What Do Accepting And Letting Go of Anxiety Mean?
Christopher asked me this question about accepting and letting go of anxiety:
Hi Jodi, I have lived with anxiety for 20 years. I am 37 now and I am sick of it. My counselor says that accepting and letting go of my anxieties will help. I don't understand how.
Accepting Anxiety Seems at Odds with Letting It Go
I understand why you think it is odd to "accept" something that has been hurting you. It doesn't make sense. Logically, it seems like if you "accept' it, it means that you have to continue suffering, right? Or, "figure out how to live with it." Then, you wonder, How can I let go of something I'm supposed to accept? They contradict.
Words represent something, and sometimes they represent more than one thing. Acceptance literally means "the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered."
Some traditional mental health professionals have talked about accepting, meaning "learn how to live with it." But there are many problems with this notion since it creates an internal conflict, causes confusion and, as I have experienced, made the anxiety symptoms worse.
Your counselor may not be talking about acceptance in this way because he mentioned letting go, as in letting go of limiting beliefs. This makes me think that he may be coming from a Buddhist/mindfulness perspective.
Acceptance, in this case, is a metaphor. Like if Anger (anxiety's evil twin) comes over, and you invite it for a cup of tea, then we are talking metaphorically. Turning anger into a "thing" or "person" changes the relationship you have with Anger: "Hello, Anger, how are you? What do you want/need from me?"
Thinking of it this way not only empowers you, but undermines the power of anger. You see, Anger, Anxiety and many other feelings that we have, get their power from judgment (beating yourself up) and from us being afraid of them. "Acceptance" in this metaphorical context, means suspending all judgment and bringing awareness in - as if you are observing it for the first time. This will give you a new perspective that may invite clarity as to what you can do next. Or, it may deflate the whole problem. (This is what I mean by it getting smaller and smaller.)
How Do We Accept and Let Go Of Anxiety?
I believe that once we stop judging and being afraid, the letting go happens automatically. Fear and judgment (also, known as fear and angst to Buddha) is why we suffer. We want to be other than we are. It actually keeps us attached to those things that hurt us. Our ego thinks we are protecting ourselves by running away from feelings, or trying to get rid of them. Sometimes when we try very hard to get rid of something, this "trying" keeps us ever more attached. This is because there is tons of judgment attached to the "trying." You can decide to let go, send yourself some self love, and then distract yourself. (This is not the same and running away and avoiding, which are done out of fear.)
To Recap: What Does Acceptance And Letting Go Mean?
1. Change the power dynamic with Anxiety. Invite it to tea. Ask questions like you know nothing about it. Allow yourself to feel it fully without any judgment or fear. Breathe until you feel settled in your body.
2. Decide if it is serving you in any way. Or if you don't need it anymore.
3. Decide to let it go and send yourself some self compassion.
4. Distract yourself.
5. Practice. When it comes back, without any judgment or fear, say cheerfully, "Hello, I knew you'd come back. It's OK, I love you. I chose not to worry about you anymore. Have a seat, I am painting right now." Go on with your life. Give it awareness, but not a lot of attention so it doesn't begin to take your energy.
Does it help explain what your counselor means? If the fear or judgment is too strong, it may take a few therapeutic conversations to unpack them enough to do this process.
I didn't forget - this article covers what I think about irrational thinking patterns: Fear of Anxiety vs Irrational Fear
How do you all understand the concept of acceptance and letting go?
LCSW-R, J. (2013, September 18). What Do Accepting And Letting Go of Anxiety Mean?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, August 17 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2013/09/what-do-accepting-and-letting-go-really-mean
Author: Jodi Lobozzo Aman, LCSW-R
I appreciate your wise insights. For many reasons, positivity is healing and drastically improves quality of life. Acceptance (of self, others, situations, etc.) is part of that and is helpful in moving forward.
I don't understand bring it up in your awareness as if we're observing it for the first time? Example my mind goes blank exc .I think about it all day, and I am thinking aboutit now. That is kinda confusing to me?
Part of my problem isI think I obsses about this and I give it more attention then it deserves . Correct me if I am wrong when I do this I will get more confused on what to
Do right from wrong and then it won't make any since ?
Ps I am prejudging the day and that is why I am having all this anxiety instead if I just went with the flow everything will be great no over thinking? In other words accept it.