Whether we have a diagnosable anxiety disorder or are anxious about an upcoming event (a reaction that we deem silly and stupid), we tend to get angry with ourselves. Maybe even furious.
We wonder what’s wrong with us. We wonder why we can’t get it together. We tell ourselves that we’re weak and ridiculous, and we need to stop acting like a child.
In short, we blame and bash ourselves.
Which is exactly what Ashley Thorn’s clients do. They think their anxiety is completely and totally their fault. They get frustrated that they can’t “just relax.” They get frustrated that they can’t turn off their anxiety, that they can’t control it, that often it feels like it’s controlling them.
Anger is actually a surface emotion, according to Thorn, LMFT, a psychotherapist and founder of 4 Points Family Therapy in Sandy, Utah. Beneath your anger, you might find “shame, guilt, fear, sadness—any number of things depending on what you’ve been taught to believe about mental health-related issues.”
And that’s hard. It’s hard enough to struggle with anxiety—adding the other feelings of shame, sadness and fear can put us over the edge, battering our sense of self and sinking our self-worth. Which is why kindness is so key. Thorn shared several ways we can practice self-compassion when we’re feeling anxious (and angry with ourselves).
Feel what you’re feeling. Acknowledge and accept your anxiety, instead of fighting it, and calling yourself an idiot. Give yourself permission to feel whatever arises.
“Sometimes it helps to give your anxiety a name or label it in some way so that it feels external to who you are,” Thorn said. She shared this example: “There’s the grey cloud again. It’s making me feel scared [and] frustrated.”