Writing a New Story

Anxiety tells us “stories” about our experiences. For example, if you experience panic attacks, the story you may hear is that these feelings are bad and dangerous, that you can’t handle them, and that they must stop in order for you to be safe. Anxiety’s talent for storytelling becomes so powerful that we believe the story and become engrossed in it time and time again!!

The truth is that you can rewrite the story. It’s not as simple as convincing yourself using a new story. Instead, it will take some steps:

  • Step 1: You must be aware of Anxiety’s story – this means being mindful and objective in your observation of the story (“Ah, there’s Anxiety’s story again!”) and even “getting used” to the story through this lens to help it have less power and believability in time.

  • Step 2: Develop your new story with emphases on the following:

    • The costs of listening to and abiding by anxiety’s story

    • Your personal goals in taking this on – what you want to do and what you want to learn about yourself and the triggers

    • What you value about responding differently to this trigger and rewriting your story

    • Affirming your decision to practice a new response in order to learn and overcome the “false alarm” fear story over time

  • Step 3: Put it into action! Be aware of Anxiety’s story and apply your own story and action plan to handle these moments differently. In time, Anxiety’s story will become less noisy and less believable, and your story will be strengthened! Remember that the story is not entirely erased from your memory – it will still be there!! It’s how we respond and relate to it that helps it to have less power and significance over time.

“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story” – Cheryl Strayed

Madison Whiteneck