I first heard this phrase from my therapist a couple of months back and have come to love and hate this wise phrase. Whenever I feel an uncomfortable feeling, such as anxiety or depression, my immediate instinct is to try to avoid it. I guess my thought process is that if I can fight it off long enough, it will go away. Unfortunately, what ends up happening is that the more I try resisting those uncomfortable feelings, the more intense they become and the longer they take to go away.
The last time this happened was while I was on my way to class last Thursday night. Out of seemingly nowhere, I started feeling that oh so familiar feeling that I was not getting enough air. I started yawning, hoping that the act would bring the air my body was apparently not getting enough of. That was not helping. I started freaking out a little bit more. Wondering if people were noticing, if I would get a panic attack and cause a scene, or if something medical was going on and what I really needed to do was to get to a hospital.
Of course none of that was true. It was all in my head. I just started feeling anxious and tried to pretend I didn’t notice it. When it didn’t work I started trying to fight it off by taking a few forced deep breaths, and after that did not work, my mind began running wild with possibilities of what this difficulty breathing could be caused by, which only made me feel even more anxious.
After a few horrible minutes of this, I started feeling my hands shaking and my body feel weak. I knew at this point that I was having a bit of a panic attack. It came on for no apparent reason, but at that point I decided not to aggravate the situation trying to pry the reason out of me. I just walked as fast as I could to the nearest lonely site I could spot on campus.
When I found a lonely bench cradled between two big trees, I sat and accepted that I was having a little panic attack. I reminded myself that I would not die from this, and that the anxiety will pass, as it always has in the past. I was just going to sit on that bench and wait it out. I stopped fighting it and just accepted what was happening. I wont lie to you, it was not a pleasant experience. It took a good 10 minutes (which felt a lot longer than that) before I began to feel better. The good thing though was that I did begin to feel better. After about 20 minutes I felt well enough to go to class.
The moral of the story here is that often, the more we try to resist what we are feeling, the less we are allowing it to pass. The act of accepting what I was going through that night and not try to fight it off, eventually allowed it to pass. There are many areas in my life that I could apply this phrase to. As a perfectionist I resist a lot of things about myself which I am sure is not making it any easier to make positive changes in my life. So from now on, I will try to notice the times when I am resisting and try instead to just sit with the feeling and accept it. I am optimistic that the result of doing this will bring about positive changes in my life, which are of course, always welcome in my life.