Different theories have different ways to explain how anxiety work. One of my favorite theory-Cognitive behavior therapy focus a lot on the content of thoughts and the architecture of it. Today I'd like to share some readings that I found useful to understand the mechanism behind anxiety, from a metacognition point of view. They match well with what I observed in my practice. Hope that provides those who suffer from their emotions with a different way to look at their thoughts and their anxiety(phobia, OCD,GAD, etc).
*Everyone had negative thoughts and everyone believes their negative thoughts sometimes but not everyone develops sustained anxiety, depression or emotionally suffering. ---- with the same event, different people interpret, feel and react in different way. While some people let go the negative thoughts fast, someone not. Why?
*In a lot cases, people become trapped in emotional disturbance because their metacognitions cause a particular pattern of responding to inner experiences that maintains emotion and strengthens negative idea--which consists of worry, rumination, fixated attention, unhelpful self-regularoty strategies or coping behaviors. ---- Sometimes, we are not aware of our own cognitive patterns that contribute to our sustained negative emotions and bring awareness itself can bring huge improvement.
*It is not typical to experience thoughts or beliefs as events in the mind, that is, to objectify them. They are usually experienced directly, like perceptions, in the same way that a person experiences the sound of a ticking clock or the sight of snowflakes falling on the rooftops. However, cognition can be experienced in different ways such as a thought or a feeling and not as the actual world itself. We do not normally see our thoughts or beliefs as inner events: we fuse them with reality. It’s as if we see through them at the outside world and ourselves and yet they act as the filter coloring our model of everything. We fail to see our thoughts as inner representations or constructions independent of the actual self or world. I have termed this usual type of experiencing the object mode, in which thoughts or beliefs are not distinguished from direct experiences of the self or the world. We normally experience an undifferentiated consciousness, making no distinction between inner and outer events and thoughts and perceptions.
...with the metacognitive mode of experiencing, in which thoughts can be consciously observed as separate events from the self and the world. These events are simply some form of representation that has a varying degree of accuracy. In this mode the individual’s relationship to thoughts is one of standing back and observing them as part of a greater multifaceted landscape of conscious experience.
---- I like to put it in a easier way: your perception of the world doesn't equal to the world and the reality. There is always a gap. By learning how to obverse your perception and cognition from distance, you can manage them better from a metacognition level.
*....separating the conscious experience of self from the thought. This latter factor consists of the individual becoming aware of being the perceiver of the thought and separate from the thought itself. Thus, a negative belief or thought can be moved outside the boundary of self, separated from the self-model, at which point it becomes irrelevant for self- regulation. The person no longer defines the self or interprets his or her world with reference to it.
---- The second important point is that you realize your thoughts and perceptions do not equal to you, they are tools, products that you have generated and thus, you can choose to keep using them or decide to discard them and build new one that works better for you.
---- Let's take a look a few typical thoughts and believes in the case of "worry"
“If I worry I will be prepared.” “Focusing on danger will keep me safe.” “I must remember everything and then I’ll know if I’m to blame.” “I must control my thoughts or I’ll do something bad.”
---- Are these internal thoughts equal to reality or just personal perceptions or believes? Does any of these reflect the reality accurately? Try different ways to question it and challenge it.
“If I worry I will be prepared.”
Is it possible to be prepared without worrying?
Is it possible to worry about everything that could happen?
Does worry give a balanced view of the future or a biased one?
Someone may say oh well I know all the logic things to think and act but I simply can not shake off those negative ones and can not control my behavior. My experience told me that usually this means there are still important blind spots somewhere and it worth exploring and digging a bit deeper into your system. Every action that your brain takes serves a purpose. If it is doing something against your will, maybe it is time to listen to what your mind is trying to say there. Usually when people can form a map of how their thoughts and emotions work and become aware that they actually have more than one option, the change they have been looking for, comes to them automatically.