Stop the Anxious Running Commentary in Your Head
Thursday, November 30 2017 Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
Anxiety jabbers incessantly, creating maddening and anxious running commentary in our heads. To make it worse, anxiety acts as a translator and interprets what we hear and see, twisting things into its own warped ideas. With anxiety translating messages we receive, we often misinterpret the world around us. Anxiety's untrustworthy thoughts lead to self-doubt, faulty reasoning, negative beliefs, overthinking, and overanalyzing. Becoming aware of how the anxious voice in your head translates our incoming messages is an important step in correcting the translations and quieting the anxious running commentary that interrupts your inner speech.
Anxiety Translates and Gives False Running Commentary
Imagine going to a place where you don't know the language. You have a translator to help you communicate and learn the language. This translator, though, is unkind and gives you the wrong message every time you interact with someone or read something. He tells you the word "hello" means "get out of here," so every time someone says hello, you leave. Everything he translates for you is wrong, leaving you frustrated and confused, but you don't know that he's translating incorrectly.
Anxiety essentially does the same thing. Here's what happens when anxiety's running commentary translate your world:
- You see things, hear things, read things, and interact with the world.
- Your senses send signals to your brain so you can make decisions and choices.
- Anxiety intercepts those signals and starts interpreting them before you have a chance to do it yourself (anxiety is an experience that is separate from who you are).
- Anxiety's interpretation is, well, anxious and full of worry and fear.
- Anxiety has to warn you of what it interprets, and it does this through running commentary.
- Because it feels like your own thoughts, it's easy to believe anxiety. If you don't believe it, anxiety just talks more, and louder.
The Different Translations of Anxiety
Anxiety takes many forms. Each type of anxiety has its own way of looking at the world and gives people its own special message.
- Generalized anxiety disorder translates the world as something to worry about and fear. Anxiety's translations and running commentary give you plenty to worry about.
- Social anxiety disorder interprets everyone negatively and tells you that they're judging you and you're coming up short.
- Specific phobias see nothing but worry and fear in the object or situation they dislike. They are a broken record telling you that you're unsafe in certain circumstances.
- Panic disorder is afraid of the world and afraid of itself, and as it takes in people and surroundings, its interpretation is that you need to panic. Then it initiates a panic attack on your behalf.
- Agoraphobia is also afraid of the world, and its translations are dire. This type of anxiety's running commentary informs you that you can't handle the world and therefore must avoid it at all costs.
Thinking of anxiety as a translator that leaves inaccurate feedback and commentary in your head can help you begin to distance yourself from anxiety. You don't have to employ anxiety as your interpreter for life. You can begin interpreting your world for yourself without anxiety as your translator with simple anxiety strategies.
In the below video, I talk about anxiety self-help tips to get around an anxious running commentary. I invite you to tune in.