What Helps With Anxiety? A Solution I Found After 30 Years Of Searching In vain

Destructive emotions thrive on three things: secrecy, silence, and judgment, says Brene Brown.
A man sitting on the edge of a cliff
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According to Brene Brown, a leading specialist in shame and vulnerability, any  negative emotion needs 3 things to survive:

  • Secrecy;
  • Not being spoken of;
  • Not being met with empathy.

I had been living a pretty care-free life until 21 when I had my first bout of inexplicable anxiety. I was a sophomore then — many years ago. The feeling was so overwhelming that I had to leave the classroom and go out for a breather.

Since then it would come and go sporadically — always hitting suddenly and without warning. The hardest part was not knowing what caused it in the first place. There was nothing I could see in my outer circumstances that would substantiate sudden surges of panic.

I tried all sorts of things to get rid of it. I talked to specialists, meditated, exercised, memorized Bible verses, read books on psychology, philosophy, listened to sermons, served others. All of this was helpful — until the next anxiety attack.

You cannot relieve anxiety by thinking

After struggling with it for almost 30 years, I finally found something that actually works. As of today, I have not had anxiety for about a year and a half — despite many stressful circumstances I have been through.

I met a group of guys — mostly members of AA (Alcoholic Anonymous) — who were doing a simple 10-minute practice. They claimed that it helped them to significantly relieve the 4 basic negative feelings in a human being— selfishness, dishonesty, resentment, and fear.

Fear? Really? I was more than skeptical. It sounded too easy. Just doing a simple practice every day? 

Something in me cringed: “Are you telling me that after 30 years of immersing myself in philosophy, religion, and psychology, with Dostoyevsky, Dante, Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Dale Carnegie, Stephen Covey, and hundreds of other excellent thinkers under my belt I would find a solution in a few simple steps?”

But that’s exactly what happened. Reducing anxiety has NOTHING to do with thinking. I cannot “think myself out of any problem.” The solution is deeply spiritual, just as the WOUND.

There is a wound in your heart that says: “You can’t trust anybody anymore!”

Most wounds sustained in childhood cry out: “I can’t trust anybody anymore!” Whatever happened to us back then, trust is the first thing that goes. “It’s all up to me now” — this is the message of the WOUND.

My father was an alcoholic and my mom left when I was 18. At 21, my festering wound burst open with this uncontrollable anxiety: “I am on my own now.” I desperately needed to convince myself that I could control things in my life. 

When I was successful in pumping up my belief that I was God, wielding limitless power in my little universe, I felt great. When something threatened my faith in my ability to control things, I panicked.

But it wasn’t “understanding” that reversed this pattern. When in the grips of anxiety, I don’t understand a thing. 

The best solution for anxiety is non-rational

The best solution for anxiety, just like the wound, is non-rational. That is, I didn’t think myself into believing that I am alone in the world. It was thrust upon me by my circumstances. Consequently, my thinking is the result of a certain way of living. As Richard Rohr says:

We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.

Just as the wound comes in a non-rational way — through a certain way of living— recovery also comes through a certain way of living. Slowly, by “doing things” in a new way, the old mental pattern is replaced with a new one.

The old pattern says:

You have to be God in your little universe. If you are not — start panicking.

It is incredibly hard to realize that this old mental pattern is non-rational. I don’t actually think this way. It’s subconscious. I don’t see it. I am not aware of it. It runs its broken record in my mind again and again but my conscious radar doesn’t catch it.

Overcoming anxiety is a matter of breaking secrecy

Anxiety is a mental pattern that relies on secrecy for its survival. As soon as I start seeing it, it weakens. The more I see it, the less power it holds. The more conscious I become of what’s happening in me unconsciously, the more I undercut the old pattern of thinking.

But again — I don’t need to “understand” anything. I just need to repeat certain steps to the best of my ability — again and again. 

The steps for dealing with anxiety

There’s nothing magical about them. They only work because they help bring out to my consciousness what is otherwise unconscious. 

The most powerful thing in the world is light. To shine the light of consciousness on the dark unconscious is the way out. All these steps do is help you clearly see the mental records that run in your mind and run your life.

There’s nothing else to it. There is no battle to fight. There is nothing to overcome. What you resist, persists. Seeing is enough.

Here are 4 steps for reducing anxiety over time:

1. Ask yourself the following 4 questions: 

  • “Right here, right now is there any selfishness in me?”
  • “Right here, right now is there any dishonesty in me?”
  • “Right here, right now is there any resentment in me?”
  • “Right here, right now is there any fear in me?”

2. After each question, pause for 10 seconds as you carefully listen to what arises in you. 

3. Ask the Higher Power of your understanding to remove whatever feeling you became aware of.

4. Tell at least one trusted friend what you are feeling (a SAFE one!!!)

According to Brene Brown, you need to do 3 things to overcome destructive emotions

Brene Brown, the renounced Houston professor and specialist in shame and vulnerability, gave the following formula for dealing with destructive emotions in Oprah Winfrey’s show:

“To grow exponentially, shame absolutely needs three things: secrecy, silence, and judgment. Shame cannot survive two things: being spoken and being met with empathy.”

All destructive emotions, of which shame is king, grow on secrecy, silence, and judgment. To reverse those negative emotions, you need to:

  • Break the secrecy.
  • Bring them into the light by speaking.
  • Have an empathetic soul to hear you out and say: “You are good.”

How the light of consciousness calms down anxiety

Since anxiety is non-rational —it was planted into my subconsciousness by circumstances in my past — there must be a hidden destructive message playing in my mind, which I totally don’t see.

By breaking the secrecy and speaking about how I feel, again and again, I gradually become aware of this hidden message. In my case, it’s: “You are on your own. You must gain full control over your life. You are God.”

The more conscious I am of this hidden message, the more I see its fallacy. I am not God. I don’t have to take control over things beyond my control. There’s a Higher Power greater than me that I can rely on.

Consciousness dissipates unconsciousness. Light dissipates darkness. 

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.” Jesus

What you can expect if you practice these 4 steps daily

If you practice these steps daily, you can expect a gradual increase in awareness. Over time, you will become more alert to everything that your mind is doing. And you will CLEARLY see the hidden destructive messages from your past.

You will start spotting those messages AS THE PLAY IN YOUR MIND. The moment it happens, you will feel that the emotion behind it weakens.

The more you repeat the cycle, the more the light of consciousness will shine on this dark area and dissipate the hidden message that feeds the emotion.

From time to time, I still get anxious, but this emotion doesn't last. I don't really know why, and, frankly, I don't need to know. I am quite happy with the results.

I am a translator and blogger who believes that all change comes from inside out, not from outside in.

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