Always Looking over Your Shoulder? How to Stop Being Paranoid

Living in fear of what’s around the corner can be a terrible thing. Paranoia can consume your mind and overwhelm your life. If that’s how you’re spending your days, then you’re probably looking for a way to break free. You want to know how to stop being paranoid.

You can choose to stop being paranoid. By adjusting your philosophy and your physiology, you can change your response. With practice, you will free yourself from paranoia.

What Is Paranoia?

Paranoia is ever-present anxiety. It is directly tied to fear — usually, a specific fear about an equally specific circumstance or outcome.

Often, the fears that drive paranoia stem from worries about your identity. You may feel your identity is threatened. From that fear and worry, paranoia is born.

For example:

  • People are thinking untrue things about me.
  • I am going to be exiled from my group.
  • Someone is coming for me.
  • Someone is going to kill me.

Once you understand how paranoia links to these identity-level fears, you can take steps to get your paranoia under control.

Paranoia as a Choice

Paranoia isn’t necessarily something that’s happening to you. It may be a choice that you’re making.

The above sentence may feel a bit like a slap in the face at first. But it’s not calling you out — it’s not asking you to experience any shame or guilt around that choice. It’s simply an observation of something that might be true.

If you’re choosing to be paranoid, there’s a reason for that. You came by it honestly; there’s a root cause that led you to that choice. Perhaps the paranoia is there to protect and support you in some fashion.

Although you may still be reeling from that idea, try this on for a different perspective: If paranoia is a choice you have made, then you can also choose to be free from it. You can envision a world in which you are free from this thing that you want to be free from.

Let’s take a look at three approaches for how to stop being paranoid.

How to Stop Being Paranoid: The Philosophical Approach

Your philosophy is rooted in the decisions you make. With paranoia, there is a decision you’re making about either risk or fear. You have decided that there is something in your life to be afraid of.

“But Everyone Does It!”

When I tell you that you’ve made this decision, your first response might be, “But everyone does that! Everybody’s afraid of something!”

That’s true. Many people have decided that there are scary things in the world, so they live their lives scared. In fact, the majority of people operate that way.

But just because many people are doing it doesn’t mean it’s a useful way to live. You can do things differently.

Think about your paranoia and ask yourself:

  • Is it useful for helping me get what I want?
  • Is it resourceful for me to think about this thing again and again?

If you answered no, then it doesn’t matter what everyone else is doing. What matters is that you make choices that support the experience you want to have in the world.

Useful Stories

There are plenty of stories in the world that cannot be disproven.

Take the existence of God as an example. There’s no definitive way to disprove that he exists. What are you going to do, show everywhere that God isn’t? That would be quite hard to accomplish.

But on the flip side, there’s no definitive way to prove that God does exist. You could make an argument one way or the other, but the other side could refute it. In fact, that very debate has been going on for centuries.

So what it comes down to is that we have to act in the absence of perfect knowledge. That allows us to do something in the world.

If you can’t find out the truth or falseness of something, all you can do is think of the most helpful of those two things. Which one gets you closer to your goal?

You can try not to decide, but it’s pretty tricky to toe the line between two dichotomies. You’re going to wind up behaving as if one or the other is true. So you might as well go ahead and consciously make the choice.

Going back to the topic of God’s existence, I submit that it’s really useful to believe in God, whether or not God actually exists. Belief in God shapes your behavior. For instance, if you believe that God exists, then you’re likely to engage in prayer.

Prayer is useful because you get really quiet and you think about the good feelings you have for other people, as well as what you’d like to have happen in the world. From that experience, you’re going to be more aware and open to opportunities because you’ve spent time thinking about those things.

Whether or not there’s a God, this works for me. I have a story that I have chosen — that I practice in my reality — about my belief in the world.

Eternity: A Useful Belief

When it comes to stopping paranoia, the idea of eternity (that there is no beginning and no end) can be useful.

There is no possible way to know the truth of eternity. Rather, you can choose to believe that eternity exists. When you adopt that philosophy, it will help you let go of the paranoia.

For me, belief in eternity frees me from the idea of an external right and wrong. Then, the pressure on any one decision drops dramatically. No matter what happens, the worst that can possibly happen in any situation is that I experience a negative emotion.

In your life, the only things to fear are impermanent things and things that have to do with your own opinions in the world. That means that you can move toward the things that you want. You can reason your way out of the downside in any situation.

Whatever situation you are in, it’s just an experiment, an experience. This is just a blip in eternity.

The present is all that matters to you at any moment. There’s nothing that can be held onto that will last. This too shall pass — and in the eternal view, you’ll get over it.

This is the story that helps me in the world. It lets me take risks and move toward what I want, and that is what is important in my reality. If viewing life and eternity through this lens helps you out of paranoia, then you can take this story too.

How to Stop Being Paranoid: The Physiological Approach

If you want to know how to stop being paranoid, it’s also useful to look at it from a physiological perspective. By calming your nervous system, you can keep the paranoia from impacting you in the same way. You’ll change your relationship with the paranoia.

Imagine this scenario. (You might feel it’s a bit ridiculous, but just go with it for the sake of argument.) You go to a hypnotist. He hypnotizes you to believe that your paranoid sensations are orgasmically pleasurable. For the rest of your life, whenever you feel paranoid, it provides a sense of sexual pleasure. That would turn paranoia into a pleasant thing in your experience of the world.

In other words, the pleasure or the unpleasantness or the pain is not in the paranoia itself. It’s in you. Those feelings are happening in your mind, not out in the world somewhere.

So when you take a physiological approach to stop paranoia, you reconcile yourself to the present moment. The process could look like this:

  1. Breathe.
  2. Notice your thoughts.
  3. Notice your pulse.
  4. Repeat a simple mantra, such as “Everything is okay. Everything is okay.”
  5. Count your breath.

When you do these things, you’ll find that it’s impossible to be paranoid in the present moment. The present moment has nothing to be paranoid about. In the present moment, you immunize yourself to the future and to the anxiety that you’ll feel about the future or the past.

How to Stop Being Paranoid: The Practice Approach

To find relief from your paranoia, it’s helpful to practice. For this, I like future pacing.

You can read more about future pacing here. But for now, let’s go through a brief overview.

Future pacing is about practicing in the future. It lets us anticipate what is coming down the road and then make a decision about how we’ll act at that moment.

For instance, I might ask myself, “Where do I notice myself getting paranoid?” or, “How does paranoia show up in my life — what does it look like?”

Once you’ve worked through those questions, you start planning for what’s going to happen in the future. You can decide what to do next in those moments. Run that pattern in your mind’s eye for a bit.

In time, you’ll start to become more aware of what’s going on in your mind and your body. When you sense that you’re heading toward paranoia, you can throw a flag up: “Hey, you’re working on this right now. You’re working on this particular pattern.” When you notice the pattern, you can run your new routine. That’s future pacing.

You can envision a world in which you’re free from paranoia. For questions or to learn more, reach out to me at Lucid Shift Coaching.

ben@lucidshiftcoaching.com

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