Give Your Anxiety A Personality

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Narrative therapy separates the problem from the person in order to get some perspective, viewing the problem objectively from a distance, as a distinctly separate entity from the person experiencing it. This idea works particularly well when thinking about existential anxiety since like we have written in many other places anxiety is the threat of nothingness, making it difficult to conceptualize since you can only have a clear concept of something, not nothing.

An analogy I’ve used that I like for describing existential anxiety is that it’s a terrifying monster you’ve only ever caught glimpses of. You do know he’s very dangerous. He patrols the boundaries of your comfort zone and threatens you with annihilation if you dare to go beyond these boundaries. But your relationship to anxiety is unique to you, so it might be useful to go through the narrative exercise of giving your anxiety a personality, as if it were a living, breathing entity. Some questions to help you sketch its personality are:

– When and how was your anxiety born?
– What are your anxiety’s strengths and weaknesses?
– What kinds of people would your anxiety associate with?
– What does your anxiety like to do for fun?
– What kind of clothes does your anxiety wear?
– What types of occupations would your anxiety be drawn to and why?
– How would you describe your anxiety’s temperament?
– What is your anxiety’s IQ and why?
– When and where is your anxiety most likely to come around?

These are just a few questions to help you get started. You can think of a lot more on your own; like we said above the point is to create a personality sketch in order to see anxiety as a separate entity rather than something indistinguishable from you. When you can see a problem objectively you immediately feel like you have some options, you feel lighter because it’s no longer part and parcel of your being. If you can get to know your anxiety inside and out then you’ll put yourself in a good position to minimize some of the damage it causes by coming up with creative solutions that utilize your particular skill set.