#1 Mistake for Anxiety Sufferers

#1 Mistake for Anxiety Sufferers
#1 Mistake for Anxiety Sufferers

Facing Your Fears in Westchester Counseling, Aaron Deri LMFTThe biggest mistake people who suffer from anxiety make is focusing their energy on “feeling safe.”

That may sound odd, but every patient who does this reports the same thing: they never feel safe, or at least not for long. That’s because they’ve confused feeling safe with actually being safe. They’ve made a simple mistake: safety is not a feeling or an emotion. Safety is a judgment and belief based on the real risks around them, the actual evidence of what’s possible and probable.

“Feeling safe” isn’t the same as being safe

The sad truth is that anxiety and phobia sufferers often make life decisions based on trying to feel safe. They end up chasing a feeling that they have for only a short, time, if at all. Instead, what they report (and you might relate to this) is that their frustration and anxiety actually increase.

If you suffer from anxiety and panic attacks, or perhaps phobias such as fear of flying or high places, ask yourself: What do you do to try to feel safe? Avoid large crowds? Carry a bottle of water? Never go out alone? Avoid going too far from your home or office? Stopped traveling? Stopped driving?

I’d like to ask you: Is what you’re doing making you feel safer in the long run? Is it actually making you be safe? And at what cost? Most often, in the long run, these ways of feeling safe are keeping you confined and feeling worse about life and yourself.

So what does being safe mean?

We know we’re safe when actual conditions promote safety. And that requires some factual assessment. Otherwise, you’re doing emotional reasoning, and that means your thinking is based entirely on your feelings. So you think you’re in danger just because you feel like you’re in danger. Anyone who takes care of a small child has seen this when the child is convinced there’s a monster in the closet.

But emotional reasoning isn’t just for kids.

For example, think about your home. Is it safe or unsafe? Do you have locks on the doors and windows? A smoke alarm? A security system? Do you live with someone who can protect you? Neighbors who you know and trust? What’s the neighborhood like…little crime or a lot?

So the state of being safe is not a feeling, it’s a condition that you assess.

If you are focusing on feeling safe, you may be doing or not doing things that don’t increase actual safety. You may be doing things that are actually illogical and unsafe habits, but you don’t question them because they make you feel safer.

Once while leading a group therapy session, one patient noted she never locked her room’s doors in her boarding house because there had been fires in that home in the past and she felt safer with her door unlocked. Another patient told her, “I was assaulted by a man who walked into my apartment when the door was unlocked, you really should lock your door!”

Emotional reasoning can get in the way

This is a perfect example of emotional reasoning and it can get in your way of actually being safe. The first woman feels safe and so reasons she is safe. What do you think? What could the woman who left her doors unlocked have done to improve her actual safety, and not run the risk of allowing a stranger to come into her room?

Now look at your life. How has this kind of emotional reasoning affected you, your health, relationships and well-being? Are you ready to find a way to stop settling for feeling safe and taking a more real and reasonable stand in managing your fears?

1 Comment

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    Posted December 13, 2013 10:30 pm

    An interesting take. I always think of feeling safe, when I ought to focus on actual safety and stop playing mind games.

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