Every entrepreneur can have moments of crippling anxiety that make them question their ability, decisions, and future potential for success. So many entrepreneurs feel, even after achieving success, that they are Meant For More. Yet they are held back from achieving their dreams by symptoms of anxiety.
What Causes Anxiety?
Psychologists and mental health therapists define anxiety as thoughts about our future that cause fear. Unlike real fear of immediate danger, anxiety forms when we perceive a threat that doesn’t exist. Our brain is wired to react, remember and protect us from danger. This is what triggers either the flight or fight response or makes you freeze, incapable of moving or making a decision. Both mechanisms exist to keep you safe — either you run from danger, or you stay so still you effectively avert the dangerous situation.
For example, when hunting for food in the past, you may encounter a wild animal. You can either run or freeze. If your brain realizes that you can not escape, you are more likely to stay still hoping the predator won’t notice you or see you as prey.
In modern life, of course, it is extremely unlikely you will be in this type of real danger. However, your brain can not distinguish the difference between fear and danger. Anxiety is a psychological response to fear, a design of evolution to keep you safe. Yet evolution has progressed so fast that there is a gap between what the brain can distinguish between, as a real danger and what is simply a thought that causes you to be afraid of a future moment where you do something wrong and fail. This is why you can feel extreme fear when you are not in immediate danger.
Psychological Research about Anxiety
Various psychological research suggests that anxiety comes from anticipating a possible hazard that could lead to a loss. This threat of loss can be in any area of life, although it certainly explains why entrepreneurs are always afraid of something terrible happening. This is why entrepreneurs can struggle with thoughts that generate fear. The fear of being discovered as a fraud when feeling deep down that you are incapable. This leads to a belief that if you work hard enough, make enough effort or do more; you can control the responses of others to avoid failure.
Psychologists have defined these worrying thoughts as the root of what they have labeled cognitive anxiety. This occurs when your emotions cause you to shift your reality from the present moment to the future. I mean by this that when you feel afraid of something and visualize whatever you don’t want to happen, you are bringing this into the present moment. This makes you think you need to react by doing something. Entrepreneurs will often find themselves doing more to control what will happen in the future.
Trying to ignore anxiety by distracting yourself or looking at ways to rationalize what you are worrying about will increase anxiety levels. This is especially relevant for entrepreneurs who will always have something else they can do to avoid facing their feelings. When you ignore something based on the universal law of cause and effect, your effort to resist something makes it grow. That’s why you can feel anxiety and not know where it’s coming from at any point.
The Ego Self and Anxiety
Consider that your anxiety comes from your response to emotions you couldn’t process in early emotional trauma. This causes a vicious cycle of reactions that all come from the moment that happened during early childhood and created your ego self. This is the core trauma, the moment that created your ego self. Your early trauma creates your perception or perspective when you think any thought, effectively creating a filter for your thoughts.
The ego self is the brain’s coping mechanism and is why you think you know how to achieve a goal — but deep down, you feel like you are not capable. This is why instead of staying present, you start to try to control your future, which only makes your anxiety worse. Understand that how you feel does not come from logic but a core trauma. That could be any event that made you feel like you were not enough, not good enough, or powerful enough to survive as you are. Until you heal your core trauma, you remain a victim to emotions that came from not processing your feelings when you were very young.
These may have left you stuck in a repetitive alternation of:
- Feeling — you fear judgment and failure and bring this into the present, giving meaning to the moment.
- Thoughts — you think about not being capable, worthy, and enough
- Action — your ego self responds to the feelings and makes you believe that the solution is to gain control over the future by controlling how other people react to you (which, of course, is impossible).
This repeats over and over, each time growing your feelings of anxiety and limiting your power.
The Body Remembers Trauma
The brain might temporarily delay anxiety, but the body always remembers the emotion. This theory has been supported by psychological research and proposes that when a memory of a traumatic event is suppressed, the brain is triggered not by the memory but by a psychophysiological response, referred to as somatic memory. This manifests in physical symptoms of anxiety, such as headaches, stomach aches, and heart palpitations, resulting in emotions being expressed as anxiety.
Mia Hewett, the best-selling author and a life and business coach, has developed the Aligned Intelligence Method® that supports her clients in resolving anxiety, limiting beliefs and self-doubt. Mia says, “The answer to ending, not just coping with anxiety, starts with having the right awareness. The right awareness is that all anxiety comes from an original emotional trauma. Once we locate the root cause of our anxiety, we can then decide to face it lovingly, then gain our new understandings, to be able to apply our new understandings on purpose. This is what creates new experiences, and it is our new experiences that give you new results. The key understanding is that what is stopping all of us from living our potential is Not logical. It is ALL Emotional. ”