To lose the battle in order to win
Updated: Feb 11
A woman suffering from anxiety comes to a therapist. He asks her about her symptoms and gives her a diagnosis: panic disorder. He tells her to go home and google it, as the methods to reduce the symptoms of panic are well-known and well-described.
She goes home, googles it, reads about the ways to reduce panic. Only to feel much worse. That night, she gets a panic attack and cannot sleep. It becomes the beginning of her sleep disorder.
The content of our mind is, for the most part, not under our direct control. We feel the way we feel. Most of our attempts to purposely modify a particular feeling we are having in the present moment will fail. Or they will work short term, but the feeling will inevitably come back. Furthermore, exercises to reduce anxiety may not even work as a short-term relief, depending on the degree of symptoms.
The therapist gave the woman hope that she can be in control of her anxiety at all times, if she finds the right tools. When she tried to purposefully reduce her anxiety and the methods did not bring the expected long-term relief, she only got more reasons to worry. She became anxious about the anxiety itself and her inability to "do something about it". This feeling of powerlessness added an extra layer of suffering, and her symptoms span out of control.
Paradoxically, as soon as we make unpleasant feelings an enemy, as soon as it becomes our first priority to fight them, we often feel worse. The first step to recovery is therefore not better weapons against the problem. It is surrendering. Giving up the battle. Accepting the discomfort and allowing things to be exactly as they are right now.