My family used to have this great dog called Shadow.
He was a cross between a collie and black Labrador. (See him below)
He used to sit all day long in the front room of our house waiting for anyone to come to the front door. When someone would finally arrive, he would go absolutely bonkers!
Until…we invited the person in.
If we kept the person at the door, (for example the Fed-ex guy), he would bounce off the walls barking loudly with all the hair standing on his back.
No matter how hard you tried to tell him to lie down and stop barking, he would not listen.
His reasoning was:“I am the guard of this house and if my owner does not invite a person in, then that person is unwanted and therefore a threat.”
I sometimes used to keep friends standing at the door for a few minutes and then let them in (if they were brave enough), just to see the change in Shadow’s reaction.
It was the same every time.Once they passed the front door, he would immediately stop barking and sit back down on his seat.
Anxiety is just like a guard dog. It is your protector.
It is your fight or flight response activated by the emotional part of your brain designed to keep you from harm.
It needs you the owner (your rational brain) to reassure it that the unusual bodily sensations, that pay you a visit, are not a real threat and that all is well.
But just saying ‘everything is OK, calm down now’ does not work.
Just like Shadow, it responds much better to your actions. You need to mentally invite the anxiety in.
If you keep the door on anxiety closed, your emotional brain thinks that the threat is real and there is something to be afraid of.
When you invite your anxious sensations in with total acceptance of them, your emotional brain (your guard dog) backs off and calms down.
So don’t keep all your anxious bodily sensations knocking on the door upsetting your guard dog.
Open the door and let them in.
Accept them fully and watch as your guard dog settles back down into a calm state.
P.S. I have been using an analogy of a guard dog and anxiety. Now I want you to share with me your particular analogy of anxiety. You can do it by commenting on this blog post.
Shadow keeping guard at 17 years of age (81 dog years)