One habit I notice with my own anxiety, as well as those I work with, is the desire to search for answers outside of ourselves. This could look like obsessive reassurance seeking, googling, reading, etc. It’s this idea that someone else knows better than we do or that someone else might be able to “fix” us.
I have a close friend who always comes to me with questions about her life, like whether she should stay with the guy she’s dating or what she should say in this situation or where should she move or should she change jobs. At first, I indulged the questions, happy to help. But then I noticed this pattern of looking to others for answers when she really actually knew deep down what was right for her.
So every time she’d come to me with a question, I started gently asking, “well, what do you think you should do?” She’d think about it for a moment and then she always had an idea of what her heart was asking of her. I simply allowed her the space and permission to explore that. She already knew (basically) what she wanted before she even asked me, she just wasn’t trusting herself.
Maybe we don’t trust ourselves or maybe we think others are somehow more knowledgeable about our own lives. But when we take a moment to slow down and stop searching, we realize we have so much more wisdom than we realize.
Obsessive reassurance seeking is often a big part of anxiety and OCD. When I get stuck in an obsession, it takes all of my might not to ask others to reassure me or not to search on the internet for the right words that will calm my anxiety. The funny thing is, getting reassurance might help in the short term, but it really doesn’t provide us with any real benefit in the long term, and it usually doesn’t quell our anxiety for too long before it’s back with a vengeance. And I notice that when I’m spending time searching for answers, it conveniently helps me avoid having to actually do the WORK.
This frantic searching helps us avoid the horrible feeling of actually sitting with our anxious sensations. It helps us avoid having to take responsibility for our own well-being. It helps us avoid having to implement the coping skills we already know, which can be really challenging. It helps us stay stuck in our own patterns that maybe we’re a little bit addicted to.
So how do we start looking toward our own wisdom?
Notice when you have the desire to look outside of yourself for answers. Then take a moment to pause. Instead of asking someone else (or dr. google), sit with your own breath. Breathe into what YOU think is right.
One thing I like to do is pretend as if I’m answering my own question from the perspective of someone incredibly wise. You could think of this as your higher self, God, love, the Universe, the Dalai Lama, etc. How would your wisest self respond to your fears? It can be really helpful to journal from this perspective and write a letter to yourself.
Can you feel into what answers you might already have? Can you slow down enough to listen to what your inner self has to say?
Of course, gaining knowledge is never a bad thing. Learning about anxiety/panic/ocd/dpdr was extremely helpful for me, and I think it’s amazing to gain insight, knowledge, and support from others. I’m talking more about when we obsessively rely on other sources to do the work for us, instead of dropping into our own strength and wisdom. If your’e not sure whether you’re gaining knowledge or indulging your anxiety, take a moment to try to answer the question YOURSELF first, and if you’re still having a hard time figuring out what to do, then find some support.
Trust me, I know how much power it takes to NOT indulge these patterns of reassurance seeking. But every time we resist the urge and turn towards our own hearts, we’re strength-training. We’re building up our ability to be with our own anxiety.
So this week, stop looking for answers and start doing the work. I’m betting you already know what you need to do to help your anxiety. Now go do it 🙂
Lots of love, always.