I live beside a sweet family with an adorably imaginative and feisty three year old boy named Caspar. A good portion of Caspar’s life seems to be in an imaginative, playful world in which he needs to protect us adults from various “bad guys.” His zeal for protecting us is to the point where, if his mom needs a moment to herself, she will say, “Hey Caspar! Go protect us from those mean pirates over there!” and he reliably dashes off, preparing for battle. Today, little Caspar + his bad guys are going to help illuminate the nature of not-so-playful anxiety. Then, we will explore a powerful tool called RAIN for examining + nurturing your anxiety. If you’d like to receive Illuminate for free in your inbox every week, subscribe here.
Whether from pirates, dragons, or Darth Vader, Caspar gives his all to protect us. Fiercely wobbling around the yard on his tiny feet, he hollers, kicks, and karate chops the empty air, which is apparently thick with insidious intruders.
Why do I tell you of my little friend, Caspar, and his guileless efforts to protect us from bad guys? Because, much like Caspar, anxiety, too, spends much of its time protecting people from bad guys– bad guys that, whether they are imaginary or not, seem very real. Bad guys like, pain, rejections, or even death.
However, unlike Caspar, anxiety doesn’t find this protection to be gleeful, imaginative, or playful. For anxiety, this protection is real, important, life-or-death work. For those who live with anxiety (and, to some extend, all of us do), constantly looking out for the bad guys can be crippling. Anxiety can reach into every corner of our world and pull us down into its deepest depths.
20% of the US population lives with an anxiety disorder, which makes it the most common mental illness in the US. And while it is highly treatable, only 40% of people living with chronic anxiety seek treatment. Why? In my experience, it is far easier in the short term to sweep anxiety under the rug than to acknowledge its overwhelming presence. That, or it has just overwhelmed me. If you experience chronic anxiety, please reach out for professional help.
With the help of my wonderful therapist and emotional intelligence, I am learning to integrate my experiences with anxiety more healthily. The tool below, offered by psychologist and meditation instructor Tara Brach, offers a deep and profound way to moments of anxiety. It is a way to acknowledge the bad guys while affirming to ourselves we are still whole.
This guided RAIN meditation is one of my favorite tools for nurturing my anxiety into security. RAIN provides a framework for working with challenging emotions. If you have 12 minutes to spare now, I highly, highly recommend you taking a listen. The experience of this meditation can be amazingly rich and profound. If you can’t do it now, I really recommend you take a listen at some point this week if you’d like to understand more about your anxiety.
Then, throughout the week, you can take a few silent moments to independently use the RAIN framework when you are faced with anxiety:
Recognize the anxiety you are feeling and where you feel it in your body
Allow the experience and the anxiety to be there.
Investigate the root of this anxiety with curiosity and care
Nurture the anxiety as you would a child, letting your anxiety show you how it can be soothed
What is your normal reaction to anxiety? How did it feel to “accept” your anxiety?
What conclusions came up during your “investigation” of your anxiety?
How does you anxiety want to be nurtured?
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