Dr. Gregory Jantz

Rewriting Anxiety’s Script

March 31, 2018

What do actors do when they get a new script? In my limited theatrical experience, which happened far longer ago than I care to acknowledge, actors get together and do a read-through of the script. Sometimes, an actor is given the entire script and other times, an actor is given parts of the script, which are parceled out as the script is being written. I think the latter is more indicative of life. The scripts of our lives gets parceled out bit by bit, day by day, as events are happening.

When anxiety tries to slip in some of its doom-filled pages, stop and do a quick read-through. Determine what anxiety is trying to say. How does anxiety want you to act? Realize you are not obligated to follow anxiety’s stage directions. Instead, put big, bold Xs through anxiety’s pages.

I’ve seen this technique used in a variety of ways over my tenure as a therapist. One of my favorite examples was of a woman I worked with who argued with herself like an opposing attorney. I’d think there was someone in the office with her, but she was arguing with herself out loud. She’d start reading out of anxiety’s script and then substitute her own. She played devil’s advocate with anxiety, all the while paying attention to the emotions each position stirred up in her.

There were times in the office (and I’m assuming at home) when she’d need to get out and take a walk, so her back-and-forth with herself wouldn’t be so disruptive for others. I found it a novel way to work through issues. By the time she finished, she’d settled on the script that allowed her to stay positive and move forward in the situation.

Other people find it helpful to run these competing scripts past trusted friends or family. Anxiety has a script, and you are trying to develop a script that’s different; but sometimes you can get confused as to which is correct. Especially with emotional or fearful situations, objectivity can be difficult to find. A third- party review can reassert an objective evaluation of both scripts. A third-party review can help you evaluate whether the script you’re writing for yourself will likely produce the results you want. However you manage this, finding the right script for you and your situations is another answer to anxiety.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 37 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.