Overcoming the Cycle of Anxiety
This cycle has been well-studied in psychological research, and so I use this to help people with anxiety understand how their anxiety developed over time.
When we experience things that are uncomfortable or painful, we react and learn from that experience. From there, we tend to adapt by avoiding the painful situation in the future.
In most situations, this avoidance is quite helpful. For example, the pain of touching a hot stove might teach us to avoid doing that in the future.
Although fears can help keep us safe, they also continue the cycle by reinforcing and magnifying our fears and worries when they no longer apply.
It may be helpful to be anxious about touching a hot stove, but you wouldn’t want those feelings to keep you from cooking.
It is also common to fear things that we have not actually experienced, such as death. These deeply bound processes can be traced back to our early ancestry, where certain fears helped keep the human race alive and well. Although many of the things we used to fear are no longer a threat, we continue to experience those feelings even today.