Anxiety recovery is a strange war.  You only win it when you stop fighting.

In this episode we look at the need to stop being an anxiety warrior, and start being an anxiety student.  Learning, not fighting, is the way to recovery.


The Highlights

  • Many people look at anxiety recovery as a “war” against anxiety.  But if this is a war, it is a strange one.  The only way to win this war, is to stop fighting it.
  • One of the best illustration is the fact that some wars can’t be won is the ending scene of the 1980’s movie “War Games”.  Here is a clip of the out of control computer learning that lesson.
  • Social media LOVES to target dramatized and romanticized images and ideals.  You will be called an anxiety warrior.  There are references everywhere to raging battles, never-ending battles, and darkness vs light metaphors. These may speak to you at an emotional level, but getting sucked into that is doing yourself a disservice in your recovery.
  • No matter how hardcore you are in your “attack” against disordered anxiety, you always lose.  Anxiety does not understand or obey the laws of reality, so it will simply create new and more extreme threats for you to fear, and it will both yell and whisper those threats at you all the time, knowing that you will follow them and try to fight them like you’ve been trying to fight everything else it has created.
  • Rather than attacking anxiety, getting knocked down, and bouncing back up to “attack” again … a different approach may be in order.
  • Consider that every time anxiety wins a battle or knocks you down, there is a lesson to be learned.  A recovery lesson.  That lesson is that you ALWAYS get back up.  It’s not important that you rise to fight again. The rising itself is the important part!
  • Anxiety never actually wins the war.  It never kills you down.  It never knocks you out.  It wins battles, but you are never vanquished, even when it felt like you would be.  Herein lies the lesson, and you must stop acting like a warrior to truly see it.
  • Take some time to think about what your response will be when anxiety bloodies your nose again.  Will you angrily return the punches again, hoping that this time you will finally knock it out and win the fight?  Or will you stop, understand that you never knock it out, and begin to embrace the idea that you don’t have to.
  • If anxiety is the enemy in your war, imagine that is is bombing your city.  Except the bombs never actually kill you.  You try to drop your own bombs on anxiety, but that is proving to be fruitless.  It will simply bomb your city again …. but leave you alive. Maybe rather than returning fire, you should just start rebuilding your city … because you can.
  • Over time, playing the role of student and builder is more productive than playing the role of warrior.  Students learn. Builders use the lessons they learn to build and re-build. Get good at this, and anxiety – symbolically speaking – will grow tired of bombing your city.  It grows weary.  It sees that you will not fight back directory, but also that it cannot defeat you.  It retreats.  It goes away.
  • Paradoxically, when you stop trying so hard to be a warrior, the actions of the student and builder turn you into … a warrior!

Stop being a warrior.  Start being a student.  Stop fighting.  Start learning.  This is the paradox of the anxiety recovery “war”.


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Podcast Intro/Outro Music: "Afterglow" by Ben Drake (With Permission)






Founder and host of The Anxious Truth podcast. Graduate student and therapist-in-training. Author and educator on the topic of anxiety disorders and anxiety recovery. Former anxious and depressed person.