Disempowering Anxiety by
Blanking your Thoughts
The best way to describe blanking is by saying it means to think nothing for a moment or two.
Once the startle warning occurs, the anxiety that follows is fuelled by what we think.
In any situation where there is a real threat, real danger, such as if you were about to be run over by a bus, or were trying to escape from a burning building, you wouldn't be likely to be thinking too much but would be busy getting the hell out of there!
Thinking and anxiety usually only go together when the threat isn't real but imagined.
It starts when the survival instinct reminds us of a previous bad experience by giving us a little jolt with a startle warning. Often we then join in with this warning without asking ourselves whether it is valid here and now.
If we have anxiety problems we then start either looking out for the next symptom of our panic attack or we start "what if…" thinking.
The answer in situations such as this is simple...
If you don't think, it can't get you!
In the days when I still used to tend to have panic attacks I would often tell myself this.
When your survival instinct believes you are in danger it will do its very best to keep you focused on what that danger is. But when that danger is merely your fear of panicking this is unhelpful.
That is why it is easiest to do this at the very first "what if…" thought, before the survival instinct really kicks in.
So how can I not think?
Many people initially make the mistake of trying not to think by either pushing the unwanted thoughts away, or attempting to distract themselves from them.
Neither of these approaches works very well. This is because whenever we try and distract ourselves from something or push something away, we are focusing on it. As we have seen previously, whatever we focus on comes to the front of our awareness.
To get rid of unwanted thoughts we just need to leave them where they are but move our focus onto something else.
Blanking is a useful technique which takes seconds and which, when done correctly, will enable you to refocus your mind elsewhere. Starved of the thoughts which fuel it, the anxiety will then fade away.
The purpose of going blank in this way is to create a pause in some kind of unhelpful thinking and then to move forward in the way you want to go again. I think of it like pressing a reset button.
How to go about blanking
You simply stare at a wall, or a carpet , or anything, usually the plainer the better, and just let go of all your thoughts. Think nothing, de-focus your vision.
You will find that you can only usually keep this up for a second or two before the brain finds things to start telling you again even if it just starts following patterns in the carpet or noticing marks on the wall. But two seconds is long enough. The purpose of it is to cut off whatever you found yourself thinking about before and to re-focus your thoughts on something more productive.
When is blanking useful?
Go blank each time as soon as you notice that you're thinking something unhelpful. For example, if you catch yourself worrying about something that might happen in the future.
People with panic attacks often think ahead and picture themselves doing certain things they feel they must do but at the same time fearing the worst, as was described in more detail on the visualisation page.
If you train your mind to look out for these things then it will do just that. It isn't helpful. Far better that each time you notice your mind is going in that direction, you just blank i.e. cut off the thought mid-sentence, stare past something plain, then put your mind onto what you are doing NOW instead.
Dead Weight is a technique often combined with this. The two at once are more powerful than either one alone.
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