What can you do when feelings of anxiety are compounded by feelings of hating to feel that way?

What can you do when feelings of anxiety are compounded by feelings of hating to feel that way?
April 12, 2017 Ann Weiser Cornell

Focusing Tip #555

“Not wanting to feel the anxiety usually makes it increase in intensity…”

Monica writes:

Anxiety seems to always be present in my body, to a lesser or greater extent depending upon what is going on in my life. The body feelings are mostly in my back: clenching, tightness. The thoughts include “Oh, here we go again. Are we EVER going to be rid of this? You HAVE to be willing to accept this sensation in order for it ever go away.” Not wanting to feel it usually makes it increase in intensity. But I can’t seem to convince myself that maybe I DO want to feel it.

Dear Monica:

It sounds like there is an inner argument going on about wanting or not wanting to feel the anxiety. (I hear that in a phrase like “I can’t seem to convince myself…”)

How I would say it, though, is something really simple like “the anxiety is here.”

It’s not that you want or don’t want to feel it. You do feel it.

And you are also feeling something in you that really really doesn’t want to feel it.

So we make a sentence that includes both, like this: “I am sensing… something in me… that is anxious and feels tight and clenching… AND I am sensing… something in me… that doesn’t like to feel that… AND I am here with both.”

That’s a long sentence but its length is part of its power! Say it slowly, feeling what you are saying in your body at each stage.

You may want to add another part to the sentence: “… AND I am sensing something in me that says I should feel the anxiety.”

The important thing here is that as you acknowledge each of these parts of you, you are not getting caught in the struggle. You are the listener.

I’ve found that when we spend some time with a part of us that doesn’t like feeling an unpleasant feeling (rather than fighting with it), then it also becomes possible to spend time with the unpleasant feeling itself. Let me know what happens!


  1. Sam Smith 5 years ago

    Hi Ann,

    Thanks for the post – clear and to the point.

    I really appreciate the advice: accepting and listening to your thoughts (and the anxiety!) without getting caught up and stressed, but accepting they are there.

    Learning to accept stressful thoughts without becoming overwhelmed seems like common sense, but takes practice!

    I have been trying out a few tips from:


    #5 (Use positive self-talk) sounds just like the advice you have given.

  2. Ann 5 years ago

    Hi Sam – Thanks for the reference to the interesting article! I’m intrigued that you thought my advice was like using positive self-talk. Actually I really don’t agree with using positive self-talk! Too my that’s like trying to talk ourselves our of our feelings. Number two sounds more like me: “Accept that you are anxious.” But then I would add “…that something in you is anxious…” and then there is being able to turn toward and be with that part that is anxious. So this method actually goes in a new direction from most anxiety advice out there. Do try it!

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