Anxiety is the excessive worrying about future events, based on a story that you tell yourself. However, it’s hard to change the story when you actually believe it will happen! On top of that, the more you believe it will come true, the more likely you’ll experience a panic attack. Today I share with you how I’ve overcome anxiety and panic attacks. My methods may be a bit unorthodox, but you might be surprised how effective they are.
I have two quotes I’d like to read you today.
One is by Donny Osmond, and it’s this:
“Well, unless you’ve suffered from panic attacks and social anxiety disorders, which is what I was diagnosed as having, it’s hard to explain it. But you go on stage knowing you’re actually physically going to die. You will keel over and die.”
The other is by Lucy Hawking, Stephen Hawking’s daughter:
“I am a world expert on how to organise tasks in a senseless order, totally unrelated to priority, and thus create a massive panic leading up to an important deadline.”
I receive a lot of email asking me to talk about anxiety. Throughout a few of my shows, I’ve covered anxiety and panic, especially the one where I interviewed Charlie Hoehn who wrote the book, Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure For Anxiety.
In the interview, and in his book, he talks about how he was able to eliminate anxiety by “playing”. Whether that was throwing a ball around or playing frisbee, and other things he would do to give him another task while being anxious.
When he would start a conversation with someone about something that made him anxious, he would suggest that they take the conversation outside and throw a ball back and forth.
He found that doing this relieved his symptoms and his anxiety went away.
This process can and does work.
Give your body something to do other than join your mind in your anxious thoughts, and the body won’t be able to manifest the symptoms of panic or anxiety.
When you get anxious, your heart rate increases, you sweat, you feel changes in your chest and stomach, and all kinds of things. These are all physical symptoms brought on by your mental thought processes.
And if you are just sitting or standing there thinking about things that make you anxious, and you do nothing else with your body, you will develop the physical symptoms that usually accompany anxiety.
Donny Osmond said he knew he was going to die if he went stage. That’s how strongly he believed it! This belief caused him to panic.
And belief is the first step towards anxiety. Once you believe something to be true, you think thoughts and take steps in that direction.
Having a belief that something is true changes everything you do. But the hard part is not believing in those things.
Sure, you could say to yourself, “Well, I didn’t die before, so I’ll probably be okay this time.” But if you’re a chronic worrier, you probably don’t believe it so you get anxious.
I remember I gave a talk in a crowd of about 200 people once. Going on stage, I had one mission: To teach.
However, I had nothing prepared. I was passionate about what I was going to talk about so I knew the information would just come to me. But I had no outline or anything.
I got on stage, talked for a good 10 minutes or more, then suddenly, I ran out of stuff to talk about! I went up there with no fear and plenty to say, but after I said it, I had no way to wrap things up.
So I immediately became very conscious of everyone in the room and where I was at in my mind. With nothing more to say, I was just going to say, “Uhhh, I guess that’s all I have to say.” That would have made me feel foolish, but I thought that would have been my only escape at the time.
However, I got saved. Turns out I had limited time anyway because they were ready to put the next presenter up and wanted me to conclude what I was saying.
So I just told the audience, “Looks like that’s all the time I have, thanks for listening.”
It worked out, but I still got that little bit of anxiety.
Most people get it before going on stage, but I got it at what I thought was the premature end of my presentation.
The point is, anxiety can come out of nowhere. But there is a reason we get it.
That about describes that day I was on stage. But could this be the only reason we get anxious? I mean, not preparing for things that we know are going to happen can lead to a state of anxiety, but really… so what!
We’re not prepared for many things that happen to us. So what if we don’t know how to prioritize or organize, does that mean we have to get anxious? Do we really have to be fearful of small things that almost always turn into nothing?
I have a couple of unusual ways out of anxiety so you may or may not agree. You may find my approach hard to accept and apply, but I hope you stick with me the whole way through so that you have a full understanding of why I think the way I do.
Anxiety and panic are no fun. I had a full-blown panic attack in 2009, and a part of me did die that day, almost along the same lines Donny Osmond felt like before going on stage.
But what I didn’t expect was from that day forward, I’ve had almost no anxiety whatsoever.
That death is what freed me from anxiety. That day in Flagstaff, Arizona is the day I was able to unlock the shackles of panic and worry.
It’s a story I shared on this show over a year ago, and I’m going to share it again today because it’s relevant to the topic and so important to you to help you let go of any anxiety and fears you may have.
We’re going to talk a little about death today too. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Let’s find out!
Eckhart Tolle tells the story of how he was able to let go of his ego and be free of worry in his talks. When he was in his 20s, he suffered from depression and even had some suicidal thoughts.
Even after he achieved some academic success, he was happy for maybe 3 weeks then went back to that depressed, anxious state.
One night, he had another suicidal thought. He said to himself: “I can’t live with myself.”
And when that thought appeared in his mind, another thought came to mind, “Who is this ‘self’ I can’t live with?”
He waited for an answer, but there was none.
And at that moment, Eckhart realized there was a difference between “I” and the “self I can’t live with.”
Eckhart repeats this story of his separation from ego in many ways. I’ve read or watched quite a few of those ways, and he typically goes beyond the story and into how one can feel alive and at peace with almost everything in their life by embracing the present moment.
But his story reveals the door to peace more than I think he even knows. He rarely talks about that event in his life in his current teachings, because after all, how many times can you tell the same story over and over again?
But that moment where he separated from that “self” part of him, that part of him that identifies with form and all the worries and anxiety that come with being in that form, is something we can all achieve.
After Eckhart went through what he calls his “inner transformation”, he never experienced anxiety or depression again. He was able to let go of all attachments to outcomes and simply “be” in the world.
This didn’t happen by practicing meditation for 20 years, this happened because he had a breakdown.
And that’s my first talking point today:
The path to anxiety-freedom can happen in an instant if you’re willing to go through a breakdown.
In other words, when you get anxious, what are you doing to stop it?
By stopping it, you could be preventing what could happen from happening. By worrying and stressing about what could happen, you become anxious. And as long as what you don’t want to happen never happens, you stay anxious.
Wait, does that make sense?
As long as what you don’t want to happen never happens, you stay anxious.
So the first rule in staying anxious is to make sure you do everything in your power to prevent what you’re anxious about from happening.
Unfortunately, most of us don’t want to get anxious, let alone stay anxious. So why do we worry so much when we think something is going to happen? It seems that by worrying about what may never happen, it will only keep us anxious.
But if it does end up happening, the worry goes away and now you have a choice to panic or take action.
This is the place most anxious people don’t want to be in. When you have a choice to panic or take action, many people feel like panicking.
But there is a choice here, you just may not like the consequences. We’ll talk about the consequences of choice in the next segment. But right now, I want to emphasize that by worrying, or even trying to prevent something from happening, you are keeping your anxiety alive.
I remember when I ran out of work for the last time before I ended up at the soup kitchen. I was nervous, anxious, and completely stressed knowing that the money was going to be gone soon.
I watched my bank account go from $500 to $400, $300, and soon it was less than a $100. I was married at the time and my wife was also out of work. The mortgage crisis was in full effect and very shortly, I declared bankruptcy.b
For the first time in my adult life, I was completely debt free. But I was also completely broke.
So we ended up looking for places where homeless people eat. For two months, we woke up early every morning to stand in line at a soup kitchen so that we could get a meal and maybe take home some expired food.
But something was missing for that entire two months, and I’m not just talking about money. Something that was with me for months disappeared: My anxiety.
I noticed that after we reached rock bottom and had no money to pay rent or eat, I was no longer anxious!
What happened? Why aren’t I anxious anymore?
Well, you can probably guess by now that when what you fear will happen does happen, the anxiety goes away. In fact, it has to because anxiety is worry about a future that may or may not happen.
Anxiety is concern and fear about the future. But when your future fear does come true, what’s after that? I mean, after you visualize and imagine all the bad stuff that could happen, and it actually does happen, what’s next?
This is what I call a breakdown. This is when things get so bad that you have no choice but to submit to the forces at work, and come to a place of acceptance of what is.
This is a path out of anxiety, accepting what “is”. When you accept what “is”, you stop worrying.
“Worry” happens when you refuse to accept the truth as you see it. You don’t want to believe you’ll be broke, or that you’ll lose someone close to you, or that you’ll get yelled at or even die.
But the truth is that all of this stuff can, and some of it definitely will happen eventually, so what is the point of worrying about it?
I know, easy to say, right? But remember the point that anxiety starts is the same moment you have a choice to believe the worst will happen.
It’s that moment where you start to feel the fear that something could take place that will threaten you. That millisecond between “I’m safe” and “I’m not safe”.
What is that moment? Why do we jump to “I’m not safe”? And why does it matter if you’re not safe?
Seriously? Why does it matter? I mean, I know you know why offhand, but have you ever dove into the deeper meaning of any fears or anxiety that you’ve experienced?
Some people will say, “I’m nervous. I don’t know if I can handle this situation.”
“Because, they might laugh at me or look down on me.”
Yeah, what’s wrong with that?
“What do you mean? No one likes to be laughed at or ridiculed”
Yeah, but why don’t you like to be laughed at or ridiculed?
What? You’re making no sense.
And that’s where the drilling down usual stops with most people. They don’t dive into themselves any further because they’ve adopted the general philosophy that it’s bad to be laughed at or ridiculed.
Sure, it doesn’t feel good. But why? Why doesn’t it feel good?
When you come up with deeper answers, then deeper ones beyond that, you start to break down the foundation of what is keeping your belief system cohesive and strong.
When you rely on an unquestioned belief system, you get all the dysfunction that comes along with it.
So the point is to question why things hurt you or why you fear those things. What is causing you to fear or be nervous?
If you’ll be broke, ask yourself why that’s a bad thing?
If the answer is obvious, then you haven’t dug deep enough.
Sorry, but almost every time you have a negative feeling where you believe you know why you have that feeling, you haven’t dug deep enough to really explore why you feel the way you do.
Don’t let fear consume you, let exploring why you’re afraid consume you.
Dig and dig to try and figure out why you’re afraid to lose your money or your house or your job or whatever. And when you get an answer, ask an even deeper question than that like, “Yeah but, how is that a problem for me?”
For example, let’s just say that you were told that you were fired. If a bad feeling comes up, you can ask, “Why do I feel bad about this?”
I’ve mentioned this process before. This is where you become your own therapist – a person of reason and objective listening.
Remember when I talked about how Eckhart was able to distinguish “I” from “myself”? This is almost a similar process, except you’re making it happen yourself.
So, one of you becomes the “I” and the other you becomes “yourself”, if that makes sense.
So, “I” asks, “Why do I feel bad about this?”
And “myself” might respond, “Because I was relying on this job for money! If I don’t have a job, I can’t pay my rent, utilities, or feed my family!”
Now, don’t stop there. Ask the deeper question:
“Okay, why is that a bad thing?”
This question is designed to shake up your reality a little bit, because maybe you’ve always believed certain things are always a problem, so you don’t bother to dig any deeper.
The fearful “Myself” might respond, “What do you mean? If I don’t have money, I can’t pay my bills? Do you need any more reason than that?”
Then your objective and reasonable “I” might answer with, “Yup, you already said you can’t pay your bills. So why is that a problem?”
This is the point of deeper introspection. This is where you start finding out what’s driving your behavior at a deeper level.
This is the beginning of digging. If you find yourself getting anxious in any situation in the future, just go through a similar process:
“Oh oh, I’m getting anxious. Why am I getting anxious?”
“Because I’m nervous about what they will say”
“Yeah, but who cares what they say? Why does it matter what they say?”
“If they don’t like me, I might not be accepted in the group.”
“Yeah, but why does that matter?”
So on and so on.
When you’re in a bad state of mind, find out your “why”. Dig into your reasons and keep digging until something more profound comes up and out of you.
Once you’re able to get to the real source of fear or hurt inside of you, you will start to heal from it and grow into the person you want to be day by day.
And speaking of inner transformations, I had a big one about 6 years ago that I’ll share with you next.
Eckhart Tolle said he experienced an “inner transformation” when he was 29. He was in depression, even though he was achieving great things in his life, setting up his future for success.
But, if you’ve ever had depression, or close to it, you probably know that even the highest levels of wealth, physical health and good friends can’t hold a flame to how dominating depression can be in your life.
So one night, he split from his ego. I call this a breakdown. And every breakdown is also a breakthrough of some sort.
The worse it could get, it got.
A breakdown is when the bad gets worse and you don’t know how to handle it until finally you give in and let it overcome you.
This is probably the healthiest thing you can do for yourself, in my opinion.
I’m not advising to go against anything your doctor has told you, as we are all at our own place with our health, but I will say that whenever there was nothing I could do, and I just accepted what was and let things happen, I always felt more peace and freedom on the other side.
One moment in particular changed my life forever. It was 2009 and I was driving back from Sedona, Arizona. I just completed classes for hypnosis and NLP, and I had a 1000 miles to drive back to Texas.
My car was full of clothes, audio equipment, tools, and more because I just moved to Texas with my wife, and went straight to class in Arizona before going to our new place.
It’s a long story, but let’s just say I had a lot of stuff in the car.
Well, after my classes were over, I left Sedona. As I drove through Flagstaff, my car made a noise and stuttered in speed a little.
I thought, “Oh, that’s nice. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen again.”
But it did. In fact, it was near stalling so I pulled into a gas station and checked all the fluid levels. Everything looked good.
In fact, after I filled up, I started the car and drove off. Everything actually seemed fine now. I thought “Hmm, maybe the worst is over”.
But it was just about to begin.
It started stuttering worse this time, so I had to find another gas station. I was lucky to arrive before they closed. There was one mechanic on duty and no one else was in the building.
I walked inside and asked the mechanic if he’d be able to look at my car. He said, I can look at it next Tuesday.
I explained to him my situation, and he said it sounded pretty grim. The car that is. He said he’d need to take it apart, and it would probably cost me about $600. Then, he’d need to find what was wrong with it after he took it apart.
If he couldn’t find what was wrong with it, he’d still charge me.
No matter what though, it was going to cost me lots of money and wouldn’t be started until next week.
My heart beat shot up and I suddenly realized that I might have to spend 4 days in my car. Then reality kicked in and I realized I couldn’t do that since I didn’t even have any food.
I was pretty much in the middle of nowhere, even though I probably really wasn’t. But at the time, it felt like it.
So I went back to my car and sat there, not knowing what to do. What I haven’t shared was that I actually had no money. I only had a little cash, and I think I was using a gas card to make it home.
So I was pretty broke. At the time, I was married so I called my wife and told her I was stuck. She said, “We need to get you home! Let me see if I can wire you enough money for a bus ticket and we’ll deal with the car later.”
I was like, “No way. There’s no way I’m going to leave my car here. It’s full of equipment and tools. I probably have over $3000 worth of stuff in here. We’re going to have to find another way.”
She said, “Okay, what do you want to do?”
I told her to look up what it would cost to get a flat bed to deliver my car to Texas. Then I thought, wait, that’s dumb. By the time I got a flatbed here, along with the cost to deliver it, I still have to pay to get it fixed.
I went back and forth with my wife several times, getting antsier and antsier with each passing minute.
I thought there’s no way I’m going to leave my car here a 1000 miles from home. I need to get my car and my stuff home no matter what. I can’t leave without my stuff!
And that became my mantra for the next 20 minutes or so. “There’s no way I’m leaving without my stuff!”
So, my wife and I would hang up and then call back with some more ideas. I’d hang up with her, then she’d call back with another idea. And each idea we came up with to get my stuff home wasn’t going to work and would require a lot of money we didn’t have.
I was really starting to panic. I was having all the symptoms of a panic attack.
“I need to get my car and my stuff home! I won’t leave everything here, it’ll probably get stolen if I just go home without it.”
My heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest.
Suddenly, a tow truck driver appears. He pulls up and walks in the garage. I thought, “This is it! This is the universe sending me help just when I need it most. I knew there had to be a silver lining here.”
I walked in and told the tow truck driver my plight, figuring he was going to walk over to my car, find a loose wire, and send me on my way.
So as we were walking over, I explained to him what it was doing. He said, “Oh… that’s not good. I don’t think it’s going to make it too much longer.”
And I sank again, thinking I was back at square one. My heart starting beating hard again, my chest was hurting and I was sweating.
But a thought came to me. I thought, “Wait, I have thousands of dollars worth of equipment in my car. Maybe I can sell some of it and get someone to haul it down to Texas for me!”
I thought, “This must be what I’m supposed to do. This is the reason all this is happening, to teach me about the resources I already have and how I can use them to get out of this sticky situation.”
So I asked the tow truck driver, “You wouldn’t want to buy any of my tools would you?”
He said, “Hmm, what do you got?”
I felt a glimmer of hope. He was open to purchasing some stuff. I opened the trunk, and his eyes got really wide.
I followed his gaze, and noticed he was staring at the speakers I put together back there. That’s when I said, “You like those?”
He said, “Yeah.”
I said, “Would you give me $200 for them?”
He said, “Umm, I don’t know.”
And once again, I felt my heart sink. Not only was I worried that he wouldn’t even give me a couple hundred bucks for something worth a lot more, but I realized that I was never going to make enough money piecemealing every single item from my car.
Even if I could sell everything in the car, it might take days. The stress and overwhelm were now upon me full force. I was in full panic now that all my options had been exhausted.
My heart beat faster and faster and I realized that ‘I’m going to lose everything.‘
This led to the height of my panic, and the worst case scenario happened: I popped.
My panic had nowhere else to go so it reached a precipice and in an instant, I was experiencing the full brunt of panic.
But suddenly, all of it disappeared.
The only way I can explain it is that I had the sudden realization that there was absolutely nothing I could do, and I could either continue fighting a battle I couldn’t win, or I could completely give in.
It was more than that though. It was a shock to my nervous system. I experienced such a powerful buildup of stress and anxiety that it kept building until it blew out.
And when it blew out, a peace like I never felt washed over and through me. Even now, I tear up thinking of that very moment when I was able to let go of attachments.
That’s what happened that day: I let go of my stronghold on material items. I was so worried about letting “stuff” go, that I let it consume me.
I felt like I was going to die, all because I didn’t want to let my stuff go.
But I let the panic overtake me and it brought me to a point of “no choice”.
Sometimes, when you have no choice, when there’s absolutely nowhere left to turn and no solution in sight, the only solution is submission.
I hate to use that term, but it’s what saved my life. I probably wasn’t going to die that day, but this inner transformation saved my life in ways I didn’t expect.
After the pop, then the peace washing over me, I gained more clarity than I ever had in my life. My mind cleared of any fog or negativity, and I felt new.
It’s at that point I looked up at the tow truck driver and asked, “Would you buy my car and everything in it for $200?”
He looked surprised. I said, “All I need is a bus ticket home. $200 will cover it and then some.”
It didn’t take him long. He said “Sure!”
And that was that. I let it all go. I grabbed a few clothes and a couple items I could carry with me, but the rest, including a hand-made gift from my mom, was left behind.
And I was at peace. Letting it all go was letting go of the pain and suffering.
It was at that very moment I realized that it wasn’t my car breaking down or me having no money that was the cause of my suffering, it was my refusal to let go of all the stuff I was so attached to.
Letting go of all of those attachments allowed me to make decisions freely and easily.
The tow truck driver brought me to the bus stop, and I bought a ticket.
I called my wife and told her that I’ve taken care of everything and I’m coming home. She had no idea what transpired so she was still in a heightened state of stress and overwhelm herself, mainly caused by my own emotional state earlier on.
But when she heard the peace in my voice, she stopped me and said, “What happened? Why do you sound so calm?”
I said, “Everything’s alright now. I let it all go. I sold my car and everything in it for $200 and got a bus ticket. I’m on my way home.”
“You sold your car and everything in it? What? Are you serious?”
“Yup, I’m on my way. Everything is fine now.”
She couldn’t understand what just happened, but because I was no longer stressed, she calmed down too and was just happy I was returning home.
Anxiety, and the build up to panic, happens when you don’t let the worst thing you could possibly imagine actually happen.
Anxiety is holding on to what you think you need.
When you become anxious, what do you think you need? What’s so important that you are holding onto that you really believe that without it, you are in danger of some sort?
That day, I really believed that “stuff” was more important than my well being. I attached so much to my “attachments” that it clouded my decisions and judgments.
That day, I let go of believing that attachments were important. I became a minimalist and either sold or gave away almost everything I owned. Doing this freed me up from so much worry and stress.
Over the years, I’ve accumulated some stuff again, but this time I’m not attached to that stuff. I just like having it. And if I had to, I could easily get rid of almost all of it.
Some stuff I might not want to get rid of, but now I understand that attachments were what kept me stressed almost all the time.
When you are able to let go of your attachments, you are able to let go of whatever feelings you would get if you lost that stuff.
Does that make sense?
If you own a wonderful gift from a dead loved one, how would it feel if someone were to break it? Or, one day it just disappeared?
What feelings come up for you? Does it hurt?
Imagine not having this hurt. Imagine not having the stress of worrying about what happens to that gift?
I’m not saying you can’t enjoy owning it, but when you can learn to let go of your attachment to it, then you become free. The gift can be passed on easily if you wanted because you aren’t letting it control you anymore.
My stuff controlled me. When something has control over you, you stress and get anxious. But when you let go of what controls you, you let yourself go.
It’s not easy because some things that you are attached to in your life you definitely don’t want to let go. Whether that’s material items or even people.
But when you can let something go, it gets easier to let the next thing go. It doesn’t mean you just get rid of everything, it just means that you’ll be okay if you have to get rid of something.
But how do you get to this inner transformation yourself? How can you get to a place where anxiety stops and panic no longer attacks you?
For me, I had what I called a “mystical experience” in Arizona. That’s another story altogether, but the gist of it is this:
Before I left Sedona, before I broke down, I met a guy who just seemed so happy and at peace with everything. He had a relationship with God or the Universe or whatever he called it.
And I was, and still am, so practically minded at the time. I wanted what he had because he just seemed so at peace.
So I asked him, “Why do you seem so at peace?”
He said, “Because I feel fully connected to source.”
I said, “Really? How can I have what you have?”
He said, “You have to believe in something greater than yourself.”
I said, “I don’t know what to believe. How can I believe that? Is there something I can do to help me believe that?”
He said, “No, you have to have a mystical experience. Something has to happen in your life that gives you no choice but to believe.”
I was like, “Wow… okay. I guess I’ll have to wait for it to happen.”
I was a little disappointed. But after I walked away, I told myself, “God, the Universe, or whatever’s out there, I am ready and want to have a mystical experience so that I can believe in something greater than myself.”
I wanted this because there’s just something magical believing in something beyond logic and reason. And I wanted there to be something more than what I could see, hear and feel. I was on a spiritual quest.
A couple days later, I broke down in Flagstaff… and you know the rest of the story. It changed my life completely, and a part of me died that day.
The part that thought it was so important to own things and worry about losing them.
You can get to this place too, if you want. I don’t know you can just ask for a mystical experience and it will happen, but I have learned one thing that I believe works.
When it comes to letting go of a lot of the stressors of life, there’s one thing I still practice today and I’m going to share what that is in the last segment coming up.
My mom gave me a stereo when I was like 18. It was a dual cassette record player. I loved it and played it all the time. When I moved out of the house, I took it with me.
A couple years later, we were talking on the phone and she asked, “How’s that stereo working? You still like it?”
I said, “What stereo? The one you gave me?”
She said, “Yeah, you still enjoying it?”
I was like, “Well, I sold that about a year ago.”
She said, “You sold it? Why?”
I was like, “It was time. It was getting kind of old, and I’ve upgraded since.”
I could tell she was very hurt I sold something that she gave me. I said, “Are you okay that I sold it?”
She was clearly not okay. I think I offended her by selling something she gave me.
We chatted a little bit more about it, and she was having a hard time. To her, selling the stereo was like slapping her in the face. Well, maybe not so dramatic, but I could tell her feelings were really hurt.
I finally said, “Mom, do you expect me to keep everything you ever give me forever?”
She paused, and said, “No, I guess not!”
Then she perked up a little. I think for the first time in her life she realized that time goes on and gifts come and go. She realized that giving a gift is about the giving, and not the gift.
I said, “I’m sorry, I had to sell it sometime. I just can’t keep everything that everyone gives me. I loved it while I had it, then I moved on to something else.”
She said, “No, I totally get it now. I’m actually okay.”
Then we ended the call on a good note.
A few years later, I realized that conversation changed her life. From that point on, she actually let go of her attachments to gifts. After that, she really didn’t care what I or anyone else did with the gifts she gave because she figured out the joy was in the giving, not whether what she gave was kept or not.
I was suspicious though. You know how some people can get. They’ll fake a smile and say what they think you want to hear, so I thought she might be doing that.
But time after time, I found out that her responses were genuine. She never gave gifts with strings attached again. Those strings were “as long as you still have the gift, you still love me” strings.
She got rid of that belief, and now bases receiving love on other things. In fact, I love getting gifts from her because she actually lets me have them as my gifts and not hers, if that makes sense.
In other words, I don’t have to proudly display it when she visits because it’s mine, and I can do with it what I wish.
Though, I still have a piece of stained glass she made, and I know it makes her happy to see that. But really, she doesn’t need me to own the gift to know that I love her, because she knows that in other ways.
Now all my mom says is, “I just want you to be happy. I don’t care if you don’t like what I give you, you can sell it or whatever. I just want to know that you are happy. If you’re happy, I am.”
And she means it, I can tell. This really has changed our relationship.
So, here’s the real question, how can you get to a place where you are not attached to worry?
Your attachment to worry is what gets you anxious. So being free of being attached to worry is sort of the antidote.
Worry and anxiety are caused by fear of something that will probably not happen in the future. So the idea is to consider what you fear and figure out why you’re afraid.
Remember the drilling down exercise from earlier?
“Why am I afraid?”
And when you get the answer, you ask again, “Yeah but, why am I afraid of that?”
And so on, until you drill down so deep that you get to what I call a primal response.
A primal response is when you respond from a place of pure survival. It’s what kicks in when you are in fight or flight.
Our primal instincts have been tainted over the years because we’ve learned to fear things that aren’t a threat. We’ve learned to perceive benign events as threatening to our survival.
This is a belief system buried deep within us because of a lifetime of conditioning.
When we feel anxious in a room full of people, what’s the threat? Looking at the room, is anyone screaming or wielding a weapon? Is there an actual threat in the room?
Or… is the threat concocted within us.
“What if they don’t like me?”
“What if they stare at the mole on my face?”
“What if they think I’m too fat or too skinny or too short or too tall?”
Even, “What if they can’t stop staring because I’m so beautiful?”
Hey, this happens. Many women feel very vulnerable when they are very attractive, which makes them fearful.
But in most cases, what is there really to fear?
Almost always, what we fear is not really a threat at all. The threat comes from within, starting at our primal instincts. And what we fear today is inherited from that deeper place.
All of your negative emotions inherit their existence and strength from your past, when you experienced similar emotions.
In fact, the first time you experienced real anger relates to every future time you get angry from that point on.
So if you were 2 when you had your first tantrum, whatever was going on that made you have a tantrum gets passed on to the next time and all future times you get that angry.
The thing is, when you get older, you don’t recognize your anger or other negative emotions as being from childhood. You think they are from now.
But emotions are reactionary things. They are subconscious responses that are already in there. You already know how to feel anger, because you don’t get angry and go, “What is this weird feeling I’m having? I don’t understand why I want to punch someone right now.”
You already know how to feel anger, because you’ve already experienced anger over and over again in your life.
The first significant time you felt anger bleeds over into all the times it happened again from that point on. And that means that when you get angry today, you can actually point to a time in your past where you learned how to get angry.
It may sound odd, but don’t worry about it. The point I want to make is that all the negative emotions we feel today have an origin. And because of that, when you get anxious today, you can go back and remember the first time you felt anxious and figure out why you were anxious back then.
So if you walk into a room and feel anxious, think about the first time you felt this type of anxiety in the past. When you do, why did you feel anxious then?
Most of the time, you’re going to figure out that you were anxious about something back then that no longer applies today.
For example, I used to get anxious when I was in a group of people and we all had to introduce ourselves. As the introductions got closer and closer to me, I got more and more nervous.
When I think about when I felt that emotion for the first time in my life, I remember being a small child in school hoping I didn’t get called on, because I didn’t know the answer.
I might even have an earlier memory, but that’s what came up for me. So thinking back to when I was in school and having been so nervous then, helps me to differentiate then from now, and reminds me that I am not in the same environment today as I was then.
Back then, I was scared that I’d get called out and picked on by the teacher. As a child, I did not want to be ridiculed in front of everyone because then I would be an outcast.
But today, in the adult world, there are now two things that are going on when I’m in a group of people:
- I am not that scared child anymore, I’m a fully capable adult. And any anxiety that comes up now is a trace from the past where I wasn’t confident. I felt dumb back then, and didn’t want people to know I wasn’t smart.
If I feel that way today, I know what I need to work on. But really, it’s not the same situation at all.
- Many of the adults in the room feel the exact same way as I do. This makes me feel better knowing that I’m not the only one getting nervous as I’m about to introduce myself.
In fact, when you know that almost everyone around you feels the same way, it can alleviate fear pretty quickly. And it’s great to adopt the belief that others feel just like you, whether it’s true or not, because when you start to talk to others as if they are experiencing what you’re experiencing, you’re going to get a ton of support and relief at the same time.
Something I do now when I’m with others and start to feel anxious is actually talk about my anxiety. I bring it up and call myself out.
I’ll say something like, “I just got anxious. I feel really nervous in this room.”
I did this when I went to a hypnosis group once. After I got certified, I was in a room full of hypnotists and they were introducing themselves one by one.
I felt it starting. I felt the anxiety and the nervousness kick in. I wasn’t sure what I was going to say and I felt scared.
So, instead of avoiding my intense feelings, when it was my turn, I said, “You know, I was sitting here getting more and more nervous as the introductions were coming my way. I don’t know why I get nervous just introducing myself, but I just wanted to share that with you.”
One of the hypnotists said, “You know, one of us could probably help you with that nervousness.” And the entire room laughed.
I laughed too, and this immediately made me feel good, calm, and at peace. I then had a clear mind and was able to introduce myself without fear.
Embracing fear, and expressing it, alleviates it.
anging on to it and pretending you don’t have it, strengthens it.
It’s the age-old “What you resist persists” model. What you resist inside you strengthens and gets worse. But if you allow it to be, and even talk about it freely with others as if it’s no problem, it will release the pressure.
In fact, 8 out of 10 times, you’re going to find that other people feel the same way. You could be in a room full of nervous people thinking you’re the only one that’s nervous!
That would be weird, wouldn’t it?
Anyway, let’s return to the last point I want to make today and it’s about primal instinct.
Think of yourself as a caveman or cavewoman without verbal communication skills. You just go around, hunting for food, eating, warding off predators, reproducing, sleeping, protecting yourself from the elements, and repeating this cycle over and over again every day – not necessarily in that order.
This creates a rhythm in your life. You know what to expect, and you do what you do every day to survive.
But one day you smell something unfamiliar and put your guard up. You are ready to attack. Then, out of the bushes comes a saber tooth tiger. You decide to run into your cave and push your boulder in front of the entrance.
Your fight or flight kicked in. This level of survival is based on pure instinct. It is the most primal form of decision making. It happens at a very deep subconscious level.
You are hardwired to respond to situations to keep you alive.
Now fast forward thousands of years. Lots and lots of generations ago, your ancient ancestors gave you the gift of survival and fight or flight. Only now, you work in an office, and the saber tooth tiger is your boss.
He or she comes out in a tirade and you immediately feel fear.
What are you afraid of?
Do you really think he or she is going to physically attack you?
The fear you feel today is not real, it’s from the past.
In this example, your boss is probably not going to touch you at all. Sure, you may have many concerns going on like, “Am I going to get fired?” but is that still a reason to feel such fear?
Nothing is happening but the boss yelling, that’s it.
So what are you afraid of?
The fear you feel today is from childhood. And the fear you felt then is hardwired into you thanks to our ancestors. It’s the built in fight or flight nervous system.
Fight or flight is based on pure survival. Can I survive?
What decision will keep me alive? Fight? Run away? Freeze? Which one is most likely to keep me safe?
In my opinion, this concept is the key to all anxiety. When you believe that you are going to die, even at a deep subconscious level, you will feel anxious.
If your initial thought is, “I don’t want to be embarrassed”, you may think that’s all you fear. But, drill down…
Why don’t you want to be embarrassed?
Because people will laugh at me.
How is that a bad thing?
Because they will think I’m stupid.
How is that a bad thing?
Well, if they think I’m stupid, they probably won’t accept me.
How is that a bad thing?
If they don’t accept me, I’ll be alone.
How is that a bad thing?
If I’m alone, I’ll have a hard time. I feel unloved and I’ll have to fend for myself.
How is that a bad thing?
What? I don’t want to be alone. Everyone should feel loved and be accepted by others.
Yeah, but how is it bad for you if you aren’t loved or accepted and have to fend for yourself?
Well… if I’m not loved then what’s the point?
There you are. Now, what does that mean? What’s the point of what?
What’s the point of existing if I don’t feel accepted, or significant or loved?
Drilling down gets you to a primal thought – that primal level of understanding what you’re actually fearing.
Do you see how I got there? If not, replay that part because it’s probably the most important point in this episode. I drilled down to the most primal or closest to it level of decision making, where this person based their existence on being loved or accepted.
Yet, he started off fearing embarrassment. But as you heard, it went a lot deeper than that. Sometimes drilling down has to go that deep before you finally understand what’s going on.
Those questions help you drill down into what your most primal fears are so that you can understand the reality of what’s happening in the here and now.
Remember this next time you start experiencing anxiety, and you’ll uncover some interesting and revealing truths.
Now, we’re not out of the woods yet, because there’s one more extremely important and controversial point I want to make and that’s this:
When you no longer fear death, you no longer feel anxiety.
There, I said it. I didn’t want to, because I don’t want you thinking I’m telling you to go do anything drastic. I’m saying this because when you truly stop fearing death, you can live life to the fullest without fear.
Many people fear death because of religious reasons and / or the pain they relate to dying. So the question for you is, do you fear what happens after you die?
It’s not so much fearing death itself, but what happens after you die. Some people believe in Heaven or a version of it, some people believe in Hell, or a version of it. Others think you get reincarnated and others think that you just wink out and stop existing.
No matter what you believe, I’m willing to bet this belief drives your behaviors today. What happens after death is the great unknown, and lots of people can get scared of that unknown. But really, what is there to be scared of?
You don’t leave the world in the body you’re in now, so now matter what happens, your experience will be completely different than it is today.
If you do believe there’s a wonderful place you go where you’ll live forever, that doesn’t sound so bad. If you do believe there’s a terrible place you go because of all your sins, well that would certainly be an incentive to change your ways.
And if you believe you choose your life before it starts, then this is all meant to be anyway. If you believe in reincarnation, you’ll just keep getting chance after chance to do it better and better every time.
And if you believe you just wink out, then you won’t even know what happened anyway when it all goes down.
Sounds like the only bad thing about dying is if you believe in a place like Hell. But, many people believe that Hell is in the mind and that you live it when you live in fear. So whatever you believe will happen, it’s time to come to terms with it.
The faster you can accept what is, the faster you move out of fear. It doesn’t mean you don’t try to make things better, because you should always strive to improve yourself in every way you can.
It just means that the faster you accept that dying is the next, natural evolutionary step in life, the faster you can enjoy the life you have now.
So come to terms with how you feel about what happens after death. Do you believe you go somewhere else or just wink out? Do you believe something else?
I say always believe what serves you best, and live that belief fully until it no longer serves you.
You may be thinking, I have no idea what to believe! If that’s true, then as long as you don’t fear what you don’t know, you’ll be fine. But if you do have any fears what happens when you pass on, then by exploring that inside yourself and coming to an acceptance with it, you are going to make your life a whole lot less stressful.
I don’t prefer encroaching upon your beliefs and what happens and who’s out there watching us or not, but my belief is that when the fear of what happens in the worst case scenario no longer controls you, you start making empowering decisions and living a more stress-free life.
Maybe your worst case scenario isn’t death, maybe it’s something else. And if that’s the case, I say, “Bring it on!” Develop the attitude that shows others that you’re ready. You’ll know when it’s too dangerous to stick around because reality and reason will guide you.
But when there’s really nothing to fear but your fear of the unknown, or what could happen, then ask for more. I’m serious, saturate yourself with what you fear most, and you will no longer fear it.
Use your primal instincts to keep you from getting hit by a car, but don’t always rely on them when you are feeling unnecessary or unwanted anxiety.
I once let my anxiety saturate me, and when it was over, I was a new person. For me, there was no way out. If you’re ever in a no way out situation, and the worst does happen, welcome it!
Bring it on! What else you got?
Because when you get through it, you will evolve into a new state of being and that old anxiety will disappear.
If you’re on any medications or doctor’s orders regarding anxiety or stress, then forget everything I said because I’m not allowed to tell you otherwise.
But if you’ve been there and done that and are looking for any solution to help you out, then play this episode again and catch what you missed the first time.
Panic attacks happen when you are at the peak of anxiety. If you feel one coming on, go through the drill down process and get to the bottom of it.
Just stepping back and using this process gives you time to calm down and realize that your fears and anxiety are not really about the present moment, they are just memories resurfacing reminding you how you’ve responded in the past.
And when you break through those old behaviors and are able to go into situations with an entirely new outlook, not attached to any outcome, you may figure out that your fears weren’t the threat they appeared to be after all.
You have the power to change who you are and how you respond to world, and I want to help get you there. If this episode wasn’t enough to decrease your anxiety, well then, I guess you’ll just have to keep listening to the show until it all melts away, and the peace washes over and through you.
Talk to you again soon.
Thank you for listening to another episode of The Overwhelmed Brain. This is episode 99. We are one week away from episode 100, and things are about to change.
100 will be a special episode that introduces the new format of the show, and where I’ll share what changes I not only want to make, but have to for specific reasons.
We are at almost 190 countries, and there’s no sign that it’s stopping, so just like in life, we need to adapt to keep up and keep moving forward.
I’ll get into all the details next week, so don’t miss special episode 100.
I want to thank everyone who reached out to me. Whether through social media or directly via email.
I want to give a special thanks to those who’ve donated, purchased a book or worksheet or used the Amazon link at theoverwhelmedbrain.com to shop and support the show. Every purchase you make from the link sends The Overwhelmed Brain a small percentage of the sale, so it’s like making a direct donation.
Thank you for all of you who are using the link – you are making a difference and every penny helps.
When you get a chance, visit theoverwhelmedbrain.com for some worksheets and digital books that I’ve created to help you get through the challenges in life. If one on one coaching with me is out of your budget, the worksheets and books are the next best thing. Or, if you’re completely broke, well, the show is free so you have no excuses when it comes to healing, growing and evolving.
I’ve been called a somewhat radical coach because of my approach to certain subjects. I’ve had some people listen to my show and say, “What? You told them to do that?” and I say, “Yup, and here’s why.”
When they hear the reason, they usually understand. But it surprises them because what I teach is usually opposite of what most people teach.
For example, you won’t have anxiety if you don’t fear death? I sometimes hear myself say something and go, “Wow, where did that come from?” But then I think about it and go, “Yeah, I still believe that!”
This is a process we should all go through though. We should all question what we believe to be true and find out if it still is. There’s a time when you’re a child and have certain beliefs, then they change when you get older.
Just like you have certain beliefs in your 20s that you don’t carry into your 30s. I used to walk around as a child fearing that Santa Claus knew when I was naughty or nice. This belief actually served me, so it wasn’t unhealthy.
And maybe a belief like that serves you now, or maybe it doesn’t. Beliefs are meant to be questioned because that’s how you evolve. When you don’t question what you believe to be true, you close the box of evolution and you stay exactly the same for the rest of your life.
If your life is great and you’re happy, then don’t change a thing.
However, if you’re life isn’t going as planned and you are unfulfilled, think about what you believe to be true and question those beliefs.
If it scares you to question your beliefs, even better! That means that there’s a lot of power in your beliefs. Imagine harnessing that power for the good you want for yourself instead of wrapping it up in a belief that no longer serves you?
Something to think about for sure.
I want you to feel empowered, so step into that power and be firm in your decisions and actions, so that you can create the life you want. When you do this, you’ll discover what I already know to be true about you, that you are amazing.