When I start working with individuals and prompt them to identify goals for treatment, a common answer I get is “I want to get rid of my anxiety.” While that is a totally understandable response, I always try to encourage said individuals to understand the function of anxiety. That is, anxiety is not necessarily a “bad” thing (i.e. it can keep us safe), but it becomes unhelpful when our lives are consumed with high levels of worry, panic, and fear. With that in mind, it is not about “ridding” ourselves of the anxiety, rather, it is about learning how to tolerate anxiety and associated feelings of discomfort. Anxiety is a part of the human experience and, as humans, we have the capacity to harness this anxiety by identifying our triggers and subsequent emotions, choosing how to respond to said triggers, and ultimately, learning how to tolerate these experiences by means of practice.
The article outlines a metaphor that I always put forth in session:
“The process of building tolerance can be similar to gaining muscle strength through weight training. Find your starting point and practice that “weight” of anxiety until your strength and stamina improve – move on to the next “weight” from there!”
Hopefully in time, you can feel confident in your ability to recognize and cope with anxiety provoking experiences!
Naturally, when individuals seek treatment for anxiety, their primary goal is to “stop…worrying/panicking/obsessing/etc.” This is understandable because the symptoms have caused turmoil in their lives! As a CBT clinician, I often use the classic metaphor of anxiety as an alarm.