Unsticking from Anxious Thoughts

By Annabelle Parr, MA, AMFT

Our capacity for language allows us as a species to be excellent problem solvers. It’s the thing that allowed us to invent cars that transport us over large distances quickly, and it’s also what gives us the ability to notice if we have a flat tire, pull over, and replace the tire with a spare (and if you are not the savviest with automotive issues, to understand a YouTube video explaining how).

When we are anxious or afraid, our minds come up with thoughts to try to help us make sense of our fear and problem solve potential threats.

If you get a flat while you are driving, before any languaging kicks in, you might notice yourself feeling a jolt of fear. Fear is an acute feeling that shows up when we are facing a perceived threat. And fear is really adaptive. If we never felt fear or anxiety, we wouldn’t survive long. Usually, right after fear or anxiety (or any other emotion) kicks in, our mind jumps in with some thoughts to try to make some meaning out of that feeling and help us address it. In this case, fear might tell you to “pull over as soon as you can.” Listening to that thought will likely help you resolve the issue and ensure you are once again driving a safe, secure vehicle.

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