People often come to me for help and as they walk into my room they say the words, ” I know I have to live with my Anxiety, but …..” It’s a belief that many people hold. A crippling belief.
Anxiety seems to be the modern condition. It’s largely invisible to outside eyes, but affects more people than you might imagine. It’s more than just worry. Anxiety can feel like an emotional and physical prison that keeps people trapped in a world which becomes smaller and smaller. Life can become a vicious circle of fear, overthinking, nausea, shame… lived out to the tune of a beating heart.
Why Do We Feel Anxious?
Many of the clients who come to see me…in fact, probably 99% of them,,,, have no idea where the Anxiety comes from. They are normal people living normal lives and then…one fine day they are poleaxed by a panic attack. Sometimes the Anxiety creeps up on them like an insidious shadow, creating a mist of uncertainty and fear that settles quietly on their lives and won’t let go.
It’s strange to understand, but feeling this way means that our brains, our minds, are working rather too well.
What has happened is that we have, at some point in our lives, experienced a Significant Emotional Event (SEE). This can be something big and traumatic or…. something that happened when we were too young to fully understand its meaning. Our brain, in that moment, took a snapshot of everything – the sights, sounds, smells, tastes – and triggered the fight or flight response
We survived that moment and the brain stored away that nugget of information, patting itself on the back for helping us to live through a potential threat, and beginning to be vigilant for similar events in the future.
And when, in the future, our brains sense a pattern, a connection to that first event, the fight or flight response can, again, be triggered. We survived because of it in the past so hopefully it will save us again.
How Does Fight or Flight Feel?
In our ancient past we needed to survive. Human beings are very good at surviving. Messages from the world around us – a sabre tooth tiger… a marauding tribe….a falling boulder…..enter the brain and we react instinctively. Adrenaline and cortisol flood into our bodies, preparing our muscles to run away, fight or freeze. Our hearts beat faster to pump oxygenated blood to our extremities. We breathe quickly. Our muscles tense. Blood is directed away from the left side of our brain where speech is formulated. We don’t think – we act.
Of course, nowadays there are no sabre tooth tigers or marauding tribes. We rarely experience moments of true life threatening danger. And yet our brains haven’t quite caught up with this. A looming school teacher telling us off in assembly when we are 5 years old can appear very frightening. When we are 5 we just don’t have the cognitive ability to understand that our life is not actually threatened. This experience says more about an uncaring grown up than ourselves. And yet, the experience is filed away and, having survived, the brain keeps a look out for similar events. Months or even years later we can find ourself in a situation that matches the pattern and before we know it we’re plunged into the protective response.
How Can Cognitive Hypnotherapy Help?
The latest research shows us that we need to have a top down, bottom up approach when dealing with the feelings triggered by trauma or, as we call it in Cognitive Hypnotherapy, SEE. This means that we talk about what has happened and create a different perception or mindset, but we also work with the body, with the feelings experienced.
The latest research shows that the snapshot of a SEE reaches the amygdala milliseconds before it reaches the cortex. The amygdala is the part of our ancient brain that acts instinctively to release the hormones we need to survive. Only later, when our cortex, our thinking brain kicks in do we analyse what and why we have run away, frozen or attacked.
So, often we can’t put into words what we feel. We just feel it. We feel it in our heads or our chests…sometimes all over as a kind of buzzing. It’s hard to know what the feeling means, but we know that it’s unpleasant and possibly frightening.
When we work with that feeling in a practical way, giving it a shape, a colour, a weight… it makes it less scary. We begin to have control again. We begin to feel safe again.
And when we feel safe we can begin to relax and understand what has happened from a new perspective. We are not just talking about how rubbish we feel. We are taking hold of our lives and, with guidance, finding a new path, a new strength. When we feel truly safe and can understand that we are safe now then there is no need for the fight or flight response. The anticipation of danger, the pattern matching behaviour can stop. We can begin to live our lives healthily and happily again.
A Healthy Holistic Environment
Our minds can, over time, become so focused on what’s wrong that we begin to exist in a world that gets smaller and smaller. In the work I do it’s about shifting that focus. It’s almost as if we have been trapped in a dark corner, staring at a wall and I gently take you by the hand and bring your attention to the world around you. Gradually you can begin to breathe again, be creative, find joy in nature and the connection with other people. By creating healthy habits and shifting our mindset we can find our world beginning to grow and flourish.
We can choose the life we lead, the life we create. With the help of Cognitive Hypnotherapy you can approach life with a new mindset and new lifeskills to help you as time goes on. You don’t have to live with Anxiety. You can live with Choice.
If you would like to chat about anything mentioned in this blog, or if you feel stuck in some way then do please feel free to get in touch for a complimentary chat on the phone. We can arrange a time to suit you.