Monday, June 27, 2016

Stress becomes anxiety

Stress becomes anxiety when we don’t release it. Anxiety is compacted built up stress, sometimes decades of years old, that usually manifests itself as excruciatingly uncomfortable physical sensations and of course anxious thoughts that can spiral out of control.

The thing with anxiety is to keep it as simple as possible so you don’t become even more overwhelmed. Pare back what you expose yourself to and give yourself as much of a break as you possibly can.

A book that I have found extremely helpful is The Dare Response (I have no affiliation to the author). The information in it is not new, as the author Barry McDonagh states, but the way he presents it is. It is beautifully simple and extremely practical which is exactly what someone suffering from anxiety needs. I cannot recommend the book highly enough.

Being human beings we try and move towards pleasure and away from pain but with anxiety, this doesn’t work. In fact, it makes it much worse. The old cliche of what you resist persists. If the truth be told, when I have felt anxious, I have often tapped to get rid of it just because it feels so awful. But EFT never works when our intention is to get rid of something, which of course frustrates us even more until we realise what’s going on. Tapping to help us through a difficult experience is completely different and does work, and tapping works wonderfully well when putting the steps in this book into practise.

As McDonagh explains in his book, you need to stop resisting your anxiety so your nervous system can discharge it. It is only by doing this that it can be discharged by your nervous system, By not resisting your anxiety (which he explains how to do in simple practical details), you are teaching your system to recognise imminent threat. If there were an impending threat, you would have to deal with it there and then as best as you could. With anxiety, the threat feels ever present, even when you are safe (being safe and feeling safe are not the same). This is because your nervous system has not discharged the flight/fight response, or responses (there are many many undischarged experiences with chronic anxiety), so it is on hyper alert all the time. 

One of the things I have found with anxiety is the feeling of being on a merry-go-round or living groundhog day over and over again. The trauma loop in other words. Living with anxiety often becomes more traumatising than the original traumatic experiences that weren’t resolved. But you can really can learn to heal anxiety. 

Thursday, June 09, 2016

The tightrope of being activated just enough

Gary Craig, the creator of EFT, famously said that EFT works best when people are tuned in. Being tuned in means being triggered, feeling upset, feeling stressed, angry, frightened and so on. The key to working through our experiences is just enough activation so we can discharge it and not too much in case we are overwhelmed (what some might call an abreaction).

Very few of us were taught how to regulate our emotions. So what often happens is we either shut down or get overwhelmed by strong emotions and body sensations. But we can learn to contain and discharge frightening emotions and sensations by titrating. We need to titrate difficult experiences, so they're activated just enough so they can be discharged; what Peter Levine calls the tightrope of walking between too little activation and too much activation.

This is why social support and safety are key to walking through our experiences so we can integrate them. All you have to remember is how you felt when someone held your hand or spoke a kind word to you when you needed it, it makes all the difference in the world.