The more I study and work with safety behaviors the more I see them as relevant to not just anxiety, but life as well. Safety behaviors are actions and mental strategies to reduce anxiety, uncertainty, and possible threat. This seems normal enough. The problem is, the more we try to reduce uncertainty, the more anxious we feel. Trying to control uncertainty is like trying to control the flow of a river. It is a futile endeavor that leaves us cold, wet, and exhausted. A similar principle applies to our emotions. Our emotions are designed to come and go (or flow like a river). The harder we work to control them (i.e., engage in safety behaviors) the deeper we sink into the sands of the river, until we are stuck, chest-deep and drowning in emotional distress. This same truism runs through life. The more we seek reassurance, the less confident we feel, the more we resist unpleasant internal experiences, the more they persist, the more we try to control others, the less influence we have, the harder we try to fall asleep, the more it alludes us, the more we try to impress, the worse we come off, the more we try to not fall, the more likely we are to take a tumble, the more we work to reduce danger, the more threatened we feel, and the more we try to protect our self from hurt, the more pain we experience.
This does not mean we should be recklessness or thoughtlessness in our actions and interactions. But it does mean that we need to accept a certain amount of risk in order to live life. We need to open ourselves to uncertainty and anxiety and fully embrace them. This, paradoxically, will result in less anxiety and greater self-confidence to deal with whatever comes our way. Our mantra when faced with uncertainty and anxiety should be “maybe so” or “it might happen but I can handle it.” Because in truth, it might, and we need to believe that we can handle things as the occur. This mantra should be followed by DOING NOTHING. Meaning not engaging in the safety behavior your anxiety is making you think is necessary. As we practice this we start to feel our confidence grow and our anxiety decrease.