Emotions & Resilience

How to Use Visualisation and Perception to Redefine Anxiety

My tools involve making a map of your future, or using your imagination to create.

Despite beginning my journey down the self-development path in 2004, I didn’t know what the destination would look like. In fact, I really struggled to picture my future.

As a young adult, I had no career calling to me, and thus looking at job adverts was like looking over a menu where all of the food includes something I “don’t mind” and nothing I truly love. Nothing jumped out at me and I couldn’t make a choice.

The Map and Compass

It’s clear to me that without a direction, without any idea of where we want to be, we can be lost. Without a destination, we can’t access or even create a map.

So, I began to pick out future events I’d like to happen. I pictured me-in-five-years, and she had a house and was writing her novel. I couldn’t tell if the novels were her full or part-time work, but they existed in the future. It was a tiny sign to step towards.

Through knowing my novels were important enough to still be in my life in five years time, I learned the importance of devoting time to writing “in the now”. If I had stopped writing completely back in university, I wouldn’t be that “me-in-five-years” who is a writer. And I knew I want to be that future writer.

Our imagination is a wonderful tool in the journey of development. You can redefine your future by acting in certain ways now. And the best part is: no one can read your mind. So you can redefine life as it happens to you, too.

Imaginary Panic Weasels, Redefined

Ellie Di has written before about anxiety and worries as “the panic weasels”.

She once defined panic as: “a dozen weasels. Now put them in a dog crate. Now give them PopRocks and Coke, shake vigorously, and open the door. That’s what happens to my brain, my heart, and frankly, my whole day when overwhelm and stress meet in a shower of shit I just can’t handle.”

When I first read this idea, I found it charming. A way to re-define our mental state, a way to shift our perception.

But nowadays, when I experience panic or worry, being able to shift those thoughts into a mental image gives me a little control over my mental situation.

Enter the Ferrets

Thinking of a crate of weasels running around the safe space in my head, I get to work on my imagination. I sprinkle them with water until they hide in a corner. I put up cardboard barricades which led from the wall to the patio doors. I sent my ferrets after them. When they left, I tried to shut the doors, and when they tried to get back in, my imaginary cats guards the door.

I had no idea I had inner kitten and ferret guardians until Ellie gave me the tool to frame my anxiety as a weasel. But the imagery really works for me.

Think it’s a bit weird? I guess it is. But you’ve got nothing to lose by trying it. You can cultivate some lizard guardians if you’d prefer.

It’s Not Exactly Science…

But there is evidence that our brains can’t tell ‘reality’ from imagination.

When we watch a scary movie, we experience real fear.

When you imagine running into that person you like, you feel the butterflies in your stomach.

And when you see the panic as weasels, you can pick them up by their tails and chuck them out, or you can visualise ferrets chasing them away for you.

The calm that follows? It’s the brain’s way of saying “phew!” because the anxiety is gone from conscious thought.

And it’s in your control.

~

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Emotions & Resilience

The Truth Behind Emotions: Important Conversations with Fear

Fear. We all experience it.

But we often don’t recognise it for what it is.

Many coaches talk about the unhelpful responses in different ways: they may be defined as “limiting beliefs”, “unhelpful automatic thoughts”, the “gremlins”, the “inner critic”, your “mean-girl voice” or even “monsters.”

However, at the end of the day, we all experience this voice; and it’s often hard to know how to handle it. I call mine Kitten.

Katy with A Fearful Kitten

What The Voice Does

  • The voice stops us.
  • It makes us feel low, causes us doubt and worry.
  • It criticises us and finds fault in what we’re doing.
  • We begin to feel de-motivated.
  • Our progress on our tasks slow.
  • Often, we slow down. We stop pursuing that dream, or we take a rest from that job.

But in doing this, it’s doing something very innate. Very instinctive. It’s powering those emotions for a reason.

Your brain is trying to protect you.

“Your monster is small and vulnerable and fuzzy. And it just wants to know that you’ll be okay. And that’s why it makes itself so big and fierce — to scare you into letting it take care of you” (Havi Brooks, 2010.)

What The Voice Wants

It wants to keep you safe.

Honestly, if you really dig down and ask where that voice came from, you’ll find one thing at it’s base: FEAR.

What If…

  • I fail, like running out of money?
  • I end up alone?
  • I’m embarrassed?
  • I can’t make it work?
  • I don’t survive?
  • Everyone else is right and I can’t do this?
  • I never recover?
  • I lose all my reputation?

This is the hind-brain: the reptilian part of us which is trained to perceive threat and plan the possible ways to stay alive, safe and uninjured.

The lizard brain does not know that the worry, the anxiety, the concerns are about your social reputation in a public speaking event.For all the instinctive brain knows, you’re hidden in a bush from a hungry tiger out to eat you.

Your voice is trying to help you: to problem solve all the possible options: including perceiving those threats so you can make an informed decision.

This understanding doesn’t change the emotion, but it can inform how we respond to those moments.

How To Manage Unhelpful and Fearful Thoughts

  1. The first thing I did, was stop being upset with it. I call mine Kitten, to remind me of the vulnerable, frightened voice it really is.
    • This isn’t a Mean Girl trying to bully you because you’re a failure. It’s a tiny kitten saying: “Are you sure you’ll be okay? I’m worried.”
  2. The second thing is to uncover the fear. Have that internal conversation to really explore what the worry is about.
  3. Now you know the worry, you can find the appropriate response.
    • Is the worry true? Is it likely to happen? If so, how would you handle it?
  4. And, although a little ‘woo,’ I find it helpful to visualise an actual kitten, because it just takes away some of the power in how I perceive this negative voice.
    • It doesn’t hurt to be grateful for the information your brain has told you because it worries you’ve not made a plan and thus might panic in the moment.
    • Reassure your voice that you’ve got this -> You’ve made a note of the concern, here is the action plan and it can go back to sleep now.

If you’d like some support to manage your inner kitten, you can always apply for a free consultation about my mentorship sessions.

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