Imagine you're surfing and you see a large, dark shadow moving slowly under the surface of the water... and then you see... a fin! What do you experience? A sense of terror; your heart starts racing, your breathing quickens, you feel panicked!
Your brilliant brain is bringing your attention to the present moment, preparing you to fight, freeze or flee from the impending danger...
But then, how do you feel a moment later when you see... it's only a dolphin...? Ahhhh...! Phew!
A person experiencing anxiety or a panic attack will experience similar, terrifying symptoms.
But what if "treating" anxiety and panic attacks is similar to treating the terrifying symptoms that arise when we think we've seen a shark, when in actuality, all we've seen is a harmless dolphin?
Our uncomfortable feelings are always the result of the energy generated by our transient, fear-based thoughts, (a.k.a our survival instinct) not the "shark" directly (remember, it wasn't actually a shark! We just thought it was?) Anxiety is a side effect, a burst of thought energy that occurs when we engage with, and believe, that our feelings are telling us about a real danger. But we're actually experiencing our fear-based survival instinct; uncomfortable transient feelings from made-up stories. They're fiction, they're fake news! They're actually, a dolphin.
We can experience anxious feelings when we're 10 minutes late for a meeting! Or the in-laws are coming for dinner and we haven't cleaned the bathroom! It can be extremely helpful to really know, to see, to insightfully realise that our uncomfortable feelings are the result of these unhelpful, unreliable thoughts passing through us. They're trying to protect us (thank-you brain!) But they're not actually us. We are the observer, the experiencer, consciousness...
It may seem trivial on the surface, but this insight is exactly what can take us out of depression and anxiety: when we stop taking our own thoughts so seriously, when we see them for the "dolphin" that they are, the torment can settle. When we simply let them pass through our mind, we begin to feel our original, natural state bubble up, the state we were born with: innate mental health. Calmness, inner strength, lightness, clarity, simplicity, confidence, security and joy...
These uncomfortable feelings are a tap on the shoulder to come to the present moment, but not because theres' a clear and present danger. Rather, your brilliant brain is alerting you to the fact that you're innocently hanging around in your thoughts and uncomfortable feelings unnecessarily, not the real world around you, which is safe.
Kinda like surfing... and seeing a shadow... experiencing the initial shock... but then knowing for certain... it's not a shark.... it's only a dolphin. Phew! I'm actually... OK...
Counsellor, Writer and Educator
Sandy would love to hear your thoughts and answer any questions. You can email Sandy here.