the thoughts and beliefs that we have come to hold about ourselves, other people, and the world.  Some of these thoughts are helpful to us (in that they have an anabolic, or positive, influence on our mood, energy, and actions — what is possible for us); others dim our view, and so our experiences of life (the energetic consequences are negative, or catabolic — distracting and draining — with destructive effects on our sense of self, health, work life, and relationships).  In Energy Leadership: Transforming Your Workplace and Your Life from the Core (2008), Bruce D. Schneider identifies examples of what I’m describing here — the thoughts and beliefs of dirty lenses — as four kinds of “energy blocks” (129): limiting beliefs, interpretations, assumptions, and gremlins (with “gremlin” being another way to reference what we often call our inner critic).  In my blog post today, I’d like to explore the first of these blocks — limiting beliefs.

Schneider defines limiting beliefs as ideas that we have about our situations, surroundings, other people, or the world that restrict our sense of what is possible.  Most often, we have come to accept these ideas as true because they are communicated to us as true by some source that we have invested with “authority” — someone we know, the media, or a book we once read, for instance.  As an example of a limiting belief, Schneider references the idea that before 1954, running a mile in under four minutes was considered “impossible” for a human being, and even “dangerous” to attempt (129).  On May 6, 1954, at a meet in Oxford, England, a 25-year-old junior doctor named Roger Bannister ran his way into the record and history books with a time of three minutes and 59.4 seconds.  Schneider contends that such an achievement required Bannister’s rejection of a prevailing and limiting belief of his era, and the creation of a new belief for himself — that running a mile in under four minutes was possible.  While I do not know enough to claim that a sub-four-minute mile was considered impossible and dangerous at the time, it does seem to me that Bannister would have had to believe that breaking the four-minute mile was possible for him (no limiting belief there!); otherwise, would he have even tried?

From my own perspective, another example of a limiting belief that may resonate with many of us who identify ourselves as anxious is the idea that our anxiety is a curse or a wound, something “bad,” a way in which we’re broken (and so “bad” ourselves, perhaps).  As a limiting belief, this idea is more complicated because it is often not simply based on something that we have been told, but on our own personal experiences of emotional and physical pain; moreover, our “gremlin” or inner critic frequently gets involved.  Previously, I have suggested that as valid as the view of anxiety as a curse or a wound may be, given what those of us who experience anxiety can go through, it is not helpful to us (The Gift of Anxiety, 2012).  This particular way of seeing sets up a relationship between us and our anxiety that is dominated by feelings of antipathy, resentment, and fear.  In this kind of relationship, we tend to polarize with our anxiety, identifying it as an enemy and taking up a defensive position against it; as we do so, we generate an even greater amount of tension for ourselves (catabolic energy!), and not the increased sense of calm and confidence that we desire.  Personally, I wonder how our experiences of anxiety might be different if we were able to see anxiety not as a curse or a wound, but as a blessing, a source of healing — a gift.  While I acknowledge that this idea may strike some as sounding ridiculous, at least initially, I get very excited thinking about what a different kind of relationship between us and anxiety this energetically anabolic perspective makes possible, and with this different relationship, what becomes possible for us.

There are several ways for us to challenge our limiting beliefs, whether the beliefs concern how we think about anxiety or anything else in our lives.  These ways may sound very familiar to those of us who are already acquainted with various cognitive-behavioral responses to anxious thinking. First of all, we recognize that we do not have to believe everything we think, that our beliefs are not facts, though we often proceed, of course, as if they do reflect a natural order of things (when we say to ourselves, for example, “That’s just how things are!”).  If we inventory and evaluate the influence that a particular belief has had on our life (look at the cost, and ask ourselves, “Is that all right with me?”), and decide that we want to change what we have been experiencing, we can begin by choosing an alternate belief for ourselves, a way of seeing that helps us rather than hurts us.  We can then examine the evidence for the limiting belief (question the proof of its “truth,” in other words), and ask ourselves questions like, “How true do I believe this idea is … really?” and “Where did this limiting belief come from for me?”  (Schneider, 134).  In answering the first question, we may realize that our “buy-in” to the belief is not as complete as it had seemed; in answering the second, we allow ourselves the opportunity to create a context for the belief, which may help us conceive that we need not see it as fact, but simply as something that we have come to accept as true (and so, as something that we can decide to reject).  We can also explore supporting evidence for the alternate idea that we have developed.  In the midst of all of these responses, it may be helpful for us to keep in mind that we have been seeing through this particular set of lenses for a long time, and we may still initially tend to see (or even look for) what we are used to seeing.  Change takes time.  Or is that just another limiting belief … if it’s not helping us?

Over the next couple of weeks, I invite you to examine the lenses in your own invisible eyeglasses of perception for limiting beliefs.  Look for thoughts and ideas that restrict rather than expand your sense of what is possible, that contribute to moods and behaviors that resonate with catabolic energy, which breaks you down, instead of anabolic energy, which builds you up.  There are times that all of us could use an extra “someone in our corner” who wants us to be able to see all the possibilities for thought, feeling, and action that are available to us, so that we can pick which among these will help us move in the direction that we want to go.  I would like, in some small measure, to help you in this way; perhaps, one day, you will pass the help along to someone else!

How is the way that you are seeing things influencing what is possible for you?  What are alternate thoughts and beliefs that would be more helpful than some of the ones that you are currently using?  How can you “clean your lenses” so that your invisible eyeglasses of perception work for you rather than against you?

Here’s to your increased calm and confidence!

Featured image credit: arcady31 / 123RF Stock Photo

For more ideas about anxious thinking and responses to help us foster a greater sense of calm and confidence, feel free to see other Thought Tonic posts by Scott Burns Kahler, MA, LMFT, ELI-MP at thoughttonic.com; you can follow Scott Burns Kahler, and this blog, via e-mail, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, or RSS feed.  Thank you for reading!

Change Ahead

New Function, New Name, New Look — Same Great Content!

If you have been following my blog, you will notice a number of changes to it in the coming days. In today’s post, I am going to describe and explain the main differences that you will see — in name, look, and function.  I want to try to avoid at least some of the possible confusion that could result from these changes otherwise!

I have decided to use this blog as the front page for a new WordPress Website for my counseling and coaching practices.  As a result, my blog will get a new name — and a brand new look!  You will also notice new pages attached to this blog — pages about the services that I offer, and pages with new information and links to new resources that will complement my posts.

The new name that I have chosen is a response to an evolution in my thinking since I set up the blog and began to publish posts — a growing understanding, I hope I can say, about what draws readers to the blog, and what they find most helpful about it.  I want this blog to have benefit for people!  Originally, I called my blog, “Social Anxiety, Shyness, and Performance Fears,” in a very straightforward reference to some the categories of experience with which I often work in my counseling and coaching practices.  As I have been writing posts, I have found myself enjoying a focus on the kinds of thinking that we can talk about as fueling all sorts of anxious experiences, including those associated with social situations, and exploring ways in which we can respond to such thinking in order to foster different experiences for ourselves.  The idea came to me that what I would like to offer through this blog, and what readers seem to be looking for when they come to it, could be called “thought tonic.”  When I say “tonic,” I refer to something that invigorates, strengthens, restores — or otherwise promotes and supports — our sense of well-being.  What I hope to provide in this blog are thoughts that help us calm our nerves and soothe our self-doubts, thoughts that help us increase our feelings of well-being in terms of emotional balance, self-confidence, and more.  With these notions in mind, I have decided to give my blog the new name of “Thought Tonic.”

I hope that you will enjoy the changes — in function, name, and look — that I will be making to this blog over the next several days.  I also hope that, over the coming weeks and months, you will continue to enjoy the same kind and quality of content that brought you to the blog in the first place.  Please feel free to leave a comment (or to contact me through the custom form that will be coming soon); I welcome your suggestions for content, as well as your ideas about what other features could make this Website a helpful resource for you.  I would love to hear from you!

Thank you for reading!




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