Anxiety 3 – Mind traps and labels

Anxiety 3 – Mind traps and labels

Hi to all Careboxy readers! We have talked about our avoidance because of anxiety and why our control on anxiety doesn’t work. In this article, we will be talking about our mind traps and labels.

Here’s a breakdown of what we’ll cover:








My mind is always talking to me especially in a stressful&anxious moment i hear so much

  • “This is too hard, i can’t do this”
  • “What if i fail when i speak”
  • “I do not have skill to do this job”

My mind is sometimes trying to persuade me not to take any action: “Do not make any presentation” ; “ do not meet any new person, there is no need”. Sometimes he is saying to me about past moments: “You were failed in this job, why do you try again”. My mind is always having chatter with me like every people’s mind.

Our language is very complex system that can create words, images, sounds, facial expressions. We are using our language to talk with ourselves too. We can do thinking, imagining, worrying and so on. Our mind has great capacity to plan, imagine, reason. However our mind has also some reverse side, it can use our language to make comparison judgement, criticizing. We use our language to think painful events from past or scare ourselves from unpleasant future.

At birth, we can use our senses to experience this world. When we grow up, we learn using our language. However , sometimes we are stuck on our language more than our raw experience about situations. It is normal to have positive and negative thoughts and judgements in our mind. However attachment to these ideas can dominate our behaviour.

We have attachments to different kind of our cognition.

  1. Rules: We can have attachment to our “shoulds”, “ wants”, “right” and “wrong” in a very rigid way
  2. Reasons: we sometimes strongly believe that “ I don’t have enough time” , “ I don’t have this skills” , “ it’s too hard for me”.
  3. Judgements: some unhelpful ideas “I’m too fat” or “He is so selfish”
  4. Past: we can attach to our past failures or events
  5. Future: we can worry about all day about future although we don’t know if event gonna happen
  6. Self: we can attach to some self descriptions about ourselves  “I am unworthy”




Our judgements about ourselves can be negative and positive. If i evaluate myself as unworthy, it will probably make me avoid what i act. In some cases positive evaluations also can have avoidance. Let’s give social phobic sample:  If i feel myself superior than others, i can be hesitant to speak since all attention is on me.

Maybe we are saying to ourselves that we have been an anxious person and have our reasons to why we are anxious. Then with this self-belief, we choose avoidance. We don’t go to outside, we don’t go to speak in public, we don’t come closer to other fearful activities. All these stories in our mind can keep us literally stuck where we are if we really believe them and do as they say.

The question is: how helpful are such stories? We can have positive or negative judgements but important thing is our values. Does my behavior help me go to my valued direction? Does my behavior lead me to meaningful life? Does my behavior lead me to a life that i live with my things i care about.




If we are struggling with our anxiety for many years, we can have thoughts like that we have something wrong.

Let’s do an exercise to describe “Who am I” :

Answer these questions in your head, if it’s hard to answer these, you can think about times when anxiety is not a big problem for you. Fill in the blanks:

  • I am …
  • I am a person who ..
  • I really like ..
  • I don’t like ..
  • How else would you describe yourself? ..

When you finish answering all these self descriptions, you can run out of words to mold you a description. Actually our language can never describe ourselves fully. We have something beyond our thinking mind.

    According to Russ Harris, we have 3 senses of self.

  1. Physical self (body)
  2. Thinking self (mind)
  3. Observing self ( the part of you that notices whatever your body or mind is doing)

Thinking self is mechanism for thinking, judging, imagining, feeling and so on. Body sees, hears, smells, moves, takes action and so on. We are living with these 3 senses of selves. We have experienced so much things in our body and mind. Lots of pain, thoughts, emotion come and go. But there is always safe place that doesn’t change itself. It is our observing self. It is a container for all of our experiences, it is a safe space where we can observe the mind and body. There is always same pair of eyes during in life experiences watching everything. We can notice this observer in all times of our life, when we were child at holiday with our family, when we met first our girlfriend/boyfriend. You can easily recognize your observing self when you notice yourself distracted of watching TV and then turn back to watching TV again. Your observing self notices your distraction and thinking activities.

Now notice in our life

  • All of thoughts are changing
  • Our emotions come and go
  • Our body sensations are changing
  • Our relationship and roles are changing

Notice that our anxieties can affect our thinking mind. However  we will have always an observer mode as unchanged and safe. We are always aware of what we are aware of.

Let’s imagine a chessboard. Our dark pieces are team of our anxieties and white pieces are our counter-strikes. However, white and dark pieces are actually one team. All the teams know each other move, since the teams are same. anxiety and counter-strikes are actually part of us  therefore there will be no win.

Let’s think now we are chessboard, we are just observing the game. Is this idea making you relief? You are a provider of a place for the game. You are just watcher of this game. We can have dark pieces with thoughts, emotions and other side can be our controllers of anxiety or any emotion. You are again just watching their games and thoughts come and go.


How can we see our valued way in a foggy area that filled with thoughts, emotions and feelings?

If we are not aware of our observer self, we can go to our way with thoughts&emotions. It will be like a compassless sailor. Our foggy thoughts and emotions hide our valued direction. Our thoughts&emotions can sometimes lead us to wrong direction. We need to be a bus driver. But in that bus, we are the leader and choosing the direction. Thoughts&emotions come and yell us to our ear “Hey not this way, you skipped the way”. However our route must be through our values. But in this way, we need to have a skill to separate our self with thoughts and emotions. Science calls this process as cognitive defusion.




Sample techniques to make this separation

  1. Observing your thoughts: it is a mindfulness exercise to watch your thoughts come and go
  2. Observing your judgements and “thanking your mind”. Instead of attaching your thoughts such as “I am unworthy person” or “I have panic attack”. Simply thank your mind and it creates lots of judgements. Go through your valued directions and what you truly care in your life.
  3. Creating a pleasant-unpleasant emotion weekly journal: you can write your emotions experienced in a week time with your thoughts, body sensations at the time of emotion. These will show you how your emotions change and like waves. There is constant change in your emotions and thoughts. But your observer self is constant.
  4. Labeling your thoughts-feelings when you are observing.  In this mindfulness exercise you can observe your thoughts and feelings , label them as they are: “thought” or “feeling”.
  5. You can separate thoughts and create a distance from you  with these sentences “I am having the thought of …” ; “I am having a thought of I am unworthy”

With these practices, you will learn to walk in the way of your life with unhelpful thoughts&emotions. You can separate thoughts and emotions from yourself and choose to go through your values and meaningful life.

For meaningful and vital life, we can have helpful actions. We have created a  free Anxiety Chatbot to have peace with our anxiety. We have added lots of exercises, audios to learn skills that will provide you benefit in long term for a valued direction.

As a summary, we have seen in this article that our mind is not always helpful for us. Sometimes we need to clearly see our road to go our valued direction. In next article, we will see how to find our values in life. With that, we will find our routes for life.



The Mindfulness and Acceptance Workbook for Anxiety, John P. Forsyth, Georg H. Eifert

ACT made Simple, Russ Harris

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