This is common misconception for many, and it’s keeping some folks stuck! When we talk about accepting anxiety as the path to recovery, and when we talk about surrendering to anxiety, we are not saying that you have to LIKE or LOVE your anxiety. You do not. If you’ve been struggling to find a way to like your anxiety because you think accepting and liking are the same thing, then this episode is for you.
Accepting and surrendering to anxiety, panic, OCD, intrusive thoughts, and all the things that come along with them is NOT about finding a way to like any of it. You likely dislike your anxiety. You may even hate it. That’s perfectly normal and perfectly OK. We are never talking about finding ways to emotionally accept anxiety like we might accept a friend or family member that’s hurt your feelings or has many flaws. Acceptance does not mean liking your anxiety. It does not mean loving it. It does not mean finding a way to squash the natural tendency to dislike it or hate it. Accepting and surrendering involve none of those things.
Accepting is simply acknowledging that your anxiety issues are present, and that none of the wishing and hoping for them to go away has worked. Accepting and surrendering are rooted in the idea that we must stop hoping for change without MAKING change. We must stop wishing it all away and fighting it at every turn.
Accepting anxiety is nothing more than giving up the old fight. Acknowledge that you are experiencing all these things you dislike and that nothing you’ve been doing has worked to make it all go away. Resolve to turn this experience into something constructive and positive. You must accept the fact that you experience anxiety and all its baggage so that you can learn to use this experience to un-learn the fear and phobic responses you’ve developed over time.
That is acceptance. It’s not rocket science, and it has nothing to do with learning to love anxiety.
When it comes to OCD and intrusive disturbing thoughts, this can be particularly confusing and frightening. Acceptance in this case does NOT mean accepting that those thoughts are predictive of the future, will come true, or will represent who you are. It can be scary for someone to accept intrusive thoughts for this reason, but accepting just means acknowledging that they are here and that fighting them has been fruitless. Accepting is just a way of giving up the old ways of coping so that you can learn a new way that leads to freedom from the thing you hate – and will continue to hate – so much. Accepting the symptoms and drivers of OCD does not mean that you will become what you fear you will become. I promise, it doesn’t.
Interestingly, while we may be confused into thinking that acceptance means forming an emotional attachment with our anxiety, in reality proper acceptance will lead you to being LESS attached to it on an emotional level. You don’t have to learn to love anxiety, but you will learn to simply not care about it.
That is where real acceptance will take you, so give up your mistaken believe that you must learn to like anxiety, and let go of the fight. A new way and a new life awaits when you do.
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