How to Put on the New Self and Stop Living in Anxiety
Anxiety is something that we do. But what drives that anxiety?
Old Self v. New Self Living
First, we must identify the feelings that trigger our anxiety. Only then can we learn how to heal those underlying feelings. One of the ways we can understand it is by taking off the "old self" and putting on the "new self." In the book of Ephesians, the apostle Paul writes:
That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:20-24, NIV)
Essentially, when we identify the underlying roots of our anxiety, we are discovering our pain cycles. This cycle is the pattern that most of us have operated from for the majority of our lives. Paul would call it the "old self."
This process of taking off the old and putting on the new is a daily one. I tend to believe that most people already have a "new self," or a peace cycle, at work. But when we feel hurt or get triggered, we tend to let the easily accessible pain cycle control the show, rather than choosing to respond to our feelings and circumstances from our peace cycles.
So How Do We Stop?
We stop by identifying the feelings and addressing them. If someone is anxious for example, and we have identified that the feeling of "not good enough" is the most prevalent underlying feeling that drives their anxiety, then we want to begin work to heal that feeling. There are several ways to do this, but here's the most common way that I have explored in counseling is by helping people identify truths about themselves.
Help them identify truths about themselves.
The truth can come from one of these three different sources:
1. God. That is, how does God see this person? Does God see them as not good enough, or do they feel they are good enough in God's eyes? It is important to note that these questions can be a challenge for people struggling spiritually. As a helper, we might need to stop and help them understand how precious they are in the eyes of God.
2. Other people. What have they heard communicated to them from others over the years? What messages have been communicated in terms of being "good enough"? This method can be powerful because it comes from an outside source, like the first, but it can be challenging because we don't want someone to base the truth about themselves on a source that is not consistent. It would be important to help the person connect to the positive sources of identity in their lives.
3. Ourselves. What does this person believe deep down inside about themself? Does this person actually believe they aren't good enough? Some people will feel empowered by realizing what they feel does not match what they know is true about themselves from these questions. Helping others develop a new identity that corresponds with the truth about themselves will help them feel stable when anxiety rises.
Chase the Underlying Feeling, Not the Symptom
Slowing down to work through these truths can be a very powerful component in helping a person combat their underlying feelings that trigger anxiety. So if you are someone who is struggling with anxiety, or you are working with someone who does, do yourself a huge favor-- don't chase the symptom. Chase the pain in their current identity and help people come to a new understanding of themselves.
For more on how to work through anxiety, check out the RelateStrong | Leadership Series free eBook. To go deeper, join the next RelateStrong | Training.