Nearly every form of therapy and help for anxiety, panic attacks and stress is based on one of three simple misunderstandings.

Misunderstanding One: That our anxiety comes from…

  1. the circumstances we’re up against (ie shit job, a health diagnosis, a marriage breakdown, a slump in sales), and/or
  2. the people in our lives (ie grumpy husband, tantrumming kids, that bitch of a boss, the neighbour from hell)

If you go to many types of coach or therapist and take him your woes, the conversation goes something like this:

Client: I’ve got severe anxiety. I have panic attacks when I’m in the supermarket. And I lie at night for hours worrying something dreadful is going to happen to my kids. As a result I’m so tired and my husband has to come home early from work to do the shopping which is causing lots of arguments. Please make it go away.

Coach: Yes, it seems you have correctly diagnosed yourself with anxiety. This is indeed a serious issue and will limit your life in many ways as you can see it is already doing. We can sort this out don’t worry.

Client: How do I do that?

Coach: First I will teach you some strategies and techniques you can use when you’re in the supermarket that will alleviate some of the symptoms. Then, if you keep going there each day, eventually these techniques will overcome the anxiety and you’ll be able to manage it just fine. Then I’ll teach you some strategies for how to get a good night’s sleep. It will take time, these things always do, but with perseverance we’ll get you through this thing and you’ll have some great strategies you can use whenever you’re feeling anxious in the future.


Misunderstanding Two: You might find another type of outside-in coach who believes that people and circumstances are not scary but our thinking about them is.

The conversation might go more like this:

Client: I’ve got severe anxiety. I have panic attacks when I’m in the supermarket. And I lie at night for hours worrying something dreadful is going to happen to my kids. As a result I’m so tired and my husband has to come home early from work to do the shopping which is causing lots of arguments. Please make it go away.

Coach: Yes, it seems you have correctly diagnosed yourself with anxiety. This is indeed a serious issue and will limit your life in many ways as you can see it is already doing. We can sort this out don’t worry.

Client: How do I do that?

Coach: Well, how realistic is it to be scared in the supermarket? What do you think might happen? And then what? And then what? And did that actually happen last time you went to the supermarket? On a scale of 1-10, how scared are you now thinking about the supermarket? Next time you go I want you to notice your level of fear and mark it onto this piece of paper.

You see it’s not the supermarket causing your fear, it’s the way you’re thinking about what might happen. What might be a more helpful set of beliefs to have when you’re in the supermarket?

Right, just try thinking those next time/ I’ll do an NLP technique or hypnosis with you now to help you exchange those limiting beliefs with more positive ones.

Client: OK but even thinking about the supermarket right now as we’re talking is making me feel all sweaty and panicky…..


Misunderstanding Three: You might find a coach who is trained to see our current experience is a product of our past.

Client: I’ve got severe anxiety. I have panic attacks when I’m in the supermarket. And I lie at night for hours worrying something dreadful is going to happen to my kids. As a result I’m so tired and my husband has to come home early from work to do the shopping which is causing lots of arguments. Please make it go away.

Coach: Yes, it seems you have correctly diagnosed yourself with anxiety. This is indeed a serious issue and will limit your life in many ways as you can see it is already doing. We can sort this out don’t worry.

Client: How do I do that?

Coach: Well, what do you think caused it? Did you have any scary experiences in a supermarket? Were you abandoned as a small child? Are your parents together or divorced? What is your relationship like with your father? Let’s talk about the past and explore this together in the context of your current anxiety and that will be helpful. It will take a looooooong time, probably years.


But if you find yourself in front of an inside-out therapist or coach, the conversation will be completely different:

Client: I’ve got severe anxiety. I have panic attacks when I’m in the supermarket. And I lie at night for hours worrying something dreadful is going to happen to my kids. As a result I’m so tired and my husband has to come home early from work to do the shopping which is causing lots of arguments. Please make it go away.

Coach: That looks like it’s creating a problem for you. Do you know where mental health comes from?

Client: I’m here to fix my anxiety though, please don’t change the subject. I’m scared and terrified. No one will really listen to me and I need to talk about my anxiety.

Coach: Do you know that who you really are doesn’t have an experience of anxiety? That we can go upstream before that anxious thinking even gets created and find an awareness of a whole other part of us that is naturally anxiety-free and whole?

Client: I don’t understand a word you’re saying. Please make my anxiety go away.

Coach: You’re the sky. The sky is pure and clear and infinite and peaceful. That’s just its nature. Into the sky come clouds. Little fluffy ones and big dark thundery ones. The odd hurricane or two.

You’re tired because you’ve been in the business of cloud control for a while. You want to banish all hurricane-like clouds from your life. You spend all night doing it. Every time you follow a technique you’re attempting to do it.

Well it’s a futile and tiring and completely fruitless job. The bad news is cloud control is impossible. The good news is it’s unnecessary.

I’m not here to teach you better cloud control techniques. I’m here to talk to you about the sky.

Client: WTF? I still have no idea what you’re on about but weirdly I kind of feel better already…

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