18 April to 20 April – I can’t accept that the thoughts are JUST anxiety!

Hello Robin,

I hope you had a peaceful and happy Easter.

I wonder if I could ask a real quick question, please.

I feel I am hampering my own recovery by NOT accepting that my thoughts are anxiety based, anxiety related.  Thoughts such as – why we are all here;  what is the sky all about, why is it so vast, it’s infinity etc;  and I know we have conversed on these thoughts of mine in previous emails but please can you confirm that these thoughts ARE all to do with anxiety. 

In clearer moments, I can tell myself that I didn’t have these thoughts BEFORE all this anxiety, but nevertheless, I do not seem to be able to convince myself that MY PARTICULAR THOUGHTS are linked with my current anxiety and therefore I feel I have this devil on my shoulder saying, “you’re thoughts are different from everyone else’s.  This is not anxiety, this is something else.”  Even an NHS therapist confessed she’d NEVER heard of anyone with thoughts/fears like mine!!!

I am taking my “medicine” Robin, and I am beginning more and more to be able to accept all other symptoms/sensations and let them “be” and am happy to practice and understand that when the anxiety rears its ugly head, then this is an appropriate time to practice – but, I just CANNOT accept that the thoughts I am having are anxiety related and that troubles me.  Are you able to put my mind at rest on this please?  ( I understand the obsessional thinking work books and the concept of being the observer but I worry that these won’t work for me because it’ nothing to do with anxiety!)

Hope this makes sense, Robin.  Please – I am not looking for an immediate reply. I know how quick and good you are at responding, but PLEASE, don’t put yourself out.  I know how busy you must be.  I’m just so utterly grateful to be able to “speak” with you.

Thank you so much, Robin.


Hi D

It may help if I told you that these thoughts aren’t ‘anxiety’ as such

You have a FEAR of having these thoughts and THAT is anxiety

somewhere down the line you were experiencing high anxiety and either just before or just after you thought about these things and now you connect them with feeling extreme fear

EVERYONE has wondered about the vastness of the universe and the earth and the sky and the impossibility of infinity – and some people (who dont associate these thoughts with fear) LOVE thinking these thoughts

So – the thoughts are actually normal thoughts

But the problem is they trigger your anxiety

and the more you dont WANT the thoughts the more importance you place on them as proof that you are going mad

and because of that of course the thoughts WILL come because you are putting all your focus either on them when they are there or on hoping they AREN’T there

so it’s kind of hard to see how they WOULDN’T be there since you put so much importance on them

If I worried constantly all day about thoughts about why I am me and not someone else – obviously I WILL have those thoughts

You need to really understand this and the practice

Read the book on Obsessional Thoughts related to Panic – read it many many time

The thoughts are a 100% DECOY – the content of the thoughts or the theme is totally irrelevant – I have had patients whose thoughts range from the earth being so big to thinking they are going to spit in a complete strangers face to harming their children to driving into a wall – the list is endless – we ALL have different themes depending on whatever theme we were on when the anxiety was at its worst

Then you need to practice ALLOWING the thoughts – not in a ‘determined’ way – allow them because you have understood the more you try to stop them or get rid of them the more importance you place on them and the bigger them seem

so your practice is to TOTALLY let them do whatever they want to do – while you remind yourself they are just ‘Tired thoughts in a tired mind’

They keep coming back again and again because we are scared that that will happen and that they will be in our life forever

This is an understandable fear but you need to accept that the fear is maintaining the thoughts – its a puzzle

You need to be prepared that the thoughts wont dissolve overnight – even when you know the truth – it will take time

You need to practice allowing the thoughts to exist

knowing you cant switch them off right away

but you CAN OBSERVE them which breaks the illusion that the thoughts are the fullness of who you are

so – you step back (in your head) and realise ‘if I dont LIKE these thoughts and I don’t WANT these thoughts then clearly they aren’t ‘ME’

I am the person observing – disliking – watching – getting annoyed at these ‘darned thoughts’

I clearly must know what its like to have a peaceful mind because I clearly know that these thoughts are disrupting that peace

I couldn’t know that unless I was very sane and normal and knew that I actually want my peace of mind back

If I was 100% bonkers then I wouldn’t be able to observe all this

So – these thoughts are there because I am afraid of HAVING these kind of thoughts

I am putting too much importance on the CONTENT

If I had the song ‘Postman Pat’ stuck in my head and it wouldn’t stop – it just kept playing over and over and over and over I could feel similarly anxious (and some people CAN feel very very scared if they cant stop even a seemingly banal thought)

But I wouldn’t start to wonder about the lyrics of Postman Pat – that would be obviously ridiculous

It would be obvious that the problem was that ANY song was STUCK in my head and I couldn’t STOP it

We would NOT put importance on the CONTENT of the song

It is EXACTLY the same with your theme

because it seems very ‘clever’ and ‘deep’ and ‘existential’ and ‘life the universe and everything’ you think ‘ooh maybe this is very important, maybe these thoughts are real and life really is overwhelming’ – and so on

But its just a song (the ‘life is so vast’ song) STUCK in your head

Tired thoughts in a tired mind

so – you know – to get over having a song stuck in your head you need to first ‘relax’ – that its just a song – no need to ‘panic’ – then you just try to ignore it and get on with everyday stuff

You can even play with the song – sing it LOUDER and deliberately and see what happens – try to sing the song and NOT take in anything else – and ironically its hard to focus on it – and basically when you just allow it to exist and shrug your shoulders it eventually calms down

I know its easier with a ‘song’ – but the ONLY difference with your thoughts is the incorrect belief that your thoughts ARE important (more important than a silly song!) so you dont believe its ok to just ignore them and let them be – you get sucked into giving them your FULL attention – you lean TOWARDS them – listening in

You need to lean AWAY – step back – HOLD yourself in the OBSERVER mode

When you OBSERVE the thoughts – ask WHO is the observer – then GO there in your mind

That OBSERVER is ok – its NEUTRAL – it doesnt like the stupid annoying thoughts

STAY at that observer place – you may feel it at the back of your head and as if the thoughts are swirling just in front of you like a swarm of bees

relax INTO that observer position – stay with it – let the thoughts do whatever – they’re just tired thoughts in a tried mind – just like a song stuck in your head – they can do no harm – they are just irritating – let them be – who cares – ignore them – snap out of the trance like state – stop focussing on them – stop adding more thoughts TO the thoughts – just lift your gaze OFF them – look around you – listen to sounds and get on with your day

and when they pull you in again (because for a while you will subconsciously keep looking for them to see if they are there or not) just do the practice again

you will get better at it the more you practice

Dont set a time limit – it will take as long as it will take

even after all this explanation you may still be bothered about the thoughts for quite some time – EVERYONE goes through same process – so when you get fed up and think ‘I cant do this.. I’m different.. I’m incurable.. it works for others but not for me..” catch that too and get back to the practice

You may have to do this 10,000 times – so be it – there is no other way so just get on with it 🙂

18 Apr 2017

Hello Robin,

Once again, thank you for your prompt reply.

I wish I was afraid of spiders instead of the sky!!! I can remember how it started – I was visiting the coast at the height of my suffering, a very remote coast.  It was a grey, October day and as I looked towards the horizon, where the dismal grey sky met the uninviting sea, I remember feeling trapped – like being trapped underneath a huge grey tarpaulin.  As far as the eye could see, the low sky joined the sea.  I didn’t feel as overwhelmed that day as subsequent days which followed.  However, it obviously made an impression on me.  I guess, from how you have explained it, I have allowed myself to FOCUS too much on it and now it has become a fixation. 

As a 5 year old, I remember being caught out in a torrential rain storm whilst running home from school alone which frightened me and I vaguely recall being afraid of stormy, cloudy days for a while but it wasn’t a fear which lingered, so I don’t know if there is a connection.  However, I know I have to deal with the here and now rather than the past.  I know what I have to do, so thank you for your help, advice and encouragement and I am determined to come through this.  I had a lovely life before the anxiety.  I loved the outdoor life and nature.  I loved playing the piano and I want all this back.

Thank you for guiding me and helping me.

Best wishes, D

Hi D

That’s great that you can clearly make the connection

when its this obvious it is easier to just stop focussing on it

You can now say “Ok this is just because of that time when I felt so bad and I was at that remote coast – as well as that time when I got a fright when I was caught in the storm… thats all it is mind and body.. we are actually not in any danger so there’s really no need to try to help me with more adrenaline and all that existential thinking.. thanks anyway.. lets just think about what we’re going to have for tea ..”

and then get on with your day and let the thoughts swirl around like a movie in the other room

Your mind has considered that this MUST be deadly serious – because these seem like really really ‘deep’ thoughts – so of course I should listen to them in case they are really important…

but they REALLY are no more important that the lyrics of Postman Pat


its just a con – a decoy – a mistake – a misinterpretation

if it wasn’t so annoying you could say it was funny

Decide from now on – no matter how scary it FEELS like – you are NOT going to take these thoughts AS seriously again

Because you know why they arise now

and you know that in the back of your mind YOU are ok and just fed up that these darned thoughts keep coming up

That YOU is who you are

the thoughts are just tired thoughts in a tired mind

not important AT ALL

when the thoughts arise – just say – “yea yea blah blah blah yackity yack whatever un huh I hear ya yawn..”

instead of leaning in in the edge of your seat like you were listening to some news report that has just interrupted Coronation Street and thinking ‘oh my god..’

You need to completely drop that attitude – because its that attitude that is fuelling more thoughts – its a trap

even SMILE when the thoughts come – go to the mirror and make a funny face – stand on your head – do ANYTHING that breaks the seriousness

or choose to exaggerate it – think of the BIGGEST most INFINITE Thing you can think about and multiply that by a zillion and then another zillion

stop resisting and ‘shying away’ from the thoughts

its just Postman Pat in disguise


20 Apr 2017

Hello Robin,

Bless you so much for this wonderful explanation. I wasn’t expecting a reply so was really thrilled to read your words.  You always write with such passion and articulate clarity.  You have personally inspired me.  I have a far greater understanding of what anxiety is all about since knowing you – far greater than anyone else has EVER explained to me and as such, you have given me the knowledge to be able to shrug it all off my shoulders… 

As you say in Step 1 – knowledge is power.  It certainly is.  THANK YOU.  Whenever I have asked questions in the past to the medical profession surrounding anxiety, I’ve NEVER been given anywhere near the clear explanations you give, in fact, one Dr once said to me, and I quote, “I’ve never had anxiety so you probably know more about it than me”! And I’d gone to him for help!!!  However, thanks to you, I now have a clear plan for complete recovery.

Thank you for helping me to understand my fear of the sky.  No one has ever taken the time or patience to do so in the past but I’ve read and re-read your email and I know I can do as you have suggested – and it all seems quite simple!  I’ve been making such a MEAL of it all and ended up magnifying it out of all proportion .- for far too long.

I’m so grateful to you, Robin.  Thank you very, very much.

<< Previous   /   Next >>