If I asked you to tell me about the weather where you lived, would you be able to describe it? Not just the weather today but generally, what is the weather like all year? Here in Illinois, this would be an impossible task. I could tell you it is 72 degrees and cloudy today, but that doesn’t mean tomorrow it will be the same. It could be 86 and sunny tomorrow and be raining the next day. In fact, there could be 10 inches of snow on the ground in a few months. There is no way to generalize the weather. The best I can tell you is that if you don’t like the weather, stick around a little while because it will undoubtedly change.
Emotions are like that too. Our feelings come and go as frequently as the weather changes. Describing yourself as an anxious person simply isn’t a true statement. Sometimes you feel anxious, but to describe yourself as anxious is too broad of a generalization. There are times when you feel happy. Times when you feel sad. There may be times that you feel tired or times when you feel lonely. Emotions are constantly changing, and it is important to recognize that in yourself. If you don’t, the danger is that you will get hooked by believing that YOU are anxious.
We are hooked when we start to believe that our emotions or thoughts define who we are. When you are hooked, you are not free and can be jerked around by a belief that is not true. For example, if a thought hooks me, that thought will influence my behavior and choices. I may be presented with an incredible opportunity, but the thought that I am anxious will jerk me back from seizing the opportunity because of my fear. Believing I am an anxious person may hook me so that I do not speak my mind when I am in a conversation. The belief that I am anxious may keep me from entering into a fulfilling relationship or traveling to places I’ve always dreamed of visiting. Being hooked by our thoughts and emotions keeps us from living the life we want.
Unhooking from these beliefs will free you to pursue the life you want and the relationships you desire. But how do you do that? The first step is simply to start recognizing when you are hooked, and that may be simple, but it is not easy. When do you find yourself freezing up and doubting yourself? When do you edit what you want in favor of what you think you can handle? Are there times in your day when you avoid interactions with people? Those times when we find that we limit ourselves, it’s a good practice to take a moment to be curious and ask yourself what is going on in your mind. Chances are you are hooked by some thought, emotion, or experience.
“I’m having the thought that…”
Try this exercise when you recognize that you are hooked by a thought, feeling, or emotion. Say to yourself, “I’m having the thought that…” and fill in the blank. This should allow you to add some space between yourself and your emotions. Suddenly YOU aren’t anxious. You are having the thought that you are anxious. Taking it one step further, you can add…”I’m noticing that I’m having the thought that…” I am noticing that I am having the thought that I am anxious. Now, you are really unhooking from the belief that you are anxious. You are now just experiencing anxiety. And just like the weather in Illinois, if you stick around long enough, it will change, and you will no longer be experiencing anxiety. A new emotion or thought will fill its place.
Don’t get hooked by the lie that YOU are anxious. You may be experiencing anxiety, but it doesn’t define you. To learn more about unhooking from emotions, thoughts and experiences, make an appointment to talk to an experienced counselor. Explore this idea and many others with someone who can help.
If you need support and would like to speak to a professional counselor about topics such as the one featured in this blog, and are in the Chicago area, please contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000. We are located at 6819 West 167th Street in Tinley Park, Illinois 60477.
Written By: Christine B., Masters Level Intern
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