Experiencing anxiety and watching a scary movie isn’t much different.
One isn’t fun because you think it’s real, and the other is fun because you know it isn’t real. Knowing it’s a complete fabrication you paid money for, Freddy Krueger and Jason can entertain you at the same time they’re scaring the pants off you.
What happens if you stand up in a middle of a suspenseful movie, turn on the lights and begin reminding everyone that it’s just an illusion, and that it’s all made up? Most will tell you to sit down and shut up – and while you’re at it, to turn out those lights! Nobody, it seems, wants to be reminded it isn’t real, especially when they already know it isn’t real.
In this article, we’ll look at the inevitable consequences of believing what anxiety and panic says when it’s being projected onto the screen of OUR awareness. More important, we’ll come up with a way to change our response to anxiety so that we’re back in control, whether Jason and Freddy are after us or not.
Anxiety is a response to a threat this isn’t real.
What you feel is real in the sense that it’s happening, but WHY you feel it is not real.
This all-important distinction is the key that unlocks the door to your suffering.
The problem with anxiety and panic is that we get tricked into believing that since it feels real, then it must be real. This unfounded assumption has us avoiding the people, places and things we used to enjoy.
And when we avoid our anxiety, we make it stronger.
But the problem is, we can’t ever escape where we are, for wherever we go, there we are. We already are where we are running to, even if we don’t recognize it. When we see the wisdom in no escape, we face what’s facing us. When we face what’s in front of us, we chip away at the hold it has on us.
This is all about being free from our anxiety, isn’t it? If so, we can never be free from anything if we run from it.
In fact, what we run from can only chase us.
So, have you ever seen a movie in IMAX? If you haven’t, you should. The highest resolution cameras in the world make for an intimate and virtual experience. It’s about going to the movies to forget you’re at the movies.
The memory of my first IMAX experience is still etched in my mind. More than three decades later, it’s still vivid and impossible to forget.
The opening scene was of a helicopter slowly rising above a Philadelphia neighborhood street, and then hovering above the city at a low altitude. You never saw the helicopter, but because of the floating sensation, you just knew you were in one.
There’s no frame, so the picture is bigger, higher and wider than your field of vision. You’re completely immersed in the scene, believing you’re part of the scene. And then suddenly there I was, in the cockpit of an airplane, or so I thought, flying just a few feet above a huge lake.
You really get the sensation of flying when you’re right above a layer of clouds or slow-moving water. Being right in front of the nose of the airplane looking forward, it felt so real that I totally forgot I was sitting in a chair in a movie theater.
It’s so much fun because you think it’s real.
And it cost only fifteen bucks to feel like you’re flying like Superman! It was the most exhilarating sensation I ever had. Because it made such a lasting imprint on me, I wonder if it contributed to becoming an airline pilot for a short time two decades later?
The sound in an IMAX movie is so precise you can hear a pin drop from across the room and know exactly where it landed. You don’t just see and hear an IMAX movie – you feel it in your bones.
All boundaries drop away and you find yourself intimately in the center of all the action, feeling every sight and sound projected.
The experience is the closest you’ll get to the real thing.
This is precisely what happens when anxiety, panic attacks and phobias are projected onto the screen of YOUR awareness.
Like the IMAX experience, anxiety and panic attacks hold you hostage. Since you feel it in your bones, you don’t question the validity of what your mind and body is telling you.
But this time, it’s no fun at all because you think it’s real.
You believe that IF you feel it in your bones, THEN it must be true. But it isn’t. It just feels that way. The part of your brain that is designed to keep you safe is working overtime – and it’s not getting paid time and a half!
It’s not real in the sense that there isn’t any actual danger involved. It’s not real because there isn’t anything to be worried about. If it isn’t real, then it must be illusory. Nonetheless, it’s a very convincing projection, even if it is illusory.
Knowing it’s just an imaginary movie playing in your head, you aren’t taken in by it. Knowing it’s just an imaginary movie playing in your head, you give yourself the ability to disengage from it and watch it unfold without being tortured by it.
You can just let the projection play out because you know why you feel it isn’t real.
So the next time you find yourself at The IMAX movie in your head, just remember it’s just a movie projected onto the screen of your awareness. You’re completely safe. What you don’t believe in doesn’t have the power to torture you.
If you find yourself feeling tortured, it simply means you’re believing in what’s being projected.
In reality, you’re at the movies and you KNOW you’re at the movies – even if it IS a front row seat.