Nothing is real until you make it real for you

October 10th 2023

There is fact and there is perception. But which causes the most anxiety?


There is fact and there is perception.  A chair is a chair, but whether that chair is classy or shabby is just an opinion based on a whole range of things specific to you that creates your perception.  How you see things is based on what you give your focus to.

This can be quite tricky to get your head around initially and when I tell clients that their anxiety is a perception and often not real, I normally choose to do it from outside arm swinging distance.  Because to them it FEELS very real and there in lies the secret.

Our feelings are a response to our thoughts and thoughts that are not based on the now, aren’t facts!

And this is what I came back to when facing a major challenge recently.

"All your symptoms suggest cancer"

Not an easy thing to hear, and when those words were put to me, it was time to put what I preach into practice!

The fact was, I had symptoms that made the most likely cause cancer.  At that point, however, no tumour had been found.

Perceptions?  Perceptions are typically based on experience and learning. The thoughts wanted to go down the paths of how I would cope with chemotherapy because that would be the most likely treatment.  What would happen to my business because experience suggested, I would not be able to work.  Could I use the time to study if I was not well enough to see clients?

And on the occasions I allowed my head to go down these thought paths, feelings definitely resulted:  My ego got very anxious at the thought of losing all my hair.  I felt sadness at seeing a business that has taken me years to establish, slipping away.  There was a veiled attempt at optimism that I could use the time productively.

But none of those things were real – none of them were happening to me in that moment.

Being in the moment is the only time span you can control.  So this is what I did – I made the moment real.  And it is actually quite simple.

Each time my head wandered off into the ‘what if’s’ of the future I focused on what was real in that moment.  It may be Hera, my dog, doing something silly that I could laugh at.  It may be a robin hopping around in the garden that put a smile on my face.  Often, it was just telling myself that until a tumour is found, I do not have a tumour.

And if I needed some reassurance in that moment, I went and found someone and asked for a hug – having arms around me was very real.

The part of the mind that is involved in creating most of our thoughts is a lot like a 4 year old.    4 year olds believe in Father Christmas, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy….they will take on board whatever you tell them.  So by telling my inner 4 year old thought creater that I did not have a tumour, she happily accepted that and hey presto – the feelings changed.

So what is real?

The diagnosis that has been made is that there is a mass but it is not malignant.  So had I made cancer my reality 6 weeks ago, I’d have had 6 weeks of anxiety, stress, negativity for no reason.  Had cancer been found last week, I would still have faced it because at that point it was real, but being real, you can then do something about it.

The treatment plan is not yet defined but likely to require surgery.  I am not worrying about the surgery because for now, it is not real.  I think of it like a cloud on the horizon.  But above me there is sunshine so I am going to bask in the sun.  And when that cloud comes overhead, I shall put a brolly up, or put some waterproofs on to get through it because it will pass.

So what about you?  Are there things going on in your life that you making your reality that is only perception – a thought.   And by changing the focus, could you create a new reality for yourself?

I’d love to hear what you think about the above – and the comments box below is a great place for that.

Or if you’d like a little help with changing your reality please get in touch with me – after all I am still seeing clients 🙂

Caroline Cavanagh is an anxiety specialist  and hypnotherapist in Salisbury, Wiltshire.  She is an author and professional speaker and would love to talk to you if you would like to know more about her work

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