Many years ago, I read about “paper tigers”. It’s a Chinese phrase that means something that looks scary and substantial, but is not actually dangerous. It scares you, but isn’t real.
I can’t think of a more perfect analogy for anxieties and anxiety disorders than that. As you will quickly see, your anxiety is a paper tiger—something overwhelming and scary, but can be defeated. Your fears are not based on reality, they just seem that way because you react so strongly to them. They look real, but they are just images in your head of something frightening.
What I mean is, instead of saying “XYZ is real, so I am afraid.” you have gotten into the habit of saying “I feel afraid, so it must be real danger.”.
If you were face to face with a real tiger, yes your fear would definitely be founded. Real tiger=real teeth.
If you were face to face with a paper tiger, no matter how much you were afraid of it, it could not really hurt you—it’s teeth are paper!
Think of a child at a theme park. He might see someone dressed as a bear and react with terrible fright. That child really is scared. You know that the teeth on that costume are made of felt, and that the “bear” is really some 23 year old engineering student working his way through college. However, to the child, that bear is fully and utterly dangerous. Even if you try to tell your child that that is a guy in a suit, the child will hang on to his fear because his fear felt so strongly that he is not going to risk trusting you.
Does that mean that there are no dangerous bears on earth? No, of course there are. However, those with anxiety are not reacting in fear to real, imminent danger. If there was real danger, you would be reasonably afraid. No one writes books on “How NOT To Be Afraid If You Are In Yellowstone and a Grizzly Starts Charging You”.
The problem is that you are reacting to what you think might happen, not what really is happening. You have a dozen paper tigers dancing in your head, making growling noises at you and scaring you. Because your brain is used to associating a paper tiger (false danger) with a real tiger (real danger) you react to paper tigers as if they are real tigers.
I did the same thing. I had a whole zoo of paper tigers. I had paper tigers of every shape and size. Each one was more frightening to me than the last, and I allowed my paper zoo to run my life for over 15 years.
The Lord, in His mercy and wisdom, showed me how to shred those paper tigers. He showed me where my faith was (in myself, my OCD behaviors, etc) and where it needed to be (in Him). He showed me how my body chemistry was affected and how to control my brain and my body. He gave me all the “scissors” I needed to shred those tigers into little tiny pieces. I want to show you what He showed me so that you do not have to suffer in fear and dread anymore.