“She held herself until the sobs of the child inside subsided entirely. I love you, she told herself. It will all be okay.”
― H. Raven Rose
We've all experienced anxious thought spirals now and again. We may not even realize we're in them until we've sunk too deep.
It all starts with one intrusive thought. It finds a way in, or maybe you've allowed it in, unaware of its future effects. This thought, perhaps something like, "She's better than me", clings to you, and it grows, expands, roots into your mind, and maybe you're helping it, nurturing it, providing it with more fuel with thoughts like "Wow, look at her clothes. My clothes are terrible," or "I'll never have a successful job like her's," will begin to circle, like a torpedo of negative jabs at yourself. And before you've even stopped to catch your breath, that singular thought that you, at least briefly, believed, has corrupted your entire train of thought, transforming your view on the world and leading you to believe that everything is wrong and out of your control.
Okay, perhaps that's a dramatic analogy. But sometimes, that's how it feels. Dramatic.
While it's impossible to think only happy thoughts, to ignore every intrusive thought that enters our minds (it's actually incredibly more beneficial, I think, to not push thoughts to the side), we can work to put a stop to the whirlwind we've found ourselves trapped in.
I came across this fantastic article one morning, which discussed the idea of calming our inner child. At this time, I had been trapped in a bit of a spiral myself and didn't know how to climb back out to a state of peace and confidence. No, instead I was convinced (I convinced myself, funnily enough, because it wasn't true) that I had done college all wrong.
And, to put it softly, the article changed everything. At least, for me.
As someone who has experienced anxious attachment in more than one area in my personal life, it can sometimes feel quite impossible to not believe lies. That one, singular intrusive thought, normally derived from one person's inability to text back fast enough, to my liking, will find its way in, and like a toxic plant, I will water it without realizing but considering the problems in all of my friendships, making every relationship in my life feel as though it has already left.
What may feel like the truth, the reality, however, is all but a spiral, a form of protection; your brain thinks that it's under attack and convinces you that you are in danger, that you need to fight back. And just as easy as it is to allow in and believe an intrusive thought, it's just as easy to not believe the intrusive thought. Or, more so, coddle it.
Let me explain.
The article dives into an idea called the inner child and explores how to embrace it, rather than fight it. When our amygdala believes we are in danger, our inner child is activated. And especially with fellow anxious attachment styles, we shove this inner child, this panic, toward everyone else, screaming, "Fix me! Help me! Validate me!"
The article teaches us that we need to stop pushing our anxiety on others, and take care of it ourselves, be gentle with it.
Imagine that your anxious, panicked mind is a little baby, crying and screaming outside of you. Wrap your arms around the baby and simply, rock it back and forth, shush it, talk to it. Call it by name: "It's okay, Brittney. You're okay. You're safe," for instance. And gently cradle it, this funnel of emotions, until it has at last died down and has slipped into a comfortable slumber.
Now, it might cry again (n0, it definitely will), but by doing this, we are not invalidating our emotional state, but imagining it as a baby who has not yet learned how to properly sort anxious thoughts. We are teaching the baby, alongside ourselves, that we have the power to cradle our own minds, without the help of others. And, when the baby has calmed, we can further dive into the emotions. Why are you feeling this way? We can go back to the beginning: What triggered this panic, and why? When we find the root, oftentimes that's when we can release. (It is best to do this before the beliefs settle, but sometimes we miss the beliefs, and that's okay.)
For a while, I would dismiss negative emotions. That single thought, perhaps maybe something as simple as "I wonder why they didn't invite me; that hurts a bit," would be disregarded, not important. Doing this, however, can lead to emotional build-up, which may explode into a spiral on its own.
Instead, I've learned to treat the thoughts with kindness. Rather than quickly dismiss a thought, I will tune into it and ask myself, "Why does it matter that they didn't include me? Why did that affect me?" I hug my emotions close to myself, validate them, and then rock them back down to a gentle state using self-compassion.
We will never be able to perfectly avoid outbursts, anxious thoughts, and overthinking, but we can work to be gentle with ourselves, listen to ourselves, and trust that we have the power of belief on our side. If you believe you were purposely left out, for example, without clarifying with anyone, it can cause a slow and steady downslide to a spiral. But, we can also believe that we are safe, that our inner child is heard, and that, regardless of what is going on, we will come out okay.
So, the next time you feel anxious, trapped in a spiral? Listen. Coddle yourself in a way that you need. And over time, you will begin to feel the calming and inner-confidence effects that have taken place.
You may also check out this article for more remedies.
I hope this post has helped you to ease a troubled mind and inner child.
Probably drinking tea,