Leaning Into Anxiety

3 minutes Written by Derek Price

Are you familiar with the buffalo analogy? You might be thinking “of course, Derek, I know multiple buffalo analogies. Which buffalo analogy are you referring to?” The analogy I am referring to is the one about buffalo in a storm. If, for some reason, you do not know this analogy or any analogies about buffalo, I will briefly describe the one I have in mind. In its simplest form, the story goes, that buffalo inherently know that the fastest way through a storm is to run into it. While all the other animals in the prairie attempt to flee the storm, buffalo gather as a herd and run into it. The buffalo lean into the discomfort. The rest of the animals prolong their suffering by not being able to outrun the storm. They end up running along with the storm.

Now I don’t even know if this story is true but I love it anyway! I often use this analogy in therapy. Like many good analogies, it has so many layers. It displays how resistance prolongs suffering. By avoiding a problem, we often end up observing it from a distance. The thing grows and becomes more and more looming, as we watch in fear. This creates more time to think about the problem and let it grow. The problem often will become all-encompassing and we are not even in it yet! Inevitably, this leads to making ourselves suffer through the thing twice. Once when we are anticipating and worrying about the storm, then when the storm hits. Next what often happens is then the storm does hit and it is not even that bad. Our mental anguish was way worse than the storm.

Storms are going to happen. Can we find ways to be safe when they happen? Sure, but they will happen. If we spend our lives doing everything we can to avoid storms, when the inevitable storm hits, we will be very overwhelmed.

We can’t control what happens to us in our lives. We can only find better ways to control how we respond. If we become more aware of how we respond to stress, then we can change the response.

Leaning into a problem will likely make it go away faster. Like ripping the band-aid off. I regularly remind my clients that our imagination tends to be way worse than reality. When we fear something, often the story we tell ourselves of the fear is going to be exaggerated from what the actual problem is. Or since we can’t predict the future, what we think something will be like is not even accurate. It’s just a scary story our mind has created.

Lastly, I also appreciate the aspect of the buffalo joining together to run into the storm. What a great reminder to grab a friend, partner, or family member and talk about the storm. If you do not feel like there is anyone to turn to, that is where a therapist could help. Finding a therapist you trust is a great way to join with another as you run toward your storm.

Avatar Derek Price

Written by Derek Price

Derek Price is a therapist in Georgia and Kentucky who specializes in individual therapy.