I recently watched a video tutorial explaining how the opposite of anxiety is trust. This peaked my attention… I certainly wouldn’t have jumped to describing trust as the first word to counter anxiety (I would have described calmness or feeling relaxed as being the opposite to feeling anxious); however, it does seem perceptive that having a strong foundation of trust in ourselves, or trust in general, lands in opposition to anxiety. This got me thinking about how exploring anxiety from its contrasting experiences can become a beneficial exercise in understanding its solution.
How Trust Relates to Anxiety
In the video tutorial (Instagram, Dr. Siggie), psychotherapist Dr. Siggie, explains how anxiety originates in the fear of the unknown, which is scary and triggers helplessness and codependency. Meanwhile, trust is based on knowledge, skills, and reliance. If you think of when you have a feeling of trust (that feeling when you know you can rely on something or someone), it gives you a grounding feeling, and this is certainly a strong countering feeling to uncertainty of anxiety.
Part of our development of trust, and specifically self-trust, is rooted in self awareness. It is necessary to first become aware of the situations where we do not have a sense of trust (whether it be in ourselves, in others, or the setting). Once we have this awareness, it then becomes important to understand what is getting in the way of our trust. For example, we may need to discern if practice is needed to gain competency in handling a situation, or perhaps, it could be recognizing there is good reason for our lack of trust and seeing a need to implement boundaries.
Having trust in ourselves also opens the exploration of the opposite feelings of low self-esteem and self-doubt. For those of us battling self-esteem issues or doubt in our abilities, it is good to consider where those feelings came from. Often they are born from negative messages we take in during our developmental years, or from erroneous beliefs we have about ourselves that become exacerbated. They also come from missed opportunity for skill development and practice, leaving a gap in our confidence. It makes sense from this point of view that what we need is effort towards behaviours which enhance our sense of self-trust. We counteract low self-esteem and self-doubt through the development of confidence, resiliency, and self-efficacy, which in turn, become the antidotes to anxiety.
Another Opposite of Anxiety is Safety
In my opinion, this exercise of identifying anxiety’s opposite requires another angle of consideration. I have written previously on how the symptoms of anxiety directly relate to the sympathetic activation of the autonomic nervous system in my blog Befriending Anxiety. In this blog I highlight how our autonomic nervous system (ANS) works much like a personal security system – it is constantly scanning our external and internal environments for signs of threat. As soon as your ANS detects a sign of threat, it triggers the fight flight response of the sympathetic nervous system and we feel the symptoms of anxiety. What we can highlight from looking at the relationship between the ANS and anxiety is the opposite of feeling threatened, is feeling safe.
Much like trust, feeling safe is grounding. When you recognize you are safe, you disarm the protective ANS and reduce feelings of anxiety. The problem, however, is knowing when you are safe or unsafe is not always obvious. The ANS picks up on very subtle sources of threat such as someone’s tone of voice, words, or our own thoughts about a situation. We need to practice our mindfulness skills around our thoughts and any potential for catastrophizing or misappraisal; because sometimes a re-assessment of a threat reveals there’s no threat at all. Working cognitively in this way is a simple solution to combat anxiety.
Trust and Safety – Your Resources for Less Anxiety
With this exploration of examining anxiety from the other side, it shows us that anxiety reduction lives in the opportunities to develop a greater sense of trust and safety in our lives. A couple of questions you can ask yourself for further self awareness on this are: Who and what do you need more of, or less of, for feelings of trust and safety to flourish? What do you need to challenge or change about yourself to develop greater self-trust, confidence, and efficacy? Keep in mind, it’s not so much about avoiding situations, but examining the sources and situations, and identifying what is getting in your way of trust and safety. Once this foundation is set, you are on your way to the solution.