Sunday, February 7, 2016

Being Curious

When working with my anxious clients, I often have them become an observer of their anxiety. This helps them to bring to me the facts about their symptoms, thoughts and behaviors connected to their anxiety rather than just their fears. However, it does something else. It helps them become unattached to anxiety and takes them away from judging themselves (this is so scary, I can't do this, I must be weak because this is so awful) to acceptance (This is anxiety., I know what this feels like., Just because I think it doesn't make it real.).  For some, this might sound a lot like mindfulness. Well it is! Being mindful allows us to slow down our response to stressful events, observe our experience, and then allow our wise mind to decide what to do next. I often ask my clients what they did when they realized their anxiety was being triggered. (note the correct answer is nothing!). It can be very difficult to change our automatic responses to what feels like a dangerous experience. So one approach that can be very helpful is to be curious. Curiosity creates a different kind of energy. It is kind of pleasant. It makes me smile. If I have a child that is afraid of bees, I can easily get them to move towards a bee just by asking them to be curious about the bee. What does it actually look like? What is it doing right now? Why do you think it's doing that? So the next time you find yourself triggered with a stressful event (you will know because you will feel an emotion rising up), be curious about it. Ask it what it would like you to know? Observe your automatic thoughts. Don't do anything until your wise mind can catch up. Here is a TED talk that might be helpful: