Approach Anxiety Doesn’t Exist

There Is No Approach Anxiety

I had a student the other night who said “I have a little approach anxiety.”

I immediately told him “Nah you’re just excited.”

We have a tendency to jump to conclusions when it comes to emotions. It’s a widely known fact that emotions often boil down to a simple body sensation in combination with a thought.


What does rejection feel like? For me, it was a pressure in my chest. Loss? Dropping feeling in the stomach. Joy? Surging in the solar plexus. What are the actual sensations of your emotions?

It’s expedient to have shorthand words like “sad” “lonely” “angry” and “enthusiastic” for these sensations that combine with thoughts, so that we can communicate them. A problem arises, however, when we become attached to such sensations. We believe that they define us for that instant. They seem so hard to overcome at times.

The Basic Reframe

Negative emotions usually aren’t useful to me. I like to use a technique that I did not by any means invent, when confronted by an emotion I have deemed useless to me:

  1. As soon as the emotion arises, if it is unpleasant I immediately dis-identify with it. What I mean is I don’t consider it to be part of my being.
  2. Then, I observe very closely what I am feeling and thinking, with no judgement.
  3. Lastly, I reframe the sensations as neutral things, which is what they are.

So, I never get approach anxiety anymore. I do get a little adrenaline and feel my heartbeat speed up before an approach, but that’s just my body getting ready to mate. I never feel rejection anymore, though sometimes my body tries to make adjustments when I leave a set in order to calm my nervous system down since it suddenly doesn’t think I’m going to mate anymore.

The Wrapper

I get angry a couple times a year. Because it’s so rare and because I actually find it useful to motivate me, I really enjoy the anger while it lasts. I say “while it lasts” because wrapping an emotion in another emotion will usually transform the original one. Naturally because I’m not fighting it, the anger tends to subside rather quickly, to be replaced by the parts I’m enjoying, which are the energy and motivation. Negative emotions thrive on resistance. Accept your sensations when they arise. Just observe them.

This is another very useful technique to transform emotions from one to another:

  1. Identify an emotion and its constituent sensations/thoughts you would like to transform.
  2. Get a positive emotion about it.

Try it some time. Get grateful that you’re sad. You don’t need a reason. Get excited about your rejection. (I use that a lot.) Get joyful about your frustration. You can even chain them. Be excited about your gratitude for being sad! Be enthusiastic about your enjoyment of your disappointment! Keep tooling until you find the most effective combinations.

State-break tools like these are priceless. When you get in the habit of disidentifying with your emotions, you’ll be that much more centered in your real identity, which is something much deeper than a few sensations. Try it out and let me know how it goes.


2 Responses to “Approach Anxiety Doesn’t Exist”

  1. 1 Irving A. August 23, 2010 at 1:08 pm

    Whenever I fail at something I get excited that I failed… Because it means I have the opportunity to improve and refine my skills.

    So when I finally do what I need to do… It will be done with flying colors.

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