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Dance Like Everyone is Watching

William, April 22nd 2023

Dance like no one is watching is a common phrase. It's fun, it says no one is judging you, enjoy your life. I find this similar to my original approach to handling my emetophobia. I would tell myself, 'I am not going to throw up', 'Dance like you are not going to throw up'. This was reinforced by everyone around me saying the same thing. Parents, friends, teachers would tell me I was not going to throw up. But this is a trap, because emetophobia is persistent and clever. If I said 'I'm not going to throw up' emetophobia would find some way to convince me I might. I would analyze my food, monitor for signs of illness in myself and others, smells, movements, temperature. It was a never-ending battle and usually emetophobia would win, convince me I might throw up, and 'Dance like I won't throw up' became 'Dance later when I feel better', except I rarely felt better.

My breakthrough with emetophobia came with a subtle but extremely powerful mind shift. It took years of therapy and practice to make this shift, but when my brain finally believed it I knew I had taken my life back from emetophobia.

Dance Like Everyone Is Watching

Dance like everyone is watching is powerful. There is no more what if. You've already decided it's happening. Emetophobia feeds on the what if. Take away the what if and emetophobia will starve. But just stopping 'what if' is hard, we've been practicing and getting good at asking what if our whole lives. To stop the 'what if', we need a new skill, to say 'It will happen'. Just like we built up and practiced asking what if, we need to practice saying 'It will'. Once I could tell myself, 'I might throw up today' emetophobia had no more power over me. Again, this shift didn't happen overnight. I had to tell myself this over and over before I believed it. It was similar to the battle I had been having my whole life.

I used to say "I'm not going to throw up" and emetophobia would find ways to convince me. Fighting that battle made emetophobia stronger, more clever.

Now I say "I might throw up" and emetophobia tries to tell me all the ways that would be awful and horrible. I have to sit in that discomfort, and not let emetophobia scare me out of my life. Fighting this battle was very hard, and took a long time, but as I beat emetophobia back I felt my life growing.

Ultimately, I had to choose which of these paths I wanted to take. For 20 years I was fighting the 'I wont throw up' battle, and I am not sure it can be won. My therapist told me, I could always go back to that fight, why not try another approach? 'I might throw up' has been a life-saving approach, a battle I can win. Now, I dance like everyone is watching.