We’re going on an Anxiety Hunt

I have read the wonderful children’s book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt to my children more times than I can remember as I suspect many of you will have too.

It’s a wonderful story of a families adventure and the various challenges that they encounter on their journey.

The journey that we take in navigating the ups and downs of anxiety is something very important to me professionally and personally so I’m constantly looking for new ways to understand and re-frame it.

In more recent times I have begun to appreciate how children’s stories can have deeper meanings and can assist us with finding a way through the challenges that we encounter.

We’re going on a bear hunt I feel has an important message that we can all learn from as we encounter situations that make us anxious.

In the story, the family and their trust dog set out on an adventure declaring in unison ‘What a beautiful day!’ & “We’re not scared.’ On their adventure to find the bear, they are faced with a number of obstacles that they must consider:

Long wavy grass

A deep cold river

Thick oozy mud

A big dark forest

A swirling whirling snowstorm

Each time they encounter an obstacle they immediately get a little anxious “Uh oh! A river!”

BUT, their anxiety helps them to focus on the choices that they have to the obstacle and in each of the scenarios they realise that there is no way around it. The only way to go forward is to go through.

Uh oh! A river! A deep, cold river! We can’t go over it. We can’t go under it.

Uh oh! We’ve got to go through it!

This is also the solution to many of our everyday anxieties.

Anxiety will try to convince us that we should find a way to try and avoid it, to go under it, to go over it, what it will rarely tell us is that the best way is to go through it, to embrace our anxiety, to see it, to feel it, to let it happen without impediment and although it will be undoubtedly be uncomfortable (like a cold river or thick oozy mud) the quicker we go through it the less uncomfortable it will be.

Anxiety can also create a situation where we freeze because of fear. Stopping in the middle of a cold river or a swirling whirling snow storm is not recommended. We reduce our anxiety when we keep going through.

One of the strongest impacts of anxiety is the near constant instinct to run, to hide, to avoid to feel safe. When anxiety really gets in on top of us, when we’re so overly alert to any and all types of danger we feel like we have to run and hide all the time. It happens when our Anxiety Radar is a little too sensitive to signs of danger

This is where We’re going on a Bear Hunt teaches us another important lesson about anxiety. When the family encounters the very very big bear they run home as fast as they can and decide that maybe a bear hunt wasn’t the best idea.

That was a justified response to a very specific and real threat. A very big bear!

Feeling anxious and having an urge to run and hide is sometimes a very justified and appropriate thing to do, but it has to be justified and proportionate to the level of danger that’s present. In this case it was a very appropriate and proportionate course of action.

You might also have noticed that something interesting happens on the way back home through the:

Long wavy grass

A deep cold river

Thick oozy mud

A big dark forest

A swirling whirling snowstorm

They don’t stop and think about what to do….

The just go straight through each one of them, why…?

Because they’d already gone through them, they knew the quickest way was through so they didn’t hesitate, they weren’t anxious about the right thing to do, the knew that straight through wasn’t as bad as their anxiety told them it would be and they did it without hesitation.

In the words of Robert Frost

The best way is always through…

Wellness Force - The best way out is always through. | Facebook

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