Are you dealing with anticipatory and ready to do something about it?
I think that is a fabulous idea and one I’ve had myself very often.
Being anxious about an upcoming event, whether big or small, can be debilitating.
By trying something new, you can finally get what it’s like on the other side once and for all.
I’ve learned mostly how not to do it and had to look outside myself for the solution. This ended up being the whole point and I want to share this gift with you.
By the end of this post, you’ll learn:
- Why you should learn to overcome anticipatory anxiety.
- The most important factor to overcoming anticipatory anxiety.
- Inspirational sources from two men’s accounts.
- How to overcome anticipatory anxiety.
- How to take a stand once and for all and become unpredictable.
- 3 Reasons you should break the cycle of fear.
- Why going after the fear itself fails.
- How not to overcome anticipatory anxiety.
- How to invite your fear: the beauty in the paradox.
- 3 Reliable ways to get out of your head.
This is a thorough guide that you can return to and then hopefully never again except to share with others, but please come back for more, there’s much more to go over :).[I reference two books as affiliate links because I love these books. These books are not specifically about these topics but I find them valuable]
Why learn how to overcome Anticipatory Anxiety?
These are some great reasons why you should learn the skill of overcoming anticipatory anxiety:
- Performance. Perform where you previously failed.
- Confidence. Gain the confidence in specific situations and overall.
- Freedom. Gain freedom from your mind, from your inner focus one step at a time.
- Relationships. You can focus more outside yourself and towards others.
- Purpose. What more can you want? Once you can break out of your fears and prisons, you are free to be your best self.
Of course, these are not all-inclusive. There are many ancillary benefits and some personal to you, but these are key.
The most important factor for overcoming Anticipatory Anxiety
The single ingredient needed to make this all work: Bravery.
You need bravery. Not bravery to overcome your fear, but bravery to try something new, to break the cycle, and most importantly to break out of yourself.
I don’t want you to take offense the way I did with some advise I received so hear me out on this. Gain perspective and learn to not take yourself so seriously.
I was asking someone who is an excellent speaker, someone who never gets intimidated.
I asked what this person does to not be nervous, some tips, and he gave me the following advice:
“What’s the worst that will happen? You will still have a family and close friends. It won’t define you. They (the people in your audience) are just people. You created an idea, a situation, and a scenario in your head in which you allow this room to define who you are and what you mean. It’s just a handful of people and you are creating a larger situation. It won’t kill you. You are creating a beast out of something small. It won’t destroy you or lessen your soul.
We all have a cross to bear, we put those things there ourselves and we need to ask ourselves what those things are doing for you. Is there anything in your backpack you can get rid of? Someone else over there has cancer but these things you added by choice.”
This is where I cut him off. The advice up to this point was great but I felt upset and a little lectured by this comment.
I said it isn’t a choice, I don’t want to look or be nervous in front of people, it isn’t my choice!
He continued to tell me that “you have to get out of your body, see the whole experience, be realistic, and see the whole picture. Ask what this really means and accept yourself today.” He is a Star Wars fan and every piece of advise always leads back to it. He said “fear leads to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, to hate, and to suffering.”
This is where I give him the eye roll, even though I loved the advice and those movies.
Real meaning comes from pursuing meaning outside ourselves.
His advice was great and only when I was reading Viktor Frankyl’s Man’s Search for Meaning a few days later that I circled back to what he said with a new perspective and I realized he wasn’t trying to minimize my feelings, that perspective really is what is needed and breaking out of ourselves is the best we can ever pursue for real meaning.
Inspirational sources from two men’s accounts
I was inspired by two men and two books I will go back to again and again. Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning and Dan Millman’s Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives.
Victor Frankl’s man’s search for meaning.
This is his memoir of his experience as a prisoner through four concentration camps in Nazi Germany and how he learned to find that place inside himself and how he treated patients as a psychologist through the logotherapy practice he created.
There is a part of the book when he and the other prisoners are walking from one camp to another and he is able to think of his wife, and the love he had for her. He didn’t know if she was alive because she was in another camp, but he had that love no matter what and no one could take that from him. He also experienced the beauty in the nature despite the horrors and treatment he had experienced up to that point. He found meaning in helping sick patients while also being a prisoner, even when he was sick himself.
He learned and practiced the theory that we cannot avoid pain and suffering but we can choose how we deal with it. We can pursue meaning in it and find our purpose.
Dan Millman and The Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A book that changes lives.
This book is semi autobiographical. Dan is an aspiring gymnast and Olympic hopeful. He is haunted by something in his dreams and meets a eccentric and mysterious gas station attendant he names Socrates (Soc) in an all night gas station. This man becomes his lifelong mentor and friend.
Dan goes through a difficult journey learning how to be less inner focused, how to unlearn his false thinking and impulses, and how to be silent, responsible, and selfless, and so much more. Dan later became a world champion, athlete, and ended up coaching and mentoring others as a martial arts instructor and college professor. He says helping others is where he has found real meaning and purpose.
I’ve highlighted everything the mentor says to him on his journey in this book. There is an endless source of inspiration, humor, and growth here. This truly is a book that can change the way you look at things.
I saw some similarities with the other book on my list which is my other source of inspiration. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing their experiences but the similarities of what they discovered and how they found real joy when they learned the value of seeing beyond themselves.
So, what do these authors have to do with anticipatory anxiety?
This is a very specific topic but if we’re able to break free from ourselves in small moments applying what these two men learned, then we can learn to apply it again and again and truly break out of our prisons to truly find peace and purpose.
Alright, let’s begin.
How to overcome anticipatory anxiety
- Take a stand and be unpredictable.
- Break the cycle and apply the opposite approach.
- Get out of your head, let go and don’t try to figure everything out.
How to take a stand once and for all and become unpredictable.
When you are nervous you can end up gaining a complex. Then the next time you have a bad experience, that expectation of performing badly just reinforces our complex.
This goes for anything that has become that event for you: a speech, an interview, writing, speaking, and anything of significance to you that paralyzes you.
We repeat the same habits again and again. We avoid the things we are afraid of and then that is actually what brings about that fear. Then the symptom sparks that feeling of fear and the cycle continues and constantly reinforces itself.
What approach then would you think would counteract this?
To convince and motivate ourselves to push through it, right?
You would think so.
That same thinking is exactly what keeps us stuck. The solution may be lying in the very opposite approach but first we must make a decision to not be a pawn to our circumstances or experiences. By expecting different results, we ourselves need to be different, unpredictable, and to take a stand for ourselves once and for all.
1Frankl: Frankl’s approach is to take a stand. Don’t be the pawn or victim of your outer influences or inner circumstances. He wrote, “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you.”
2Millman: Soc says to be unpredictable like him, to not allow your thoughts, emotions, or history drive the same automatic and predictable reactions.
So we must use all that to take action once and for all to break the cycle of fear.
3 Reasons you should break the cycle of fear.
- You cannot try any harder to overcome it. Fearing what you fear produces that which you fear. It’s not about how hard you are trying. That’s all you have done is try. The harder you push through fear, the more it can really hold you back.
- You cannot fool yourself as a way out. Avoiding or giving up doesn’t work. Why for years did I just avoid that my voice was going to shake or my neck was going to turn red? Because, that makes the most sense logically. It just keeps happening so of course I’m going to fear it. Our inner workings are so much smarter than we give them credit. I’ve tried to outsmart myself so many times and it’s never worked.
- Breaking the cycle is the one real change you can implement. A real change is needed to change your responses. If you don’t break a cycle, then nothing will ever change. I knew I was stuck in a cycle but I did not see a way out. Until you break the cycle, you will be a pawn to your circumstances.
So act more and react less. Why can’t we simply go after the fear itself?
Why attacking the fear itself fails.
We are basically putting our fear on a pedestal and giving up the reigns by catering to it. The symptom produces the fear and the fears get reinforced. It become a cyclical problem. It seems the harder we try, the harder it becomes. So we get frustrated and just keep putting ourselves through the same torture.
The answer again is to break the cycle.
What are some things you have tried to do to not be anxious about a situation? These are things I tried without success.
How not to overcome Anticipatory Anxiety.
10 Approaches you would think that work that don’t:
- Covering up your problem physically. I’ll wear a scarf around my neck and then it won’t turn red and I won’t even think about it.
- Trying to talk or do your activity fast so your mind won’t catch up and realize what you are doing.
- Trying to think of something else to distract yourself like being on a beach.
- Pretending the person you are with is naked and ‘just a human like you’.
- Hoping it will all just magically work out and maybe it will somehow just go differently this time.
- Yelling at yourself inside to scare away the symptoms.
- Holding your breath and just wishing it all away.
- Trying to distract people to focus off you (sometimes this little trick is still ok).
- Lying to yourself to tell yourself it doesn’t really bother you.
- Desperate internal bribing. “If I get through this, I’ll get ice cream” or “God, if you help me I promise I will go to church.”
Now, finally to what does work. Invite your fear to join you.
How to invite your fear: The beauty in the paradox.
Do the exact opposite of avoiding fear for real results.
What is the opposite? Not trying?
Take it a step farther and get ridiculous.
Why not really go the other way and show them how much your voice can shake, how much sweat you can produce, just how red you can make your face, how you can make your mind go completely blank?
Write a note to yourself about it and really intend yourself to it.
It works because instead of being a pawn to the symptom fear symptom cycle, you are taking an unpredictable action. You are getting out of your head. By creating something new, by being unpredictable, we can break that cycle.
You know how the harder you try not to think of something, the more impossible it becomes? Now we are working towards the grain instead of against it. If you try to sweat, you won’t even be able to do it.
1Frankl: Break the cycle of symptom-fear-symptom with paradoxical intention. Instead of resisting fear, invite the hyper version of it and you won’t be able to reproduce the fear when you intend yourself to it.
2Millman: Break the cycle like Soc who lived by paradox, humor, and change. He said that the warrior acts.
3 reliable ways to get out of your head.
Apply yourself to your purpose, do something meaningful outside yourself, find someone to love for or care about, and take courageous action. These can build over time so attempt the quicker fixes to break the cycle such as inviting the hyper versions of your fear while you build up these three pillars.
1Frankl: Frankl explains that we need to get out of our heads. To learn to laugh at ourselves to be free to pursue meaning and to be free AND responsible. He found meaning in doing significant work, in love and caring for others, and in courage during difficulties. How says how we respond to suffering is what gives it meaning. Others in the concentration camp who gave up hope would die soon after. Frankl kept alive and hopeful with the prospect of seeing his wife again and in his psychological insights he wanted to share with others.
2Millman: The mentor Soc shares so many insights. He tells him their names don’t matter, that what is important is beyond names and questions and that realization comes through experience and the simultaneous comprehension of head, heart, and instinct. Soc tells Dan, “I have secrets to unfold. But before we begin this journey together, you must appreciate that a secret’s value is not in what you know, but in what you do.”
Putting it all together.
Don’t be a pawn, break the cycle, and have the courage to break the cycle out of your own web and find greater meaning beyond yourself. It’s a gift to yourself once you can learn to not take yourself and your life so seriously.
1Frankl: 1“Don’t aim at success—the more you aim at it and make it a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s surrender to a person other than oneself.”
2Millman: “The world’s a puzzle; no need to make sense of it.” “We’re all fools together, it’s just that a few people know it; others don’t.” “Take this apart and put it back together to quiet all the questions in your head.”
Next time you are anticipating something that makes you anxious. Welcome the hyper version of the fear and let me know how it works out for you and remember to subscribe for more!
- Frankl, V. E. (2006 (originally 1946)). Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy. Vienna, Austria: Beacon Press.
- Millman, D. (2010 (20 anniversary edition)). Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives. Peaceful Warrior ePublishing.
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