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How to use NLP to Reframe Anxiety

Anxiety as Positive and Negative

Anxiety is neither positive, nor negative, as these are additional value judgements. That said, we will use these terms (positive and negative), in this article, to describe the coding of the experience of anxiety.

There are many depths to reframing anxiety. If you are feeling anxiousness (fear), you can reframe it as something positive, such as excitement. In a tense situation (say public speaking), someone may say they are feeling anxious and view this in a negative light, but someone else may code their experience as excitement; and frame their experience positively, to affect their performance.


Coding Our Feelings

Very often, people think of anxiety as something that is unhealthy. In actuality, it is pointing to your potential. No one gets anxious about what isn’t possible.

Anxiety is an emotion, that can be interpreted as energy-in-motion. All emotions are energy. They are felt and experienced in the body. They are grounded in physiology and are coded by our language, which codes the feeling with meaning.

Let’s say you have a feeling like butterflies in your stomach. You could use the term anxiety to code that feeling, and then bring all your meanings to anxiety telling yourself that this nervousness “is not good”. By resisting it, you would probably start to have physiological symptoms that are coded into the meaning that anxiety isn’t healthy.


The Future Doesn’t Exist

Anxiety is future-oriented. We create the future in our mind even though it doesn’t exist in reality and never has. Reality doesn’t have a future; it just unfolds in an intelligent way, while we (humans) construct in mind a potential future. The physiologically coded feelings associated with anxiety are often coded with hurt, pain, and the potential of being judged.

In order to code the feelings this way, it is important to know that you are judging that other people are judging you – that is – you’re doing to yourself exactly what you don’t want them to do.


Future Orienting

Anxiety about the future centres on a potential outcome. In future orienting, you are determining a course that hasn’t happened yet, based on your past experience. As you look into the future and code it this way, you focus on the negative possibility of what you fear may occur. You are projecting and constructing a reality in your head that things will end badly or you will get hurt.

In other words, anxiety is projecting into the future a possibility that you treat as a probability.  You forget that you are projecting and that it hasn’t happened yet. Then you stop paying attention to the other possibilities that are presupposed in the projection. You ignore the other possibilities and outcomes that could indeed be not only positive, but successful.

Notice that you don’t pay attention to your own self-actualised potential in your projection.  You manifest what it is that you focus on, which means that anxiety causes your fears to become a reality. This is called cognitive bias, which has you more likely focusing on what will go wrong than the possibilities for success. Anxiety causes you to stop paying attention to the possibility and potential of you because you are paying attention to the probability of you which is what won’t work potentially.


The Process of Anxiety

Despite the potential of negative coding, anxiety is an expression of health. It arises and lines up a pathway for your potential. However, what usually happens is that people pay attention to the way they have coded the future (in mind) as something negative and to be avoided. This causes a focus on what you don’t want instead of on what you do want. People in the field of high performance focus on what they do want, and that is what helps them succeed.

Anxiety does not actually exist; it is a process or a strategy that you are running. If it is a process, then you can reprocess it, you can reframe it. You can adjust and make changes to it.  The fastest way to adjust anxiety is to catch that you are doing it. You need to realise when you are in the process of future orienting and that you are paying attention to the negative possibilities as a probability.

We call this seeing through it. To do this, ask yourself – if what you are focusing on is likely to get you what you want. If it’s taking you away from what you want, turn and give yourself permission to focus on what you do want (positive outcome).  As you do this, you automatically reframe the meaning, which recodes the anxiety toward excitement, creating positive energy.  


Shifting Your Viewpoint – Toward Development

The energy of anxiety depends on your viewpoint; you choose whether to see it as fear or excitement. If you code it as fear and hold onto the possibility of the negative, then you are more likely to experience the event as fearful. If you code your anxiety as safe, secure, and successful, you are more likely to code the experience as something exciting.

In order to develop, you first need to become aware of how you are limiting yourself. Awareness is the initial component part in all human development, and awareness occurs through witnessing. The trick with this is to not do anything differently, but simply observe. That is, become the witness of awareness of yourself by viewing yourself from a third-person perspective.

The more you witness, the more choices you have in your actions. Once you are aware and have a choice, you can make new decisions (even if that is not make a new decision). Do you choose to continue to do what you are doing or do you choose to stop doing it? The next step is actualising the decision you have made. If you go from awareness to actualisation, you will just go straight back to pre-awareness again (a double bind). In order to grow and develop organically, you simply need to hold yourself at awareness, and do the work that’s going to enable the results you are truly looking for. After all, how can you expect the pay if you haven’t done the work? The practice we recommend is to slow down and stay with the process.


Coding a Positive State

The world we create in mind is based on our coding, which becomes self-fulfilling. When we are aware of this coding, we can control the movies and emotions in our mind.  We can build thought and state upon each other to create a meta-state structure that holds and maintains us and determines our performance. We can code ourselves into a beautiful or terrible life. By reframing anxiety, we can create a more positive state to do what we know we want, love and enjoy.

To check out the next blog in this leadership series click here


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