When our anxiety controls our attention, our attention becomes narrowed and constricted. We hone in on what is threatening- and often become pre-occupied with getting rid of our anxiety. We simply don’t want to feel as anxious as we actually feel!
When our anxiety controls our attention, our brains often shut down certain aspects of experience. We have difficulty seeing what else is there.
As long as we can prevent ourselves from looking, we can avoid things that make us anxious. Often when we avoid what makes us anxious, we don’t have to come to terms with sadness, loss, or pain.
We actively avoid talking about certain subjects. We avoid conflict, emotions, and people. We fill silence with awkward chatter and exit the room if the intensity becomes intolerable. We avoid eye contact. We make up platitudes that aren’t true to what we are thinking or feeling at all.
Mindful practice enables us to pay attention to aspects of our experience that we simply don’t want to pay attention to. When we pay attention- with openness and curiosity- we can start to get our minds around the places that our anxiety tries to control.
It is the acknowledgement that sets us free. When we are open to this anxiety, this pain, this discomfort, this awkward moment, this silence- we can bear with it. We can receive, acknowledge, and understand. We can accept it and know it for what it is. “It” loses its power over our frenetic actions.
When we willingly re-direct our attention to that which evokes anxiety- we start to see what is in front of us. We no longer have to avoid people, places, subjects, or topics of conversation- because we acknowledge them. We recognize when others change- and when they don’t change- and the impact it has on us.
When we are vulnerable and receptive, we are moved and touched and influenced by the world around us. We might get hurt. We may need to get up and brush ourselves off. But we participate in life and we take risks.
We live as if we are alive.