Have you got an open-door policy to anxiety?

negative thoughts, self criticism, anxiety, open-door policy

I left my front door unlocked all weekend. The ultimate open-door policy.

Actually, it wasn’t just unlocked, I left it wide open. As an experiment. Anyone, I mean anyone, could’ve just walked in & done whatever they liked. I wasn’t even home. Imagine leaving your most valuable possession totally vulnerable and at the mercy of whoever or whatever happened to pass-by; strangers, neighbours, stray animals, the weather. It was a crazy thing to do.

So I didn’t.

It was more of a thought experiment than a real one. Even though it’s me doing the writing & I know it’s not for real, the thought of leaving my front door wide open still feels weird, setting off mental alarm bells. What did you think when you read that first sentence? I bet you weren’t thinking ‘Wow! What a sense of freedom! It must be great to be that trusting!’ Probably more like ‘You’re a nutter – that’s insane’.

Here’s the thing.

This thought-experiment isn’t about possessions and security and insurance and how leaving your house unguarded and open is just plain daft in this day & age.

Does your mind have an open-door policy?

It’s about how most of us leave our mental house wide open and unguarded. At the mercy of whatever passing thought, idea, opinion or piece of news happens to drop by. It’s this uncritical ability to leave ourselves open that gives fake news it’s power.

And it’s not just from the outside either. We don’t just leave ourselves wide open to other people’s opinions, it’s more insidious than that.

You see, we’ve not just left the front door open, more importantly, we leave the cellar door open too. That place where the critical whispers and self-destructive thoughts just bubble up on their own. A place where we try to remember to lock them up but all too often they creep out anyway.

By not learning that we’re able to decide what thoughts and ideas to give house room to, we give strength to worries & anxieties, negative stress can take hold and depressions set in. And they’re much harder to evict once they set up home.

Ending your open-door policy

A large part of what I now do for a living is to help clients upskill their mental housekeeping. Teach them when to keep the door shut.

Even just knowing that there’s a door there in the first place is a massive step forward. Knowing that it’s OK to control who to let in, what to listen to. How to give credence to the thoughts and ideas that support you & filter out things that’re unhelpful or destructive.

It may not seem easy at first but just saying no to unhelpful thoughts and habits begins to rob them of their power.

And it isn’t just about deciding to ignore unhelpful thoughts and ideas, whether they’re your own or coming at you from someone else. Much of the new-found skills revolve around going deeper than surface meaning. Sometimes those apparently destructive thoughts and habits have a purpose that’s trying to help. They’re just going about it in a counter-productive way.

Gaining the skills to go deep and re-purpose the power of those destructive thoughts, getting them fully onside, can be profoundly liberating.

 


What next

Try it out for yourself. Think about the fact that thoughts are just thoughts and only have power when you give it to them. It’s OK to choose not to engage with some and dive into others.

Listen to opinions that you truly value, ignore those you don’t.

I know it’s easier said than done. I’ve been through my fair share of these myself. If you’d like to discuss how I could help, feel free to get in touch here


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