Okay, this may sound a bit strange, but you can be your own co-pilot. Don’t try this at 30,000 feet in the air. It’s for when your feet are on the ground.
What I mean by being your own co-pilot is that—when encountering anxiety or any “negative” emotion—you can actually talk yourself through the turbulence.
How is that possible? It is possible because the human mind has creative capacities that can be activated to compartmentalize negative emotions.
To do this, you have to personify these negative emotions and actually imagine them as separate from you. You may even want to give them a name. Say your name is Nancy. Maybe you “personify” r the part of you that seems shaken by unexpected challenges at work by giving it the name “Nervous Nancy,” or “NN” for short.
The next step is counterintuitive, but can be very powerful. You literally talk to the part of you that is worried or nervous or shaken, as though you are that person’s co-pilot in life. It may feel peculiar at first, but just at first.
Here’s an example:
“Listen, NN, I understand what you’re feeling. Our job description is changing, and changes here at work always worry you—a lot. I know, but we’ve got this. I think half the problem is that unexpected changes remind you of when dad got sick back when we were in high school. Everything changed, right? It was really hard.”
Again, this technique might seem stilted or clumsy, initially, but I promise that if you make a bit of a habit of it, you’ll get used to it—and find it extremely useful. It can be used to talk yourself down from anxiety or anger, to provide yourself with encouragement to pursue big goals, to avoid procrastination and to achieve power over many other parts of you that would, otherwise, diminish the whole of you.
Dr. Keith Ablow