I am not trained in Medicine or Psychology. All the information presented here is based upon my own personal experiences. There is no substitute for qualified medical advice, please discuss with your doctor/therapist before undertaking any anxiety-elimination methods. This letter was written by me to me and any references to 'you' or 'we' are third party references to myself. It worked for me, that is all I know. I have completely oversimplified the structure and functions of the brain for my own needs. I may be wrong in my analysis. This letter has not been peer reviewed and I have no supporting data to ascertain its effectiveness in anyone but myself. I accept no liability for any problems you have if you implement anything that has been written or implied by this letter.
Oh dear me. I am you.
I am writing to you from a short time in the future. I am doing this because you are currently having a bad time. I am here to tell you that things will get a whole lot better. I do not have an anxiety-based disorder, I am not wiser, not cleverer, not braver and certainly not stronger than you. We are the same person temporarily separated by a simple understanding.
This letter is written to present another option, another way of thinking, a way of thinking that worked for me. It also makes no claims as to be the best strategy or the only strategy, it is the simple honest conclusions of a self admitted 'layperson' for no charge.
Please read the disclaimer. I am not an expert, I don't ever want to be an expert. I'm just being me.
Introductions done, lets get on with the meat and bones of your condition. Let's discuss what you have been doing, what you should be doing and why you should be doing it. By the way, I have made the decision to place the entirety of the (long) letter onto one page. This will eliminate any frustration you usually have navigating through endless menus to pick the relevant information.
LETS GET STARTED
There is so much confusion regarding what techniques and methods to use to manage and ultimately remove your high-anxiety condition. I will refer to these high-anxiety conditions as anxiety-based disorders throughout this letter. I use the general term 'anxiety-based disorder' to describe all relevant conditions. These conditions are as follows:
· Panic Attacks/Panic Disorder;
· Generalised Anxiety Disorder;
· Obsessive Compulsive Disorder;
· Paradoxical Anxiety;
· Pure Obsession
· Health Anxiety;
· Social Anxiety;
· Low self-esteem;
There are also countless other conditions which fall under the term anxiety-based disorder. In fact there are as many different types of anxiety-based disorders as there are sufferers.
One of the very first confusion things any sufferer will experience is asking the following question:
WHAT PARTICULAR ILLNESS HAVE I GOT?
We ask this simply because we need to know what is ailing us. It‘s a confusing time for us with a large variance of confusing disorders to understand and identify with. Once we know the answer we can then be advised of the best course of action to take to remove our illness. A frequent thought process is as follows:
“I get occasional Panic Attacks with what seems to be Generalized Anxiety (GAD) in-between, but according to this pamphlet, it’s unusual to get GAD and Panic at the same time, but I also seem to get bouts of Depression? Am I Depressed? Clinically Depressed? Is there a difference? Do I have Panic Attacks? What’s the difference between Panic Attacks and Panic Disorder? I read somewhere that the root cause of anxiety-based disorders is the fear of fear. Does that make me phobo-phobic? Hang on! I’m also scared to relax, does that make me relax-o-phobic? What about triggers? Maybe I’m scared of everything? Am I panto-phobic? Can somebody please help me?! Can somebody tell me at least what I‘m dealing with here? I need a doctor! No I don’t. How can a pill cure all of this? I need a psychologist, but the waiting list is six months!! Or a psychiatrist. Is there a difference? Oh my! Am I going mad??
Initially there seems to be no hard or fast rule regarding the answer to this question correctly. It is most normal and most natural for any sufferer to experience any combination of high anxiety, intense panic, deep depression, obsessive thoughts, strange phobias and indeed any other type of anxiety-based disorder. The symptoms can change hour-by-hour and the condition seems to 'evolve' under its own intelligence (it doesn't, I'll explain that later) and always be one-step-ahead (there‘s a good reason for that, I'll explain that later). You are simply categorised by what description fits you best based upon data from previous cases. But if we cut-to-the-chase, and let the truth out early, then the answer to that particular question in very easy indeed:
YOU DONT HAVE AN ILLNESS, THERE IS NOTING WRONG WITH YOU
There are literally thousands of possible symptoms you can experience whilst in the midst of any anxiety-based disorder. Some are 'common' symptoms, others are unique to you. The reason why everyone's symptom-set is different will also be explained later.
OWN YOUR RECOVERY
You are the one who will get yourself better and in time you are the one who will keep yourself there with nothing more than a sound understanding.
Once you understand the principles you carry relaxation and happiness in your body and mind for the rest of your days.
A SIMPLE DIAGRAM
The only diagram you need to remember is the following:
ANS [Autonomic Nervous System]
SNS [Sympathetic Nervous System] PNS [Parasympathetic Nervous System]
A SIMPLE DIAGRAM EXPLAINED
I'll start off with a little bit of technical information:
Your anxiety-based disorder IS produced by your Autonomic Nervous System (ANS)
Your Autonomic Nervous System is divided into two parts.
1. Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS). Its initiation is called the Fight/Flight Response.
2. Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). Its initiation is called the Rest/Digest Response.
In my experience there is little benefit in discussing only the Fight/Flight response. We need to give equal air-time to the Rest/Digest response. This way, we see the anxiety-based disorder in relation to the big picture. It becomes obvious how we are consciously choosing to overuse the Fight/Flight response to the detriment of the Rest/Digest response. Ultimately what this equal billing shows us is that an anxiety-based disorder is simply the product of our choices. With the knowledge of an equal and opposite Rest/Digest response your thought processes are directed away from anxiety, once this happens, you force the environmental conditions for anxiety to solve itself. In other words, this most simple diagram of the Autonomic Nervous System summarizes your choice. What we have here is a simple fork in the road, which road you travel from now on is your choice. Travel the SNS and retain your anxiety, travel the PNS and regain your happiness, confidence and relaxation.
Fear (the Fight/Flight response) wears many clothes: Panic Attacks, Anxiety, Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Phobias, Depression, Low Self Esteem; Catastrophising and other Negative Thoughts), Insomnia; Anger Disorder, Health Anxiety, Social Anxiety etc etc.
Once we undress it we see it for what it is. Naked fear is simply a mechanism that we can choose to listen to or choose to ignore.
A quick internet search (you have probably been doing a lot of this lately) shows us that the majority of targeted anxiety reduction literature, nomenclature and advice mainly focuses on the Fight/Flight response. All we do if we choose this road is strip off one anxiety outfit only to be given a new one to wear.
As we also want to focus on the equal and opposite force, let us balance the Fight/Flight concept with the other of your choices, the Rest/Digest response.
The Rest/Digest response wears many clothes. Happiness, Laughter, Relaxation, Serenity, Self-Assurance, Clarity of Mind, Optimism, Positivity, Elation, etc etc.
Once we undress it we see it for what it is. Naked relaxation is simply a mechanism that we can choose to listen to or choose to ignore.
WHO IS THIS LETTER FOR?
It was originally written for myself but you may decide that it is for you who has the experience of the severe discomfort of an anxiety-based disorder first-hand. It can be for those who have relationships with someone (family, friends, and associates) who has an anxiety-based disorder. You will realise as you decipher the information presented that it can be for everyone, everywhere. The feedback patterns that exist within the mind of the anxiety-based disorder sufferer are present within everyone. The only difference between a sufferer and a non-sufferer is the intensity and frequency of the symptoms.
So read at your leisure and hope you find something useful. It is not a treatment plan, it is not a compulsion, it is merely an insight into my quick conclusions based upon solid research regarding the fight/flight response in the modern age.
Inappropriate fear is a common bond across all humanity and constantly advising us all of potential solutions. We can choose our response to fear to our advantage or disadvantage and others, based upon our interactions with ourselves and others.
Once we understand and implement the curative strategies we can go one better than “non-sufferers” and become people who truly understand how we removed our anxiety.
With this knowledge, we become empowered by the true understanding of the benevolence of the fight-flight response. We realise how safe we have always been.
We have personally experienced it, in real time, we have faced it. We have faced ourselves, made friends with our ourselves, understood ourselves and surfaced with a confident smile of wonderful possibilities hitherto undreamed of.
This eventual position gives us the clarity to completely understand ourselves, and our relationship with the wonderful world around us.
To use a bit of positive ‘spin’ we anxiety-based disorder sufferers (and ‘ex-sufferers') are the lucky ones,. We have the advantage of not having to search through subtle and fewer mental and physical effects to gain this insight. It is a wonderful insight.
The effects for us are initially obvious, often and designed to be in the forefront of our minds. This is not to say that we cannot remove them. It is all well and good knowing the dynamics behind the fight/flight response first hand if we miss the most crucial of all points ... "Can I make it stop?"
The answer of course is "Yes", the initially tricky part is facing the fact that in order to make it stop we have to make no effort to stop it.
The proof that you ultimately can effect your anxiety is the fact that you have enhanced anxiety in the first place. You are the creator of your anxiety. You know how easy it is to influence, for the entire timeline of your ‘disorder’ you are the one who has been in control, you have always been making all the decisions.
You have high anxiety, you are the one who is manufacturing it, you are also the one who will manufacture 'the cure'.
This information will untangle as you read further into this letter.
Let's summarise the information to come. If we look at the conceptual patterns described at the beginning, it will assist you in deciphering, memorising and ultimately applying all the information with speed and accuracy for the purpose of switching-off your anxiety-based disorder, and eventually turning your understanding to your advantage.
I will be using some repetition in my letter and make no apologies for this whatsoever. Some are super-intellectually gifted, or if you are like me … less so. I'm afraid that repetition will have to be patiently accepted by those who have the gift of light-speed understanding.
Repetition will also add to the effectiveness of this letter. In all its bluntness, it may not be the most elegant of teaching methodologies, but it is certainly one of the most effective.
Sometimes a point needs to be hammered-home (this is especially true for an anxiety filled person) in order for us to break our non-beneficial reactions to choose the right ‘curative’ road.
Visualisation and analogy will also be employed heavily. Why? Because they enhance the greatest of all memorials. Understanding.
We will also have a few laughs along the way and sincerely hope this does not offend any of you. The last thing I would want to do is to belittle your situation so any ridicule is directed solely at the anxiety condition itself.
Laughter is indeed the best medicine, this letter will explain why in naked detail.
This letter was not written with an agenda to furnish personal intellectual vanity. It is not written to gain acceptance from the anxiety-establishment. It is not written to attack the anxiety-establishment. It is not 'in competition' with other methods.
It is purposefully written to be of assistance to those who wish a positive viewpoint. I have purposefully made this letter 'neurophysiology-lite'. If you are still not happy, then I suggest that you pay someone to assist you. There are some truly exceptional people who are willing to be of assistance for a small fee. There are many people both internationally and locally who understand anxiety. In my opinion the best are those with credentials which champion the acceptance approach.
HERE WAS MY 'CURE' FOR MY ANXIETY BASED DISORDER
It is the search for the exit that convinces our protection system (fight/flight) that there is a problem. This causes the fight/flight response to kick in and protect us from that problem.
Stop searching for the exit and the fight/flight response will learn that the problem does not actually exist. Stop looking for what is wrong with you, face your fears in your own time and on your own terms and anxiety will shrink.
Is freedom from anxiety really a matter of simply accepting fears/symptoms and making myself do things in the normal way? Yes, once you understand that you are not in any danger. Initially, this seems most difficult, indeed almost impossible, however, once we are armed with the mechanical knowledge of the bodilly systems involved and their limitations, we attain the confidence to try.
WHAT OCCURS IN AN ANXIETY DISORDER
1) You use avoidance techniques
2) Your Limbic System has access to your senses.
3) It watches you perform an avoidance action in response to a fear sensation/ symptom.
4) It concludes there must be a danger purely by analysing your actions/choices.
5) It initiates the fight/flight response to keep you safe.
6) You feel the fear it produces.
7) You use avoidance techniques.
In other words, you create the disorder by avoiding perfectly normal and healthy bodily functions. If you keep avoiding, the Limbic System concludes that there must be a disorder, and it keeps you on alert!!!!
WHAT HAPPENS IN ANXIETY REMOVAL
1) You do not avoid or escape. Instead, you understand that the fear is not required and you DO NOT react, regardless of the presence of the fear sensation/symptom.
2) Your Limbic System has access to your senses.
3) It watches you not reacting in relation to your fear sensation/symptom.
4) It concludes that there is no danger.
5) It initiates the rest digest response.
6) You feel the relaxation it produces.
7) You no longer feel compelled to avoid or escape.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Who am I? Hello, may name is Chris. Up to this point (who knows what the future holds) I am thankful to have had a very good life. But whatever happens from this point on, if I simply act and react positively I can certainly fall, but I cannot fail.
I had an undiagnosed anxiety disorder with occasional bouts of panic disorder for about fifteen years. When I say undiagnosed, I mean misdiagnosed. My GP at the time suggested I had an inner-ear balance problem due to my severe vertigo-like symptoms. I do not blame him because I was so confused at the time, I could not explain my sensations, and they seemed too ‘alien’.
My ‘final’ year of anxiety was a different story; a new level. I was experiencing many panic attacks per day (sometimes five, sometimes ten). This continued for about six months.
I experienced nausea, vertigo, vomiting, de-realisation; depersonalisation; unreality; sweating, light-headedness, numbness, chest pains, shortness of breath, delayed perception, visual disturbances, hypersensitivity, constant obsessive thoughts; despair, dread, anxiety dreams, fear-phobia, fear of suicide, depression, fear of depression, accident and emergency hospital visits and many visits to the local Doctor's surgery.
I had so much adrenaline, I felt I could not sit down, not for one spare moment. I was pacing and running around trying to escape from this anxiety. What didn’t help is that I’m supposed to stay at my desk in a huge open plan office for 7.5 hours per day with occasional visits to do 'rig' work.
Every ten seconds was a battle. I was too scared to sit still. I was too scared to run. When I managed to get home in the evening, the place where you are supposed to feel safe, anxiety and panic carried on. I took at least six weeks off work.
With the aid of (on average) one bottle of wine per evening, I would collapse from exhaustion at around 01:30 am and wake every morning and start another panic attack at 04:30 am.
The only release from this was around 5 seconds per day. Those few seconds were the time between me waking up, and me ‘remembering’ I had this terrible condition. As you can imagine it was a rather exhausting time. It seemed like I read practically every piece of free information that was available on the internet. I took medications, I visited a psychologist once; I had six sessions with a relaxation therapist. Both of whom were fantastic.
This in retrospect was a great year (although I never knew it at the time). My fear had taken over to such an extent that I had no safe zones whatsoever.
Safe zone: a place, time or general scenario where panic/anxiety would temporarily subside.
WHAT IS MY LIFE LIKE NOW?
I’m fine thank you. I currently go to work in the same place, I sometimes enjoy it when my job is challenging (three days per-year on average), I quietly go through the motions when the job gets dull. I enjoy talking to some people in work as a select few of them actually have something to say. I drive home, have some dinner, I help my wife read stories and put the children to bed. The children and I spend far too much time belly-laughing at all aspects of the human digestive system, especially its myriad of fortuitous comedic noises.
Sometimes I research an interesting topic, sometimes I randomly surf the net, sometimes I watch television, sometimes I request that one of the children "pull-my-finger" to simulate a pretence 'cause' to a colonic wind emission 'effect' as all dad's do. In all honestly, that reflex arc fallacy humour never gets tiring. I spend a lot of time relaxing, which I suppose is a polite way of saying "sitting on my arse“.
I reluctantly do some gardening (I push the 'thing' around which makes the grass short), I play the guitar extremely well (no honestly I really am that good), and we (the family) go out for cheap and cheerful day trips. I don’t do anything spectacular, i just live what the general consensus would call a ‘normal life'.
WHY TELL YOU ABOUT MYSELF NOW?
When a person reads any curative advice to remove a behavioral condition such as an anxiety-based disorder, that person will decide how willing they are to comply with the advice based on two main factors:
1) Does the advice sound logical and plausible?
2) Do I trust the person giving the advice?
Is it the message conveyed that has merit or is merit bestowed upon that message because we believe in the authenticity of the author? I sincerely hope that your answer will be "both".
Regarding the advice I give, whether it has merit is completely up to you. There are no compulsions in this letter. You may choose to act upon my advice or not. It is your choice.
There is not much more to say about myself at present. I'm just an average chap who once had a severe anxiety based disorder. You need know no more than that.
I'm not the most concise of authors. My wife points out that I tend to "waffle-on." That is a fair assessment, guilty as charged. In fact I'm not an author at all. I'll never be a Dickens.
Hang on, positive viewpoint. Dickens was lucky, he had talent, I'm writing with no talent. He could never do what I'm doing!
Now, to prove that I have limited authoring skills, I will now happily borrow a line from popular culture rather than thinking up my own nifty soundbite.
"I can only show you the door, you're the one who has to walk through it"
... Morpheus, The Matrix. Thanks Morpheus. I could not have put it as good myself.
I'm here for two reasons;
1) To give you simplified information;
2) To give you the confidence to take the first few steps.
This letter helps you decode and reprogram your own fight/flight-rest/digest response.
In other words: I'm not giving you a fish, I'm teaching you to fish. I am indeed full of cliché’s today.
The other main fear someone will have when they consider any anxiety self help guide is this:
Is it a con? Simple answer. No and it's free. Does it work? All I know is that this strategy worked for me. Nothing more.
Why do you have anxiety?
Because you have practiced being good at it. You have been keeping anxiety switched on all this time by your own creative ingenuity. You has been ready to recover all this time but you have been stopping it.
Are you only good at anxiety?
No. You are good at most things you try. Unfortunately this means that you are also good at manufacturing anxiety symptoms.
Let's balance that, this means you are also good at manufacturing the cure.
You are talented. This is a good thing.
I believe there is no wrong way to react to Anxiety/Panic Attacks
Yes, there are better ways to react and worse ways to react which affect how comfortable you feel and extremely beneficial ways in order for you to alleviate all of your inappropriate feelings, but there is no way to fail at inappropriate ‘Anxiety’ and ‘Panic’.
This truth is a catch all statement to address the questions: “What am I doing wrong?” or “What did I do wrong to get in this predicament?” The answer to both questions is nothing. You have done and are doing nothing wrong, even though you may feel or think there is something wrong, there isn’t. There never has been. You are the result of simple cause and effect and there are many more triumphant chapters to write for you yet.
This information is not a test, there are no compulsion statements such as: ‘Always do this’, you Must do that’; ‘Never do the other’. With Anxiety and Panic, you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, for as long as you want and no harm will ever come to you.
“Why is this important?”
I believe it to be an important truth to understand. We build upon this truth and gain strength from the freedom it provides, understanding of this concept will help to eliminate any what-if fear statements that the mind can create whilst working through a method of anxiety removal, such as:
"What if I’m not doing it right or more crucially, what if I’ve done this wrong?" "Can this truth be right"?
Yes, Anxiety/Panic Attacks are utterly harmless in every way so whatever. You can do whatever you want and it won't have any bearing on your safety and your sanity.
You are the one who will get yourself better and you are the one who will keep yourself there. Once you understand the principles, you carry the techniques in your body and mind for the rest of your days.
When we don’t have all the facts we make the wrong assumptions,. We often make the assumption that there is something wrong with us. We can only calculate correctly when we have a sound knowledgebase. Get the facts, find out what to do then do it.
At this point we are going to take a quick look at the origins of anxiety-based disorders.
The reason we are doing this is two-fold:
1) Simple Perspective.
Once we view anxiety in the most appropriate setting we have a handy reference point to enhance our understanding over the whole confusing issue. What better setting to employ than the setting that will visually explain all the seemingly negative sensations in the situation that they were most prominent, most obvious and most clear.
The simple act of visualising (picturing) our anxiety-based disorder in an ‘external’ setting has the positive effect of mentally separating us from our worries. Our negative feelings and thoughts are seen 'at a distance.' You may find that this simple thought pattern will assist you when you need it. When I began my own anxiety disorder removal, I found it most beneficial to view the issue from the classic cave-man scenario.
I’m cooking mammoth-steaks for the bedraggled fur-clad family whom I love dearly and without warning, a vicious sabre toothed tiger strolls into the encampment in search of a meal. Don’t worry, you don’t actually need to employ this tactic yourself to remove your anxiety-based disorder, I just thought it may come in handy. We are all different, we all have different types of visualisations, we all learn in slightly different ways.
Of course the real origin of anxiety is rooted so much further back in the evolutionary timeline, long before us modern humans existed. The modern human brain comprises remnants of previous species within our lineage. It is by no means a new development. I place my analogy with the cave man scenario because we can easily identify with him without it being too great a leap of imagination.
Here's a little bit of Borrowed Wisdom from the Bushcraft expert Ray Mears:
"Knowledge is the key to survival, the real beauty of that is that it doesn't weigh anything." If you are not already aware, Bushcraft is the art of wilderness survival. To give a little background, Ray Mears is a very popular figure on British Television, renowned for his astounding knowledge of not only surviving but thriving in all environments. In my opinion he is one of the most natural and gifted presenters I have ever seen on tv, his relaxed presentation style is derived from his passion and confidence in his own knowledge on the subject matter of which he loves so much. As you can tell, I'm a bit of a fan.
Don't worry you won't have know your Amanita Pantherina from your Amanita Phalloides in order to implement the techniques in this letter.
For the uninitiated, Bushcraft is empowering and fulfilling. It's about lighting fires and building shelters, it's about knowing what to eat and what not to eat, it’s about being efficient and mentally strong, and it’s about self-confidence through applied knowledge.
Although I love the tv shows, I haven’t done that much practical Bushcraft due to my past commitments (commitments = laziness). I have merely dabbled whenever I had the time, but as it’s in my nature to be a vigorous researcher, my theory is a ‘tad’ greater than the layman. It is about the application of sound scientific principles.
Bushcraft is not about conquering nature. It is about living in sympathy with nature. It is about motivation and flexibility. It is about being creative. It is about being adaptable. It is about not panicking.
Ultimately it is about survival. It is an attempt to gain an indepth understanding of our ancestor’s successful relationship with the wilderness that has forged our cerebral and physical strengths. It also provides the setting for the origins of modern-day anxiety-based disorders. It goes without saying that the past was an intensely dangerous time. Our cave dwelling ancestors evolved a strong, efficient protection system which kept them alive in times of extreme threat. We traditionally call this protection the fight/flight response. Whenever Stone Age peoples of this world were faced with mortal danger, (and with all other factors being equal) the 'fittest' remained. By 'fittest' I simply mean those whose mental and physical characteristics best fitted the environment (thanks Darwin-Wallace). These survivors of both huge cataclysms and frequent local dangers were our direct ancestors. They had the best brains, the best bodies, the best survival instincts, the quickest and strongest protection mechanisms, the most elaborate social structures, the best flexibility and the without a doubt, the most luck.
We are indeed very fortunate beneficiaries and is an amazing inheritance. Unfortunately for some of us who suffer with an anxiety-based disorder, we believe that this inherited ‘gift’ has somehow malfunctioned for reasons we do not fully understand.
Time for another question:
Is this inherited gift (what I like to call the ‘protection response‘) actually operating exactly as it should do even when we are experiencing an anxiety-based disorder? Yes.
OK, I’ll explain. Why is it called the fight/flight response? It is simply called the fight/flight response because in times of danger our bodies are geared up to either fight the danger or take flight (run) from the danger. Here’s how the fight/flight response actually works. It is triggered by 'danger signals' within our sensory input (what we see, hear, smell taste touch, feel etc). This is the common denominator 'trigger'.
Back to the cave for context. You are in the entrance to your cave cooking your mammoth steaks, and in slinks a sabre toothed tiger. This 'dangerous' sensory information is rapidly processed by our protection mechanism (our anxiety).
More accurately, this sensory input is processed by two small parts of the brain called the amygdale (located as part of the 'Limbic System'). The amygdale then 'set' the required protection level. As you can imagine the sensory information which represents the tiger causes a setting of 'extremely high' to be used. To cut a long biochemical-electrical story short, the amygdale in the brain sends signals to the adrenal glands llocated just on top of your kidneys.
The adrenal glands pump the hormone adrenaline into our blood stream and the endocrine system which forces the body to undergo some frankly amazing changes. Our whole metabolic rate goes into overdrive, the heart pumps faster to supply more energy and oxygen to the relevant bodily systems, the lungs breath deeper to supply more oxygen to the blood, extra blood is supplied to our legs to give us a greater running speed, we experience a loosening of the bowels and a queasiness of the stomach to enable us to remove excess weight (faeces/urine/vomit) to increase our running speed even more, our hearing becomes more acute, our pupils dilate (widen) to allow us to scan around quickly and accurately, we filter out all information except information which is necessary for survival in that instant. There are countless more beneficial changes involved.
The changes described here are the physical or 'common' symptoms of anxiety-based disorders. These changes use lots of energy, and the main reason why we crave sugar after high anxiety to replenish lost stores. These changes are designed to seem overwhelming. These changes are designed not to be ignored. These changes are designed to keep us safe.
These changes have kept our ancestors alive in the past and will keep our descendants alive in the future. This whole sequence is what physiologists are talking about when they refer to the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) being called into operation. We either run for our lives or fight for our lives. It’s a pretty decent mechanism if you ask me.
As the body is in balance with itself, this whole sequence is replaced with another sequence when the danger passes. This new sequence calms us down to normal relaxation levels. This is what physiologists are talking about to when they refer to the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) being called into operation. Both of these systems, the SNS and the PNS added together form the ANS (the Autonomic Nervous System).
Back to Mr Ray Mears...
The borrowed wisdom originates from a conversation about friction-fire making methods (rubbing sticks together) that Ray once had with a local tribeswoman from the South Pacific on one of his many wonderful adventures. The philosophy is stunning. Once you know how to make fire, you carry fire around with you always in your mind and in your muscles. The reason this wisdom resides close to my heart is that I have been a keen friction-fire maker myself and its philosophy is the same as anxiety removal. I’m the sort of person who generally likes to do everything myself. I enjoy being both the teacher and the student. From personal experience there is rarely a sensation as wonderful, fulfilling and (to me) as profound as making fire yourself for the first time. You can spend weeks if not months fine tuning your technique and apparatus, finding the right wood combination, collecting the right tinder in the right quantities. It can be physically exhausting and fraught with failure after failure, more smoke each time but still no fire. With each ignition failure comes a little bit more knowledge. Until one time you happen upon exactly the right strategy, technique, method, apparatus, attitude and timing. You are patient, optimistic and observant. You watch as more smoke is produced and see the formation of the ‘coal’ or ‘ember’. You don’t rush, but carefully transfer your ember into the middle of your tinder. You gently massage your tinder into the ember. You blow gently at first and then gradually with greater and greater intensity. You watch as the billowing smoke changes colour from white to a yellow-green. Suddenly something amazing happens ... Ignition!!!
You hold ‘your’ fire in your hand for the first time. You feel from this day forward connected to the history of your species and it really does feel completely wonderful. Your fire and more importantly, your confidence, has been lit. You instantly want to try again and again. Sometimes the climate is not quite right, sometimes the air is too damp, sometimes the wind too strong for your virgin understanding to overcome but the more you try the more you succeed in harsher and harsher weathers.
OK, I'm getting a bit melodramatic here, please forgive me.
The understanding of and implementation of fire making is very similar to the learning processes we go through when we eliminate inappropriate anxiety. The lighting of the fire is the simple analogy for us stopping the Sympathetic Nervous System in its tracks by accepting it as normal physiology.
Just like lighting fire, accepting the fight flight response takes a little practice, but the more we achieve it, the better we get at it. I am lucky to have achieved so much more success with accepting the fight flight response as I have with fire making. I now carry the understanding around with me always in my mind. It is so simple.
This understanding weighs nothing, it’s simple to comprehend and like fire making, the more you use it, the easier and quicker it becomes. You wont have to go through the arduous task of working out the right high anxiety removal strategy, this is what this letter is all about. All you have to do is read and then choose to become anxiety free by performing your most beneficial course of action.
Anxiety Disorder: “Distress of mind caused by fear of danger, where no actual danger exists”.
A FEW EXPANSIONS
The definitions of Anxiety and Panic describe the processes our ancestors experienced while responding to chemical messengers produced in order to escape from or fight against the dangers within their environment.
The definition of Disorder describes the process of us responding inappropriately to the same chemical messengers produced by modern day stress factors when no actual danger exists.
Whilst within the stress response, the body and mind can go through some amazing changes to keep us from harm. These changes enable us to ‘automatically’ remove ourselves from danger sources or remove the danger sources themselves.
During this time we are able to process the environment using all senses at astonishing speeds. We are able to filter out all that is unnecessary for survival (all the fun bits) and execute the safety plan. These incredible changes are what we fear during the initial Anxiety/Panic episodes.
WHEN ANXIETY BECOMES A DISORDER
We check the external environment for danger and when we ascertain that there is no danger we begin to check internally. We analyse all the sensations and symptoms that are produced during the stress response and become alarmed at their power. We conclude in seconds that “I’m going to die!!!” or "I’m losing my mind!!!”
CREATING THE "VICIOUS ANXIETY CIRCLE"
These conclusions then affect our subsequent safety seeking actions which in turn feed back into our Sympathetic Nervous System. The brain responds by producing more chemical messengers that further increase the sensations.
A BIT OF TECHNICAL STUFF
Limbic System - Sets our Anxiety level
Sympathetic Nervous System – Winds us up
Parasympathetic Nervous System – Calms us down
Let’s look at the words "Panic" and "Attack."
Panic: a high energy state with a fear reaction
Attack: a harmful confrontation resulting in damage
The fear is produced in relation to us believing ourselves to be under attack. There is no attack, there never has been and there never will be. There is no assailant; there is no assault, no damage will occur, and no harm will ever ensue.
The phrase "Panic Attack" is inaccurate and doesn’t provide the right grounding for beneficial thinking.
There are two schools of thought regarding the best approach to this nomenclature issue.
1. We remain with the phrase Panic Attack and through time, desensitise ourselves to the powerful nature of the words themselves.
Words such as Panic;, Anxiety, Stress, Fear, Terror, Dread and Horror have the power to affect us emotionally. If we accompany each of these words with “it’s only” at the beginning, we can, in time, limit the effect they have:
"It’s only Anxiety”' "It's only Panic."
This is handy when conversing with others regarding your experiences. The words are the accepted common language and labels for such experiences and therefore helps to have this word desensitisation approach.
2. We change the description to provide a better grounding for recovery.
The incorrectly named "panic attack" could be more accurately called an energy surge.
Energy is not good or bad, it’s just a resource. The adrenaline produced as a result of your reactions/behaviour is a chemical catalyst for converting your stored-energy into available-energy.
YOU ARE NOT A VICTIM
When we experience the onset of anxiety/panic we are merely experiencing this conversion process of stored energy to available energy.
By making this label change we are addressing the ‘victim’ mentality. We are not the victim, we never have been and we never will be. We are simply the recipient of a high energy state as a result of cause and effect.
Once we realise that we are not under attack, we gain further insight into our current experience. When we eliminate the ‘victim’ mentality we often replace it with another ‘perpetrator’ mentality, It is normal to want to assign blame and also normal to direct that blame at ourselves.
Ultimately yes, we are making ourselves panic but we are not to blame. None of us received a manual about how to cope with our first Panic/Anxiety Attack and even if we did we would probably never have read it because ‘that sort of thing happens to other people’.
The only reason we are where we are is cause and effect. If we knew all the facts prior to experiencing energy-surges/panic-attacks we would never enter the panic-circle ( fear-adrenalin-more fear)
It’s imperative to have a goal, an ideal, an aspiration. It provides a confidence altering mindset when we measure ourselves against it. Unfortunately most goals in relation to anxiety/panic have a detrimental effect on the speed of recovery and the confidence of the “anxiety sufferer”.
The World Wide Web is full of people shouting “hey look at me, I’m cured!” “Just do what I did and reap the benefits!!”
It’s so simple when you have done it yourself, but not so simple when you are in the process of doing it, because of one fundamental thing. You haven’t done it yet. You are yet to gain the personal reassurance and confidence from within.
Many of these people will undoubtedly offer good advice and some are better than others because they have all been through the fear-mill to varying degrees and emerged smiling on the other side, I’m overjoyed for them and wish them all the best in their well-intentioned endeavours.
We should use their example as proof that complete relief/cure is indeed possible because it is.
When we self-check we immediately manufacture anxiety sensations through our own magnificent creativity to see if they are still there! “A watched pot never boils." Well, yes it does. It always does but there is no point in waiting for it to happen when we could be doing something useful instead.
It’s not unreachable it just takes a lot longer. The cure is not something you will find through only anxiety scrutiny & analysis. The only thing you will find there is factual reinforcement of your potential strategic success through worked examples and factual neurophysiology interplay.
WHERE IS THE CURE?
The location of the cure is outside in the wider world. It is within the film you become engrossed in, it is in the pages of the novel that excites you, it is at the sports game you take your family to, in the restaurant you take your wife to.
If you constantly search for the exit or some deep seated meaning during the operation of the fight flight response 'the cure' will elude you.
By 'the cure', what do I mean? The cure is when our fight flight response is switched off because we have demonstrated that there is no actual danger.Fears stay with us as long as we succumb to our compulsion rituals.
Compulsion is not just continuously washing your hands or disinfecting doorknobs. It is reading constantly about anxiety, it’s constantly asking for help, it’s constantly searching for the exit. In a nutshell, anything that we continuously do to provide temporary anxiety relief is a compulsion. A compulsion is the feeling we get when we want to hide from the fear by performing an avoidance action. Compulsions are actions we perform because we don't understand the rules of the game. We are compelled to solve the issue because we think there is a problem, we perform ritual after ritual, we succumb to compulsion after compulsion in an attempt to alleviate the condition. Although these actions have the effect of providing temporary relief, they are, in essence, the major artifacts that are responsible for holding back recovery. If we stop trying to hold back the anxiety and instead accept the anxiety then the anxiety will shrink and the disorder be removed in due course.
A compulsion could be escaping outside for a cigarette, I could be reaching for the wine, It could be searching the Internet for that magic phrase, it could be holding tightly onto the armrest of the chair, it can be running upstairs to bed, it can be jumping out of bed and running round the house, it could be anything you do to try and remove anxiety without actually facing your fight flight response.
To aid your memory and simplify this little solution then we must remember to board the Arc (see below). The chronic over use of the Fight/Flight response cannot exist without us spoon feeding it hour by hour, day after day. The removal of these rituals has the effect of starving the Fight/Flight response until it slowly emaciates. I.e. If we eliminate the rituals from the anxiety condition then we achieve the removal of the disorder.
‘ANXIETY’ minus ‘RITUALS’ equals 'CURE'
Now that we have started to understand the reasons why we prolong the overuse of the fight flight response, it seems natural to look at some reading material that is most beneficial.
What type of reading material should you use if you want to get better quicker? Well to be honest you are so much are better off reading “Where’s Wally?” or “War and Peace” instead of Anxiety Coping Techniques books.
Ok, it's best to understand the mechanics of anxiety first via these anxiety guides but once we know the facts, we need to change our focus, we need to change our reactions. So choose your guide wisely and remember it needn't be expensive.
As for my recommendations, read anything by Dr Claire Weekes and/or Dr David Carbonell or anyone who champions the acceptance approach. There is plenty of free/inexpensive stuff on the interne and no need to break the bank to attain peace.
There is no magic secret to remove anxiety or occult knowledge only available to those willing to spend above the odds.
There is knowledge, widely available amongst all the Internet anxiety clutter that makes accepting the fight flight response a lot easier than you thought.
This is the main reason for the existance of this letter, there seemed to be a gap in the market for a free and comprehensive laymans explanation about anxiety 'disorder' removal which originates from sources of sound knowledge written in non-clinical prose and the reason for writing this letter. It is my gift from me to you.
You can trust Dr Weekes & Dr Carbonell because they really know their stuff.
WHAT IS YOUR GOAL
With knowledge in our minds we then need the goal. What is the first goal?
The real goal is to be independent of the wisdom-loop, independent of the panic/anxiety 'attack.' Not to be free of anxiety but to be free with or without anxiety.
Why? Because anxiety only learns when it is switched on.
What then happens is that we can self-check as much as we like, manufacture as many sensations as our creative limits can muster and still achieve our goal. During this period we are actually curing ourselves.
We make our own decisions from now on.
Anxiety is not 'a thing', it's not even an 'it.' Anxiety is us fighting with all our might against nothing but normal body function.
Imagine yourself in full battledress thrashing and screaming away at nothing whatsoever for days, weeks, months or even years on end. That is anxiety.
During anxiety you are shielded with a impressive collection of defensive based weaponry. During anxiety you could not be safer.
ANXIETY IS NOT DANGEROUS
When we act independently we demonstrate to the Limbic System that the anxiety/panic is not a danger and the level is turnec down a notch. The more independent we act, the more the level is reduced. Thus the relief/cure will naturally arise as a by-product of the goal. Don't worry, your fear and symptoms will be completely removed in due course.
The label of ‘cured’ is not necessary once you arrive because you realise that there was never anything to cure. The fight flight response is our greatest ally. It is hardwired into each and every one of us to keep us safe. It just gradually fades into the background and becomes appropriate protection and the same as ‘everyone else’. At this point you feel completely normal again, you can think clearly, you smile, you laugh you engage once again with the beauty of life, the clarity of nature and the warmth of confidence.
GOOD AND BAD TECHNIQUES
There is no wrong way to react to inappropriate anxiety/panic. It is utterly safe, utterly benign. It's just a pain in the balls. It is much more beneficial to view each experience in relation to discovery than failure. Failures are merely discoveries of a strategy with a non-beneficial outcome that can be eliminated in future. It’s not what happens, it’s how we react.
POSSIBLE REACTIONS TO ENERGY SURGES (panic attacks)
Here follows a list of reactions that many of us have to the initialization of the Sympathetic Nervous System when it is inappropriately used within the modern age.
I suspected it may be useful (in the future) to others should the opportunity arise for me to provide this information so I made a point of remembering the details.
I am (by trade) a Test Engineer, and I consider myself damn good at my job. It matters not to me whether I am testing Avionic Mission Systems, Secure Tactical Data Links or 'Black Box' Recorders, via Unit, Software, Integration or System Test methodologies. The overbearing philosophy, process and rational remain the same. Yes the granularity varies but that's about it. What am I saying here? Well, bugger all really, I'm just firing buzzwords at you to get you all impressed. Hey at least I'm honest, most people go through life with nothing but buzzwords, and they think people genuinely swallow it. Not me. My boss seriously used the management phase "ducks-in-a-row" last year whilst on the phone to one of our Seattle customers. He has been paying ever since for such an error with incessant ridicule emanating from my vicinity.. Some things truly are unforgivable.
Serious now. It is within my professional nature to identify potential defects via the scrutiny of experimentally obtained results with reference to an overall systems analysis to determine whether the article under test is:
(a) operating within a specified and baseline-agreed requirement, or
I generally refrain from using the terminology within result (b) whilst writing my System Test Reports but as I currently haven't got a Quality Assurance Representative breathing up my ass I will exercise my freedom as I so wish. Here are the reactions and results:
Run for the hills/Freeze
This is the usual response to the physical and psychological feelings produced within the energy surge resulting in overwhelming fear. We get seriously spooked by these grand feelings and feel compelled to escape or freeze in terror. These feelings are individually designed to scare the wits out of us. By running for the hills or freezing in terror you are not doing anything wrong, you are doing exactly the same thing that everyone else has done when initially confronted with an energy-surge/panic-attack. Don't beat yourself up over it. You are just inexperienced at reacting in a more beneficial way. Everyone reacts like this initially. It’s normal. When we react like this there is an increase in our adrenaline stress chemicals. The presence of these chemicals in our system further produces additional energy which escalates our fears.
This reaction is slightly better than running for the hills and compliments perfectly with the excess adrenaline being produced. Detrimentally it still demonstrates to the Limbic System that the energy surge is viewed as a powerful adversary. Beneficially, it shows that we have successfully converted the ‘flight’ response to a ‘fight’ response. It serves the purpose of proving that we can indeed alter our reactions to the same stimuli. We can see that it’s not the best response but it has its place and its uses. It is best to view this response purely as a tool demonstration that responses can be changed.
This is where we have proved to ourselves that by implementation of the previous options that the energy surges are harmless. We still get the surges because the cerebral pathways in the brain have not yet been overwritten but we know that the fear is a con so we feel able to tempt it, prod it, poke it, laugh at it and generally ridicule it. We start to ‘tempt fate’. Negatively, ridicule still indicates the impression of a contest.
This philosophy is derived from the late great Dr. Claire Weekes’ pioneering research. Floating is another way of saying ‘let it happen’, 'float through it’ ‘it will pass’. Just imagine yourself on top of the waves of panic and let yourself be taken on the journey to wherever fear wishes to take you and for as long as the waves last. This is acceptance. The visualisation of being on top of the waves signifies that you are not overwhelmed or submerged but merely a willing thrill seeker. The nomenclature floating is describing the lack of effort involved. We are not struggling against the tide, we are not employing a complicated swimming technique, we are just floating on our backs and letting it all happen. After all we know that panic/anxiety is utterly harmless so why not just see what happens and experience the buzz? The buzz will be scary but it’s supposed to be. It's designed to be scary. You demonstrate to your protection mechanism that it is not needed and it is subsequently removed. As anxiety only learns when it is activated, this is a brilliant and long lasting technique.
This option is an unnecessary expansion on acceptance and enters the phase of forced non-judgmental analysis and serves to prove that the previously identified adversary is completely benign. You may want this exploration philosophy to prove to yourself that every aspect of panic is safe. Rest assured is it safe to examine and analyse your energy surges. You have felt the buzz whilst floating and this option reaches out to the other parts of wonderful brain to provide internal rationalisation for fear dissection. You can employ this technique prior, during or after an energy surge. If you are between energy surges then you can request another one to test out your new techniques. If you are currently within an energy surge then you can invite additional energy to further your exploration. If you have just experienced an energy surge then you have the option of requesting another one to further try out your new approach. When the energy surge arrives we no longer view it with suspicion, fear & dread but with genuine affection for the wisdom and perspective it has gifted us. There may be some emotions of trepidation, but this is normal. You are initiating peace-talks after months or years of strife. This is the emotional wanting of the energy surge to be present. You want the energy, you want to test out further theories and practices. The more you want one, the less you get one. It's very tricky because ultimately we are still wanting the panic in order to remove it. It’s a good technique but ultimately you are still focusing on anxiety, which is not the quickest curative option. In other words, it is an unnecessary addition to the Floating technique. There is nothing wrong with this approach if you so wish.
Doing Nothing about it.
Initially it seems like we are pretending everything is ok. Pretending is a concept that even children can understand. How and why does pretending work? Well, your Limbic System is responsible for setting your anxiety level inappropriately high. It gets its signals to do this from your senses (what you see, hear, say, taste etc). If your Limbic System detects you running from your anxiety then it will conclude that there is still a problem.
The Limbic System is plain stupid. It is not intelligence whatsoeve. It's just a great piece of software. You don’t need to be an expert in computer programming or psychology to affect it, you don’t need to know how to reprogram it yourself. It will do all that for you! All you have to do is fool it and you can you can fool it. Anyone can fool it. In fact you have been fooling it all along, fooling it into calculating that there is something wrong. It's time to show it the truth, that there is nothing medically wrong with you. When you get an energy surge, your Limbic System will watch your reactions. If it sees you running, hiding, asking for help, reading desperately about your ‘condition,' it will know something is wrong and keep your energy level high. Of course there is nothing wrong with asking for help or balanced research, but you will find that you will need assistance less and less as time advances. Just wean yourself off in your own time. If you pretend that all is well, for example, slowly doing the dishes, cooking a meal, watching a movie, calming walking etc. then it will automatically set the energy level lower. It does not know when you are pretending; it never has and never will. The more you do this the calmer you will become and you will enter into a positive feedback relaxation mindset. The brain then slowly starts deleting the energy surge pathways and writing new calm pathways. The Limbic System is constantly using the data from your senses to make a judgment on what the anxiety setting should be used to ensure your safety. In short it is emotionless. The limbic system is like computer which sees what you see and hears what you hear. A bit like the character ‘Data’ from the TV program ‘Star Trek,' sitting in a room in front of a TV set. The picture on the screen is what you see, the sound through the TV speakers is what you hear. It relies purely on this data to decide the anxiety level setting. Relief, like anything else starts with a decision. Yes, it can seem a hard decision to confront but as the old saying goes “nothing ventured, nothing gained." Generally sayings don’t become old unless they are right. A decision to go to the cinema and and enjoy a film instead of enduring it, to step outside the front door, to drive on that motorway, to ride that train, to step onto that plane, to read that book, to ask that girl out, to sit down for the entire evening and watch comedy, to apply for that job, to do all the things you should be doing if inappropriate anxiety was absent. Don't wait for your anxiety to subside, make the decision to start right now.
Let's say it takes (for example) 15 exposures to attain confidence and comfort. That means the more energy surges you get per day the quicker you recover. Obviously the length of time this takes depends upon how many pathways within the brain need to be rewritten. The results can be rather fast because the brain is so well adaptively designed. Well it's going to be fast if we do it correctly, the Doing Nothing technique is us finally removing our finger from the anxiety ON switch. If we do this then the body has no option other than to switch the anxiety OFF. In my opinion relief is a bio-electro-chemical inevitability. This option can be better described as Floating with a focus that is not anxiety themed.
Conclusion, when your fight flight response is switched on, accept it then go out and have fun,. When it is switched off, accept it and then get out and have fun.
These options are not purely linear, you may find yourself jumping through different options in different energy surges or indeed during the same energy surge. A bit of practice and you’ll get there.
Anxiety case studies are examples of individual anxiety disorder sufferers, a description of their symptom set and the solutions they used to overcome their problems.
Case studies can be very helpful in many respects, but unhelpful in others. When we read a series of case studies we search for the one that closest resembles us to provide guidance, reassurance, strategy and implementation techniques. All good stuff so far!
The problem with case studies in relation to anxiety is that no two people are exactly the same. There are as many types of anxiety as there are people. Everyone’s symptom set is different, sometimes with subtle differences, sometimes with major differences. Whilst we should always rejoice in our individuality, it becomes difficult to rejoice when we believe we have a unique issue that we feel desperately needs solving by someone who ultimately knows nothing about us.
So don't get too hung up on case studies, if you do want to do your own case study analysis then separate the wheat from the chaff, use what is beneficial within and move onwards, outwards, upwards.
The main thing case studies tell is is this: 'people do recover'.
REASONS WHY EVERYONE'S SYMPTOMS SET IS DIFFERENT
As we have discovered, there are hundreds of different symptoms of Anxiety/Panic disorder. Usually a sufferer gets a few of the common symptoms and a few of the less common symptoms mixed together to make a unique blend that makes the sufferer think that their combination is somehow different (it is) and thus exempt from the management/cure (it never is). My Symptom Set consisted of about 20-30 sensations and mental manifestations, around 10 of which were from the traditional set and the remainder from the best my creative juices could muster. It is important to understand that regardless of commonality or uniqueness of your symptom set, the answer to Anxiety/Panic works. Why do we each get different combinations of symptoms?Because we are all scared of different things. We are all different, and we ‘converse’ with our sensations differently.
Example: I wanted the traditional therapies to work for me, therefore I wanted ‘textbook’ anxiety symptoms such as the thumping heart and the hyperventilation. if I could just experience these symptoms then it would prove to me that I was indeed experiencing an Anxiety/Panic attack and thus I could instantly identify it as a harmless Anxiety/Panic attack and know that I was not on the verge of complete mental collapse. I could then breathe into a paper bag, address my gaseous exchange and thus ‘nip’ the Anxiety/Panic in the bud.
Why did I not get these symptoms? Because I wanted them, I never noticed them.
EXPANSIONS ON "DOING NOTHING"
What are the guidelines for successful implementation of ‘Nothing’? Well, we have to think what would happen if we didn’t have inappropriate anxiety? What would you do if you didn’t have inappropriate anxiety?
Imagine asking a friend without an anxiety disorder what they do with their time? They would cacophonise a myriad of interesting and outward looking hobbies and interests.
Now ask them what they do in relation to anxiety and they would (rightly) answer "Nothing".
Logically it stands to reason that if the disorder is a fallacy then it has no cure. It is the action of inaction that causes the removal of anxiety. In other words, doing nothing.
So what do you do? You would do anything that inappropriate anxiety has stopped you doing in the past.
What would you talk about if you didn’t have inappropriate anxiety? You would talk about the weather, the film, the game, the concert, the girl next door, the news and so on. Remember, if you really feel the need to chat about anxiety, go for it. There are no real ‘do's and don’ts' because it’s all harmless.
Would you constantly read any anxiety literature if you didn’t have inappropriate anxiety? No, of course not! You would be reading “Where’s Wally?” or “War and Peace”! On a personal note, I’ve never read War and Peace. I’m not that bright, but “Where’s Wally?” is superb.
Would you employ any relaxation techniques if you didn’t have inappropriate anxiety?
No, unless they were purely for personal enjoyment, a spiritual journey etc. They are however great as a lifestyle choice.
Would you partake in any anxiety themed websites/chat-rooms/discussion boards if you didn’t have inappropriate anxiety? No, unless you are an ex-‘sufferer’ who wants to help. I'm not saying stay away from the forums, just keep it in healthy moderation.
Obviously there are billions of examples but I will concentrate on a few powerful instances.
As usual my thoughts will come as no great frontier expanding 'wow' moments, rather (and as per usual) from the normal basic and logical standpoint. If we remove the clutter we can extrapolate the clarity and the common sense.
Let's go back into the Neolithic cave for just a moment. The tiger is present and unfortunately so are we.
We are (in this scenario) "in deep shit". The mammoth steaks are still sizzling on the fire but any hope we had of resting and digesting this tasty bounty has long since evaporated.
In this survival scenario we would fight, flee or hide. When experiencing the fight/flight response in the modern age (where there is no tiger), if we fight, flee or hide we simply reinforce the notion that the fight flight response is necessary.
What we do to hasten the recovery is the following:
We mentally take ourselves back to the cave and imagine the sort of things that would not be beneficial in that actual danger scenario:
1. Not Hiding;
2. Not Staying Quiet;
3. Not Reacting defensively;
4. Not relinquishing your meal;
5. Not adopting a defensive posture.
All these things are the antithesis of what you would do if you wanted to survive the actual historical danger in the cave scenario.
All basic stuff so far, and as always it needn't get any more complicated than that.
Let's look at Not staying quiet for a second and translate that to the modern age. I can think of no better example that to sing and sing loud and proud, on your own or along to one of your favourite songs. As soon as you get home, put the radio on, put the mp3 on and sing whilst you busy yourself with normal pursuits. What we are saying to the Limbic system is "Hey, look at me, I'm not under attack", "there is no threat", "switch the focus to the rest/digest response." In other words "switch off the fight/flight response".
Why is this perceived as a pretence? Simply because we don't 'feel' like performing an activity such as singing because it goes against the 'advice' of the fight flight response i.e. staying quiet.
We are consciously speaking the language of the Limbic System directly. It's a language we all know how to speak, it's just we never previously thought about it this way.
When we think back to the origins of our personal anxiety stories we see how we reacted to our initial stress driven anxiety episodes. Yes, we were speaking to the Limbic System back then as well but we spent all our time ('limbically'...not even a word but what the hell!) telling ourselves that there was something wrong with us, that there was a danger.
We probably walked with a more guarded posture, we probably stayed quiet about non-fight/flight matters, we probably rushed eating meals or even missed them.
Talking of food, let's look at Number 4, not relinquishing your meal, in the cave-predator scenario. To survive we would do one of two things:
1. Eat the mammoth steaks as quickly as possible, or
2. Not eat them at all, giving up your meal to the sabre toothed tiger in an attempt to misdirect and enhance your chances of surviving the encounter.
Both of these actions within the modern day anxiety 'disorder' have the effect of reinforcing the need for the fight/flight response.
As stated we are always speaking the language of the Limbic System, the trick is simply to know that we are.
As I stated previously, you are in control now, you were in control then and you will be in control in future. i.e we had a direct influence over our own anxiety levels at all times during our anxiety 'disorders'.
In No 4 we simply eat a good meal and eat it slowly and make sure we don’t miss many meals. This way we "tell" the Limbic System that it is time to initiate the rest/digest response. Time to get sensible again, we don't simply 'eat' our way out of an anxiety disorder, but a decent meal regime (what non anxiety folk do all the time) is massively beneficial.
So, we are doing what we would be doing had we not been anxious so technically we are doing nothing about it.
As we don't want to pile on the pounds then we simply eat good foods: fresh fruit; fresh vegetables; good meats, or a good fish supper, you know, all the good stuff that the sparkly television dieticians tell us to eat.
However if you really want a Pepperami, a Lager and a packet of Twiglets then fuck it, go for it, it's your choice, I know I did.
Why is this perceived as a pretence? In this context, it's called pretending simply because we don’t actually feel hungry (the Fight/Flight inhibits the sensation).
We still need the food so we pretend we are hungry and eat normally.
Result, the rest/digest is regularly kicked into operation because we actually have something to regularly digest.
Yet again, not rocket science. A five year old could have told us that. OK, we would probably have to rephrase "Rest/Digest Response" into something more 'cognitively tangible' for our intrepid youngster to understand, but the concept remains intact. Suggest a rephrase such as 'sitting down and eating' for the purposes of clarity ...
Question to a five year old. How do we start a 'sitting down and eating' response?
Answer of a five year old. Stop rushing around and eat something?
Within the anxiety culture, we are bombarded by complications in terminology and methodology, but as you can see, once we dis-robe the system, the clarity emerges.
Let’s now look at examples 1 & 5, not hiding or adopting a defensive posture. Firstly examples of this type of thing are:
- Shoulders forward,
- Back hunched,
- Head down,
- Foetal position,
- Head in our hands,
- Crouching down and so on.
Let's look at yoga, a method often 'prescribed' for anxiety. Now use your mind's eye to picture any of your basic yoga positions.
These positions are the opposite of those body positions we would adopt if we were:
1. Actually under attack,
2. Fighting, or
3. Trying to hide, or
4. Trying to run away.
This is why yoga is championed as a method of anxiety removal.
A brilliant relaxation therapist called Karen once told me that it was possible to provide an decent appraisal of a person's mental relaxation state purely by watching their posture, walk and speed of movement execution. By the way, she used better words, was more concise and probably paid credence for the necessity to baseline the person first, but hey this paragraph is a 'Chinese' whisper so I'm doing my best.
Where was I? Oh yes, Yoga forces the ANS to choose the rest/digest response, by feeding back non-fight/flight data.
Adopting a Yogic position simply tells the Limbic system in its own language that there is no sabre toothed tiger so the rest/digest is selected as the appropriate response and we feel happy and relaxed.
Of course you don't have to perform yoga to remove anxiety. Subtle changes to the way we walk, the way we stand and the speed at which we do these everyday things converse directly with the Limbic System to directly and powerfully effect how we feel.
But also if you want to go all yogic then feel free, it is a great method to practice exploring the depth of the rest digest response. I personally never bothered but that's just me. But many people rightly swear by it.
Using the ('cave-reference-point') cipher we can easily see that many activities such as playing snooker/shooting pool, walking tall and slow in the countryside, Tai Chi, Ballet, playing Badminton, playing Mahjong on the PC, Wii Fit, or even sex or masturbation whist wearing an Glasgow purchased 'Jimmy-Hat' all assist to remove the anxiety 'disorder' through direct and deliberate conversation with the Limbic System in it's own language.
So you can imagine that if we started smiling, singing, dancing, eating twiglets and doing the 'Dr Bobby' ménage à un wearing a classy ginger-haired-tartan-beret-combo-hairpiece then the rest/digest would arrive rather soon. Although this is not best performed within the confines of the modern office if you are banking on that promotion next March. There's a time and a place for everything.
Look at the posture, stance, and gait of a 'relaxed and confident' person (let's call him Toby). Copy Toby and you become your own version of that 'relaxed and confident' person in a very short time.
Look a little deeper and discover there is no such thing as a 'relaxed and confident' person. Toby is merely someone who by cause and effect has been feeding back non-fight/flight data via a Sensory-Limbic-Feedback-Loop by the sum of his choice actions without ever knowing it. Lucky person.
But we can make our own luck from now on, and go one better than Toby by realising exactly when and how we achieve such a feat using our new-found and simple Limbic cipher.
So stand up straight, smile, walk slower and with more purpose, pretend you are that confident and surefooted person initially and watch as your positive emotions start to catch-up and become so much better than before. In a very short time, we can become whatever we desire ourselves to be. Again, we are doing what we would be doing had we not been anxious so technically, we are doing nothing.
So this letter is not here to guide you through the arduous task of learning a whole new Limbic language, it is merely here to tell you that you can speak that language already! With this simple piece of knowledge, you realise that you have always been the driver of your own destiny.
For additional ideas and distractions take a look at the interesting things page where I have linked some truly wonderful pages.
WHAT IS RECOVERY?
This question is so rarely addressed in the vast majority of anxiety literature. Well the answer is very-very interesting indeed.
Initial trepidation of anxiety return
The reclamation of your original self. It was completely intact and unflustered during the whole experience. To oversimplify, the reason for this is your 'true personality' (you) is held in a different part of the brain than your 'inappropriate anxiety/panic personality', it is completely safe, sane, rational and calm and has been for the entire duration of your anxiety wisdom journey, regardless of how long you have had anxiety/panic, whether it has been days months years or decades;
The instantaneous ability to use the wisdom that anxiety has bequeathed to you. You actually become calmer than everyone else, including the 'normal' people. You know stress and fear intimately and can eliminate them instantly;
The opportunity to achieve anything you wish in the full knowledge that any of those old social/medical/psychological fears that used to hold you back can be accepted, ignored and subsequently eliminated.
A massive insight into why other people do what they do in relation to their own unconquered fears, an observation that absolutely everyone in the world has inappropriate anxiety to greater or lesser degrees, and 99.999% don't even know it. They just react.
Later on, a complete knowledge of anxiety return impossibility; An inner knowledge base of power that you know you will only ever use for good.
Just remember, Anxiety/Panic disorder in not a physical health problem, it's not a mental health problem. It is a problem of learned behaviour. Anxiety/Panic is in fact your ticket out of here. You need to re-teach Anxiety/Panic that we are unaffected by its presence.
To alleviate the issue you need Anxiety/Panic to be present. Anxiety/Panic is your student. How can it possibly learn if it does not turn up for class?!
A QUICK VISUAL SETTING
Anxiety and panic is like being at the bottom of a lake wearing a very buoyant lifejacket. The lake is anxiety/panic. The surface is normality & relaxation. We are clinging on for dear life to the rocks, plants, indeed anything we can grab a hold of to stay at the bottom of the lake. We feel tremendous forces on our body and the more forces we feel, the tighter we hold on to the bottom. One plant we grab might represent reeking reassurance by visiting anxiety websites for help. Another rock we cling to will represent researching our condition. Each one of these articles is in fact a coping ritual which we have taught ourselves we need, in order to ‘cope’ with the ‘disorder’. If you eliminate the rituals, the anxiety may temporarily increase for a small blip in time, but that’s OK that just means anxiety is learning faster. After all it is only harmless anxiety/panic. We are keeping ourselves at the bottom of the lake. Imagine what would happen if we just let go.
MORE ABOUT THE VICIOYS ANXIETY CIRCLE
Each panic attack (energy surge) fuels the next one. It is the fear of fear that keeps the fires burning. Sometimes Panic Attacks simply burn themselves out and recovery is released, by a chance positive reaction. Sometimes it requires intervention (yoga, meditation, exercise, medication etc). It’s the same with General Anxiety Disorder (GAD). GAD can be more difficult to overcome as it is a constant feeling of unease with no particular focus for your uneasiness. Where the options of invitation and empowerment work well for Panic Attacks, they work less well (in my experience) for GAD for they only serve to fuel fear obsession. ‘Let’s Pretend’ works a treat for GAD. Doing 'Nothing' is not only doing things regardless of anxiety, it is also how you do them. Slowly, patiently, deliberately, pretending to do them confidently, smiling & winking in the mirror. It's making sure to really enjoy your lunch, it’s walking with your head held high, it’s letting out a big relaxing “ahhhhh!!”. All the little things make the difference. You are very creative if you have GAD, you are also a great actor/actress, and you can play a great role. Just do it.
Doing 'Nothing' overrides the fear of fear loop. You don’t have to stop being scared for it to start working. In fact being scared makes it work. Being scared means we are learning.
A BIT ABOUT THE BRAIN
There is an area in the brain that determines whether we use Fight/Flight or Rest/Digest response. This region is called the Limbic System, it is further subdivided into smaller regions. Different regions perform different functions. One such region is called the Amygdala. We each have two of these, so the name becomes pleural. Amygdale.
On a point of little interest, save for those who delight in the classics, the Greek root of the word Amygdala means almond because the shape of each Amygdala cluster looks like an almond. You see, even in confusing world of neurophysiology, the pioneers are still subject to the same rules governing the 1990's tv game show "Catchphrase." That rule of course being "Say what you see".
Where were we? Oh yes, the Amygdale. These almond-shaped regions are responsible for calculating whether to initiate your Fight/Flight or Rest/Digest response and for setting the level of their intensity. They are in constant 'conversation' with many other parts of the brain in order to perform this simple function.
The criteria they use for determining which response to use (Fight/Flight or Rest/Digest) is varied but weighed heavily on sensory input and memories of our recent emotions. With regards to sensory input, the Amygdale use much of the information relayed to it from the visual cortex (both cognition and recognition). In other words, what we see and understand is a large contributor in setting our Fight/Flight Rest/Digest level. Yes of course other sensory inputs factor such as:
· Auditory Perception - Hearing
· Gustation - Taste
· Olfaction - Smell
· Tactition/Mechanoreception - Touch
· Equilibrioception - Balance/Acceleration
· Thermoception - Temperature Perception
· Nociception - Pain Perception
· Proprioception - The Kinesthetic Sense of Relativistic Body Positioning
· Interoception - All other internal senses to regulate normal functions
Some of these senses could be subdivided even further. What exactly am I saying here? Not much, as it happens. I'm just showing you how mechanically amazing you are.
We are not the only animals with this sensory visual weighting, we have all seen the falconer at the local fair who blindfolds the Falcon to decrease the intensity of the bird's Fight/Flight response. We have all seen the documentary in the injured animal-sanctuary when the goose, swan, duck or crocodile has a towel placed over its eyes to decrease the level of the animal's stress. Am I saying wrap a towel round your head? Of course not. That would be daft. I'm just giving you real world examples to highlight the sensory visual bias of the Amygdale.
The recent memories of emotion is derived from data exchanges or 'conversations' with the neighbouring regions for example the hippocampus. The hippocampus region is also seated within the limbic system. We have two each. Yet again, for the classics enthusiast, "Hippo" is Greek for horse, and guess what? The region is shaped like a seahorse. TV's Catchphrase again! The irony being, as you will soon find out, is that an activity such as watching a re-run of Catchphrase will do far more to remove your anxiety-based disorder than many traditional methods of relief. Roy Walker, the show's ever smiling host,, would be proud.
CATCHPHRASE TV SHOW
OK, I liked Catchphrase, it was a wonderful game show. To give a little background, Catchphrase arrived on our screens at the time when animated computer graphics started to become a prominent force in our world. The premise was simple. Two contestants would be pitted against each other in an attempt to decipher the phrase or saying that the computer animation was attempting to represent. The show's mascot, a golden robot called "Mr Chips" would feature prominently in the animations. For example, the words "The Wild Side" would be written on the bottom of the screen and an animated "Mr. Chips" would be taking a walk on top of the words. Yep, you guessed it, "Take a walk on the wild side. " "Riiiiiiiiight!" an impassioned and benevolent Roy Walker would affirm. Of course there were many wonderful moments during the show's various incarnations. The finest and most peerless of all being "Snake Charmer". The gradual catchphrase reveal depicted an inescapable suggestion of Mr. Chips delightedly and furiously masturbating for all we was worth whilst treating us to a comedic doffing of his top hat. The slow reveal gifted the viewer many unforgettable and precious minutes of elated air time. Most definitely one of the 'golden moments' in british elevision history.
Let's imagine for one moment we have an anxiety-based disorder and start to feel a bit jittery, we can either:
1) Visit an Anxiety Support Group Workshop in order to control our anxiety.
2) Watch Catchphrase.
What happens when we implement No.1? We teach ourselves (classical conditioning) that we have to cope with an anxiety-ridden life.
What happens when we implement No.2? We show ourselves (classical conditioning) that if we direct our attention away from anxiety, the Rest/Digest response initiates, we rewire our cerebral associations and delete our anxiety.
Why do I think "Catchphrase" was so good. It's a fast game, it does not give you time to think of much else, it forces non-anxious visual data into the Amygdale. It also keeps the other regions of the brain active, Broca’s & Wernicke’s Regions (the language centres) are kept very busy, it also keeps your neo-cortex busy. The more we keep busy with brain intensive non-anxiety stuff, the quicker we rewire ourselves to only use the Rest/Digest response. Fill your day to fill your mind.
So, getting back to the subject of masturbation. If it's a choice between attending an support group to control your anxiety or working your way though Dr. Bobby Bollocks' "Toss-Yourself-Better" self-appreciation methodologies, then Dr. Bobby's method is the epitome of wisdom.
Because Anxiety Support Group Workshops simply loop you round the SNS Fight/Flight response by keeping your mental focus on your anxiety. Whereas the wise and pre-eminent Dr. Bobby Bollocks represents and completely utilises the PNS Rest/Digest response. It's all about focus, It's all about choice. Focus on the SNS and you'll use the SNS, focus on the PNS and you'll use the PNS. Now I'm not saying the cure to anxiety is to have a quick fiddle, but the humorous connotations of this one single example will certainly aid your memory of this method.
I believe it was Dr. Claire Weekes who said something like the cure is 95% understanding and 5% the implementation of that understanding. I'm not sure of her actual wording as I have never directly read any of her books (sorry Claire!), but I am aware of her work though internet discussions, free resources, free audio files and one paid for download of Peace from Nervous Suffering.
I was (in a previous incarnation) in the habit of monitoring the anxiety culture as manifested in internet chat-rooms for many an hour for many a year. Chat-rooms where her thoughts are often mentioned and applauded by so many of those she has affected directly and positively.
Some if not all of the good advice on this page will be attributed to the amazing Dr Weekes herself (you be the judge of that) and others like her, if that is the case then excellent, that's fine. I'm not claiming any new discovery, this is not a competition and I am certainly not a genius. I'm no messianic innovator with a brand new way, saying "follow me!"
I've told you before I'm a normal guy in a normal town, who had the most extreme of anxiety disorders and removed it with nothing more than putting into practice the logical and plausible analysis of mostly information. I still visit the odd chat room now and again, if only to say thank you to someone who posts a reference to this letter. You probably have far more in common with Claire Weekes than I do.
I'm more of a 'Bill Hicks' kind of guy. Add a sprinkle of crisp freshly-ground Benny Hill and blitz in a Carl Sagan shaped mixing bowl, casserole for 39 years, drizzle over a mature Fernando Sor, serve with a pepperami and a pot noodle on tesseract plates. It's just a ride.
If this (understanding/implementation) was her actual wording or even a reflection of her philosophy then in my humble opinion she is absolutely correct. Drop me a line if you wish to correct me on the actual terminology, I would look it up myself but I am lazy, I simply cannot be arsed. What do you expect for free? Amazing effort? Superhuman drive? A tangible fortitude-come-benevolence combo? Not me my friend. I'm no Richard Parks.
Back to this letter, and how this philosophy fits in here.
Well, we treat the contents of this letter as a training course. Here, we are informed that:
1) we are responsible for anxiety,
2) why anxiety exists,
3) how it is affected by our responses and
4) what to do to remove it.
Here's a harsh (but fair) paragraph:
Reading this letter over and over again will not ultimately rid you of your inappropriate anxiety. All that does is tell you exactly how to do it. Just like learning to drive, you can read as much as you can, but at some point you will choose to get behind the steering wheel and start driving, heading straight for the rest-digest roads and wonder what the hell you were ever worried about.
In other words, to ACTUALLY DO IT, requires you to convert this information into ACTUAL ACTION.
Pick up the car keys. Reading this letter over and over ultimately represents just another coping mechanism, a compulsion ritual, an addict's crutch. My advice to you, dear friend, is to (if you so choose) read until you understand my thoughts, then GO OUT AND LIVE YOUR LIFE.
Let's take a quick look at the reason:
Time for another example.
Anxiety disorders are ultimately the product of a normal and healthy mind. Whenever we experience Panic, Anxiety, Negative Thoughts, Bad Feelings we must accept that there is nothing wrong with us and get on with our lives, only then can we tell ourselves in the first language of the Limbic System that it is time to switch off the Fight-Flight response. Once we do that we will be well once more.
That's a fine paragraph and an important concept to understand. But what happens if we read stuff like this every day in an attempt to recover without actually facing our fears? In all benefit, we are changing the meaning of the outcome, we are redefining anxiety (which is essentially the bedrock of anxiety based Cognitive Behaviour Therapy), and mapping out a path of recovery. This does have some benefit, but not enough. Repeatedly reading such advice results in us constantly reminding ourselves of the high anxiety condition.
Take another look:
" Anxiety disorders are ultimately the product of a normal and healthy mind. Whenever we experience Panic, Anxiety, Negative Thoughts, Bad Feelings we must accept that there is nothing wrong with us and get on with our lives, only then can we tell ourselves in the first language of the Limbic System that it is time to switch off the Fight-Flight response. Once we do that we will be well once more "
These seven reminders of our predicament looped through Broca's and Wernicke's area and back to the Limbic System in one paragraph also serve to exasperate our condition.
Now look at this:
Doctor Bobby has a hobby,
He takes it all in hand,
Round and round and up and down,
Gets Bobby feeling grand.
Ménage à un and time alone,
Gets Bobby all a fluster,
With quickly moving wrist he pulls,
With all that strength can muster.
OK, apologies, at best this is a crudely written doggerel about masturbation but on the plus side, it does not contain any anxiety reminders.
Doggerel definition: (n) Unintentional bad poetry with little or no artistic or literary merit. Thinking to myself: Can a doggerel be intentionally written or does the intent to write bad poetry naturally eradicate the 'doggerel' label and re brand as satire? Or does the sneaky way of simply labeling a slap-dash poetic endeavour as a doggerel cynically attempt to remove the subsequent label of doggerel from the critic by the pre-application of its use in a disarming manner?
We are all capable of over-thinking things, it's what makes us creative and magnificent, even these quick reflections on a simple poem about an invented chap with a P.H.D. in having a quick fiddle proves this.
The indulgent exercise in poetic over thought of a self-penned masturbation rhyme results in much mirth to me. Thanks to Benny Hill, I have a very basic sense of humour.
In all honesty, I'm glad I overthought it. Over-thinking is not always bad, its only bad when we choose to direct all our attention towards an entity incorrectly labelled as negative. If we continually over-think the simplicity of fight-flight response by trying to solve it in a complex cerebral theatre, we are just making problems for ourselves. Especially if we constantly remind our-self of the condition itself through re-reading-till-re-citation our own choice anxiety coping literature.
The valuable time we spend reading these anxiety memorials could be so much better spent on reading, watching and doing rest-digest pursuits. If we did this, then the anxiety would naturally vanish and we would no longer feel the compulsion to solve something that is no longer an issue.
So, which is the best choice material to read to escape the clutches of anxiety once we understand anxiety? Yes, Doctor Bobby's poetic bio, every time. Er, Thanks Doc. You are a strange yet emphatically wise man, I would warmly shake you by the hand, but can we first use the Dettol wipes first?
Now let’s get sensible and balanced:
What I am not saying is “getting support/information for your anxiety based disorder is the wrong thing to do”. We need the information that these constructs provide but once we have the information we need to break free. You choose your time frame in which to do this. Get further assistance if you feel you need to, we are not robots.
It just so happens that (especially in the western hemisphere) anxiety based disorders have historically been viewed as something to be embarrassed about, a sign of weakness or a whole myriad of other social-fear based ‘bullshitastical’ codswallop. The practical result of this is unfortunate. Not a great deal of handy curative knowledge is in the domain of the general public and any knowledge that does tend to circulate is party to catastrophization, sensationalism, ‘Chinese-whispers‘ and ill-remembered anecdotes about poor ‘mad’ Auntie Kitty. The reason for this is that curative knowledge of anxiety is relatively new and we still inherit the heritage of insufficient nomenclature.
As a consequence it is necessary that you initially expand your knowledge-base in all matters ‘anxiety’ for the following reason. The cure is simply a combination of understanding and the application of that understanding. All that matters is that you are able to differentiate between good information and for want of a better term 'arse-talk'.
Dr. Bobby and a computerised masturbating Mr. Chips are just two of a billion plus examples of how to initiate and utilise the Rest/Digest response to remove the over-use of the Fight/Flight response. The more we try, the harder we try, the more often we try. The quicker we recover.
As ever, your choice.
UNREALITY / DEREALISATION
Many people have a problem with Unreality/Derealisation. The reason for this is because it feels so 'alien'. The truth is that it is perfectly normal, and indicative of a healthy mind. The trick is to not be scared of these feelings. How do we remove fear? By understanding what is happening. Unreality is merely the perceptual result of the correct response to anxiety.
It's all part and parcel of the fight-flight response. The brain is scanning the surroundings at high speed. It is working at such a speed that not all the sensory information is 'used', only the information pertinent for survival is processed. This so called 'unreality' is the combination of a slight time lag in perception due to the brain trying to process so much at once and the 'missing' nice pieces of perceptual data.
For example, during relaxation, you may be standing in your kitchen in front of a big freshly baked cake. You take in the lovely smell, the warmth that the fresh cake is generating, the rumbles from your belly in anticipation of eating such a home made masterpiece.
During Anxiety, you stand in front of the same cake, your brain is analysing for danger, the lovely smell of the cake is unnecessary, the anticipatory rumble of your belly is unnecessary. In other words, you filter out all the nice bits. It feels bad because it's designed to be and you start looking for an exit.
Let's look at it as a simple equation:
Unreality = normal perception minus the nice bits.
Look at this from ancestral perspective. You are cooking your woolly mammoth steaks and getting the same lovely sensations (smell/belly rumbles etc), a sabre toothed tiger enters the camp. It would be detrimental to your wellbeing if you were still preoccupied with the smell of the mammoth steaks when you need to be looking to make a quick exit to save your skin.
In anxiety 'disorder' you have to do the following, realise that all the nice bits are still there, . They always have been, you just need to look for them. So when you are standing in front of your cake looking for an exit, firstly realise that it's anxiety, then realise you can ALWAYS override any advice from the fight/flight 'circuits'. If you take time to smell the aroma and slowly eat the cake, your fight/flight 'circuits' will (after initial trepidation) lower your anxiety levels once it observes you acting like all is well.
When this level is lowered the unreality will begin to dissipate. Once you have done it once it will give you the confidence to invite and accept the unreality as a new opportunity to accept it and ignore it. After a few 'setbacks' and subsequent 'recoveries' you will be bubbling with confidence which will bring you back to relaxation.
Another way of looking at it is this This is certainly a strange feeling, but just a harmless and completely beneficial feeling nonetheless.
What is it?, Why do we have it?, When do we have it?
It is a magnificent safety buffer we have because it is actually the mind slowing down to remove the stress, it occurs when the mind races too fast and kicks in to slow us down. Not only is it completely harmless it is also a very good thing. I'll say that again. It is a VERY GOOD thing.
The ability to pretend comes from one cerebral fact. Regardless of what the Limbic System ‘advises’ us to do, the Cortex can always (and I mean always) override that advice in every single human being. It’s like having two brains, the anxiety brain and the true-you brain. You are so much bigger than your anxiety. The wonderful world in which we live is so much bigger than anxiety.
THE ALCATRAZ ANALOGY
Here’s a little Alcatraz analogy. It contains numerous techniques and philosophies. It describes the traditional method in which ‘sufferers’ become ‘ex-sufferers’. It demonstrates the initial wrong assumptions we manifest and the initial wrong turns we take. It also describes how we eventually attain our freedom.
A Quick Refresher
You now know that stressful situations initially cause anxiety sensations and these anxiety sensations spook us. The simple midbrain then remembers that we were spooked and puts us into a state of high alert. This state of high alert then produces additional feelings and sensations which spook us even further and we enter the cycle. The fear of fear keeps this whole situation ticking over.
The midbrain then (believing it is doing us a favour by staying on alert) keeps checking for sensations. It manufactures these feelings and symptoms and in turn keeps us on high alert when we react negatively to them.
It is interesting to know that the midbrain can operate at many times the speed of the ‘thinking part’ of the brain, it's designed that way to keep us safe. That’s why anxiety always gets there first. What a perfect defense mechanism!!
The perfect defense mechanism becomes what we believe to be the ‘inescapable’ prison.
How do we escape from Alcatraz?
Firstly it is not at all necessary to escape. Many people live out wholesome fulfilling lives without ever leaving. They are wonderful friends, wonderful parents, wonderful children. Wonderful people.
But if we do want to escape there are many ways to do it and imperative to fail as many times as we need to. The more times we fail the more practice we get. The more practice we get the less we fail.
What is responsible for determining the anxiety setting?
You are. That's it. YOU are keeping yourself anxious by feeding back 'anxiety stuff' through your senses. Anxiety etc is not an assailant, it is protection, protection you don't need.
The Problem: The Limbic system does not know the difference between a real and pretend threat.
The Solution: The Limbic system does not know the difference between a real and pretend response.
By addressing/conversing with your anxiety you are running and not facing. By living your life you are CONFRONTING ANXIETY DIRECTLY.
Yes, as stated, the neo-cortex (your personality) can ALWAYS override the 'advice' of the limbic system. It's hardwired in all of us. Let go to Alcatraz.
This Alcatraz analogy was written to enable you to easily visualise each aspect of your anxiety-based disorder. Naturally, it also includes the permanent escape solution.
OK, I know it was one prisoner per cell, the cells didn’t all have windows and the power-plant was in a separate building, but bear with me. I have exercised some poetic licence for the purposes of knitting the story tightly with the Alcatraz details. I thought about inventing my own prison name but Alcatraz somehow seemed more ‘punchy’.
Let me introduce you to the cast:
The Island Prison with its bars and walls are the limitations you incorrectly assign for yourself simply based upon fear of what might happen should you try. You hate being in Alcatraz but at least for most of the time you are safe in your cell. The placement of you within the Island Prison is your anxiety-based disorder.
The Prison Guard ‘Mr Limbic’ is a huge imposing figure whose strength and athleticism far exceeds your average abilities. Mr Limbic is the Autonomic Nervous System. His job description inside the prison is simple, to keep you safe. He can move fast, his reaction speed far exceeds yours. Every time anyone makes a run for an exit, he has easily stopped them. He is always watching you and tells you what to do. Interestingly, he’s never told you he will harm you and has never threatened you. However, you are very scared of what he might do. He is just doing his job and the ultimate professional. You are rarely disobedient, very respectful and always call him 'Sir'.
Your Cell mate, ‘Sonny 'Whatif' Smith’ is your negative thoughts. Sonny keeps insisting that not only is escape impossible, but very harmful. He constantly reminds you what Mr Limbic might do if you don't comply with all the prison rules. Sonny 'Whatif' Smith is an exceptionally fast thinker and this frustrates you greatly. He never stops chatting and this annoys you hugely. In any situation his advice arrives well before you even have had time to consider your options. He simply wants you to survive your time in prison. 'Whatif' is very clever but not very wise. His advice is predictable in that it is always wrong. He’s not malicious is very nice but very nervous and timid and one of the reasons why he talks so much. He's always looking out for your wellbeing but he really thinks what he tells you is the absolute truth. He simply wants to keep the both of you safe and is on your side.
It goes without saying that Sonny 'Whatif' Smith is absolutely terrified of Mr Limbic. Don’t tell Sonny to shut up, thank him for his advice and then choose not to take it.
Sonny and 'Limbic' are your ticket out of here. In order to return to the mainland you must convince Sonny he is wrong by demonstrating to Mr Limbic that the Island Prison cannot harm you. To do this we are going to have to put on a brave face for a few days.
The Alcatraz Mailman ‘Mr Debit’ delivers mail to you every day. It is always the same letter entitled "The Escape Secret." The letter contains details of the rumour that some people have already escaped from Alcatraz. Every time you ask the mailman how they escaped you are told that it is a secret and big secrets in Alcatraz cost big money. Money you don't have. Your earning power has diminished considerably since your arrival. If only someone would just tell you. If you escaped you would certainly let your fellow inmates know how it was done. Questions pour though your mind. Did the escapees get hurt when escaping? How long did they take to escape? Is there a secret tunnel? Did they get help from the outside? Did the Guards help them? Is it all a con? Did it actually happen? No one seems to know, and those who do, don't seem to want to tell. These letters make you feel even more desperate. They only serve to remind you that you are still imprisoned.
The Other ‘Guests’ of Alcatraz are your fellow anxiety-based disorder sufferers that you pass messages to, swap prison coping tips and find solace in the fact that you are not alone. They are amazing people, the bravest of the brave. Some have been inmates for years. Others are new fish.
Constant Self-Checking is nothing more than the observation that you are still in prison. As soon as you wake, you look around at the stale white-green walls and resign yourself to yet another day as a ‘guest’ of the most notorious of all penitentiaries.
The city residents are the people you 'view' as normal, conventional and healthy, having an easy life. No one is better or worse than anyone else, both on the island and on the mainland.
Mr Jones is the man who can get things. Every prison has one. He is your Doctor. Your medication is his supply of prison hooch. He can provide you with a map of the entire prison complex if you ask him. He will help you plan your own escape. Some inmates don’t need Jones's help whilst others do. He’s a brilliant, smart, relaxed, logical and you can trust him. He may help you escape the Island Prison completely, or he will simply point you in the right direction. Trust his judgement.
Your release papers are what you crave more than anything else in the world. You get these when you remove your anxiety-based disorder. They don't arrive instantly because it takes a short time for the red-tape administration to be completed. The red tape administration is simply your brain creating relaxing links and deleting anxious links.
Your goal is to leave Alcatraz, taking Sonny with you, getting Mr Limbic a new nice stress-free job and then free all the other prison inmates.
You vaguely remember arriving at Alcatraz, although you can't quite remember how or why you were sent here. Was there a court case? Was it mistaken identity? Did you do something bad? You have spent many long nights chatting to 'Whatif' Smith about the possible reasons for your incarceration. As you can imagine 'Whatif' Smith has many opinions on this. You are the most important character,ecause you make all the decisions.
The Shouts For Help
You shout for help through the bars to the outside world, but the shoreline of San Francisco is too far away and your desperate pleas evaporate through the high winds and bitter rain. Occasionally, the ocean batters the rocks day and night, other times it’s flat calm. You can just make out the city lights. A place where the residents live their lives oblivious to the hardship that Alcatraz serves up in plain sight of their wonderful and exciting metropolis.
Constant Self-Checking keeps you aware of the Island Prison. The more you shout for help, the more the lights malfunction and your cellblock heater randomly blasts out choking hot air or a painful acrid rasps.
You hear footsteps outside your door and fear fills your cell. Straining to hear, you can just make out a faint whisper from a strange but friendly voice passing your cell door:
"Hey buddy, there’s something in your pocket!" Confused and scared you slowly reach inside your prison issue clothing and pull out a set of keys.
The Responsibility and Ownership of Your Situation.
Each brass key is in pristine condition. Each key is labelled. A quick analysis shows you that you have the key to your own cell, the partition bars, the canteen, the library, the showers, the toilets and the workshop. You even have the key to the governors’ office!
You search through your memory to find out some keys are missing. The only keys you do not possess is to the cells of your fellow inmates and the boiler room.
How odd? What does that mean?
Having the keys is not enough, you think Alcatraz is a terrifying place. Although you hate your cell, it’s better than being in the communal areas, according to Sonny ‘Whatif’ Smith.
You sit in your cell, place the keys on the table and consider your options. The choice is yours. To leave, or not to leave, that is the apprehension.
"Damn it." Another critical choice. Or, as I have come to know it, an opportunity.
Now that you realise that you will not be rescued, you ultimately have to do it yourself. At this point you can call on Jones' assistance. He's a good buddy to have in this situation. He can help take your mind off your worries and give you the breathing space to make a good decision. He will help you consider all your options based on his encyclopedic knowledge of prison life.
You stare at the set of keys for hours, days, weeks or even longer, wondering what to do. All that time Sonny pleads with you not to do anything rash. He tells you every negative scenario that could occur if you were to pick up the keys, and boy he is creative. But we know that Sonny talks rubbish and is always wrong.
It does not matter how long you leave the keys on the table, when you are ready to pick them up you will do so. You will be scared but it's OK to be scared. In fact it is absolutely necessary.
Why is it necessary? We need the presence of fear to enable us to desensitise ourselves to its effects.
Looking Out Of the Cell Door
Filled with fear, you finally pick up the keys, turn them in the lock, open the door and visually scan the harsh metallic gangplanks adorning the atrium outside your cell door. If you need a slug of Jones's hooch to pluck up the courage to do this, that's fine. If not then that's also fine.
On first inspection the whole environment seems too ominous, even the silence has an eerie echo, your heart starts thumping, your mind gets dizzy, your vision goes haywire, your stomach has butterflies dancing to a queasy rhythm and sweat pours from your hair. You banshee-scream back into you cell and slam shut your steel door. You get a dressing down from Sonny who gives you his best list of 'what ifs' to date. He's not called 'whatif' for nothing! Boy can he talk!
Stepping Out Of The Cell
This time, you spend longer in the atrium. You are still scared but decide to have a little look around. Mr Limbic orders you back to your room. The fear in his voice causes your sensations to multiply and you run back to the cell.
You replay the scenario over and over in your mind. What actually happened to you? Nothing happened. Nothing at all, apart from being scared there was nothing. No gangs. No shank toting muggers. No injuries. Nothing. How odd. What is Limbic up to?
Walking the Communal Areas in Full View of the Guard
A few days later, you try again but this time you want to know what would have happened if you ignored Mr Limbic. Is this what bravery is? You bet your backside it is and you are not turning back now.
You step out with more confidence than before and stand nose to chin with your guard who is still barking the same old orders. You've had just about enough of this jobs worth, so you answer "Hey Limbic! Take a hike" and walk straight past him.
As you walk around you realise there are still no riots, no gangs, nothing. The corridors and gangplanks are empty. Limbic follows closely behind in a confused state, still bellowing the same orders over and over.
You ask him why he keeps shouting. He tells you: "I’m just doing my job, I’m your guard, and I'm guarding you!!" Although Limbic is exceptionally good at his job, he’s not very bright.
You realise that in order to escape, all you have to do is to outwit the slow witted Limbic and ignore the completely predictable Sonny.
You are still a bit scared but you are determined. You walk the corridors and gangplanks of your prison and Limbic walks alongside, trying to block your path at each intersection. You look directly into his professional eyes and then walk around him until he learns that it is there is no point in blocking your path. This is still a scary sensation for you, but at least you are not confined to your cell any more.
Later, you confidently return back to your cell to tell Sonny of your progress. You have unlocked your door and walked around the prison and nothing he warned you about actually happened. You were not attacked, you were not harmed in any way and you got to know Limbic a bit better. At this rate, it won't be long until Limbic is bringing you a cup of tea and telling you to put your feet up. The more scared you are of him the more he barks, the more you ignore him, the more he helps you to relax.
Your constant self checking now starts to incorporate this new understanding into its observations. It starts to become your ally. Every time you find yourself analysing your anxiety level, it seems a bit lower.
Looking into the Boiler Room
For your next ‘outing’ you head for the basement. You are keen to check the boiler room. The boiler room is your energy levels, your small but powerful coal driven power station which are your adrenal glands.
You take a look through the locked gates. It's a very hot, very noisy, powerful place. You look closely at the gate. None of your keys will unlock the door.
You are amazed at how much power the boiler room produces. You notice that its power distribution system and the lighting panel have been wrongly calibrated by Limbic.
Nevertheless, you decide not view this situation with fear but rather with objectivity. You know with slight tweaks to its calibration settings, the heating system would not be too hot or too cold, the air conditioning would function and lights would not be too bright, too dull or flicker constantly. You eventually understand the source of these 'discomforts' and decide to make the best of a bad situation by accepting the current climate and flickering lighting. Yes, its uncomfortable but that's all it is.
As you exit the boiler room you still notice the heat and light variations of the whole prison complex but now you know the source of the problem you will not fear your surroundings as much as you did yesterday.
You’ve tried to tell the guard about the climate settings in the past and assumed that he just didn’t understand the way the system worked or if the system was broken beyond repair.
You remember your strong desire for life on the mainland where you know every building has the right environmental control settings but decide that you can live here a while longer.
The Governors’ Office
For your next excursion you decide to visit the Governors’ office. This is definitely new territory for you and comes with its own fears but you have come this far and decide to look round. Limbic is quite confused by now and tries every fear trick in the book to stop you but when you enter the office, he makes you a cup of tea and hums a relaxing tune.
You open the frosted glass door have a quick look around the plush office and head straight for the filing cabinet. Your prison record is your mental and physical health. You have a sneak peek at our own file and a wash of realisation surges through you. You read your file and see that you have committed no crime. There is nothing wrong with you! You are confused about the content of your file and look through all the other prisoner's files, all of which confirm that none had committed any crime either. Everyone prisoner was completely innocent..
You then take a look on the oak shelves and scan through Limbic’s weekly log-book. You read through his section on building calibration and see that other prisoners have been complaining a lot lately, always shouting for help. Limbic keeps recalibrating the boiler settings and adjusting the lighting panel but to no avail but keeps trying until the prisoners stops complaining".
You realise that all this time he was also trying to help you.
You take a look through the Staff filing cabinet and find Limbic's impressive CV. He wasn't always the best prison guard. Prior to Alcatraz, he was a relaxation therapist. For someone so daft, he doesn’t half have a juxtaposing skill-set. What a truly amazing man, not only can he perfectly protect you in times on extreme danger, he can chill you out more than hot banana pudding, a glass of Penderyn and the Requerdos De La Alhambra.
Back to the Cell
You rush back to your cell to tell Sonny. He doesn’t believe you at first but you are talking so jubilantly about your discovery that he has trouble getting a word in.
The Sunshine on the Prison Garden
For your next outing you decide to visit the prison garden, it's been so long since you ventured outside, you have forgotten the way. Limbic expertly navigates your route through the prison.
You, Sonny and the amazing Mr Limbic walk out and beyond the walls of Alcatraz, standing in the sunshine. This is the first time all three of you have shared a common experience for quite a while. You are all enjoying the sun and you stand in unison with the hint of a smile on your faces. You don’t want to beam quite yet, but you are all happy to know that even if you had to spend the rest of your days here in Alcatraz, then you are damn sure that it will be on your terms. You accept your prison because it is nowhere near as bad as you originally thought. That is acceptance.
You spend many fulfilling days walking around the island and are happy to return to your cell knowing you can have a good day tomorrow too. The environmental controls are still a bit jittery and the guard is an odd fellow. Sonny can still be a whining doom monger too. You are still in prison but at least you are making the best of it. Your cell mate still gives you safety advice from time to time, but complains less and less,. He too is beginning to grow in confidence.
To escape your Alcatraz, all you have to do is to outwit Limbic and ignore Sonny. If we get Limbic to chill out, then Sonny won't be scared of him! Getting Limbic to chill should be a breeze because we know he used to be a relaxation guru.
Unexpectedly, it is Sonny that tells you that your release papers are imminent and in the meantime, you keep yourself busy.
Exploring Your Island Further
You walk on the rocks and climb unoccupied sniper towers to gaze upon the Pacific. Your fears of the ocean start to become overwhelmed by your amazement at its magnificence. Sometimes you peacefully walk alone; sometimes you walk with your companions. Sometimes the shouts shouts, sometimes he doesn’t. Sometimes you even run back to your cell. But that’s OK. You can get sustenance from the canteen and read books from the library. You make furniture for your cell in the workshop and plant crops in the vegetable garden.
You live happily for a short while until one day Mr Limbic presents you with your release papers and offers to pilot a launch to the mainland. True to form, he gives you the papers the moment you truly accept Alcatraz as 'Home'. You realise that, as before, you can ignore him or listen to him, it’s up to you and always has been. You decide that on this occasion to listen. You know that you can return whenever you want.
The Boat to the mainland
Mr Limbic leads you and Sonny down to the jetty where a boat awaiting. It’s the same boat that you arrived in.
All your memories of arrival make perfect sense. The same boat! The method to escape the island is the same as the method that brought you here in the first place. Across the stern and sign-written by a steady and artistic hand is the name of the boat. One word, lower case, understated and in white: “choice“.
Mr Limbic knows his prison guard days are behind him. He needs a purpose and you are now the one who writes his job description, you always have been. It's time for him to return to the days of being a relaxation guru. He skillfully pilots you and Sonny towards the shore of the city. Is there nothing he can't do! Who is he ... Bond?!
All three of you look with wonder at the opportunities and possibilities that the city will present. As your launch skips across the blue-green waters, Sonny can only speak of good things. Of course he can, his mood is completely dictated by Mr Limbic. Mr Limbic's mood is completely dictated by your senses. You dictate what you feed to your senses.
You are the most important character, you make all the decisions.
You are out of Alcatraz; you rescued an exuberant and optimistic Sonny, and have the amazing Mr Limbic as your personal assistant for the rest of your long happy days.
You become, once again, a fully useful member of the city. There are times when you look upon Alcatraz island and remember vividly the times you spent there, sometimes with fear, sometimes with fondness for the wisdom provided. Sometimes with hope for the other inmates still inside. There are other times when you look directly at the island and don’t register it at all. You become caught up in the thrills and spills of city life once again. You have reached the goal. There are other times when you don’t want to think of it at all because it brings back too many painful memories.
Sonny is occasionally worried you still may be sent back one day. You've escaped once, next time you would simply walk straight through the front doors. Sonny's what-if words hold no currency with you any more, they simply remind you of what an amazing thing you did. They give you confidence. It is impossible for you to fear Alcatraz ever again. Simply because you understand it. You are free forever, you are cured forever.
The Alcatraz ‘Tourist Attraction’
This place is now your tourist attraction, and you visit from time to time, you still remember the unexplained sounds and strange echoes that poured through its walls, you still remember the emotions you experienced. Sometimes it brings back the sad and painful memories. But each time you visit, it is on your terms, every corner you look around, every stairwell you walk and every gangplank you stand upon gives you more confidence. Your painful memory associated with each location and situation is slowly overwritten with new memories of more recent visits. The more you visit, the more you understand; you even consider a job as a tour guide as you know the more time you spend here the less of the bad times you remember. You find yourself actually wanting to spend more time within this stunning piece of functional architecture.
As you walk down the corridors, you think deeply on the journey you have taken. You become compelled to help someone else. You don’t want to provoke envy because you know that never helped you. All you want to do is pass on a simple message. You don't want your mail delivered by 'Debit' the Mailman.
The Faint Whisper
You sneak past the occupied cell of one of the other ‘Guests’ and whisper
"Hey Buddy! There’s something in your pocket."
INTRUSIVE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
New negative thoughts in the mind are like deer tracks in the woods, the more they are used the more trodden down the deer tracks become, soon other animals and people start to use these path ways, these path ways become bridal ways, these bridal ways become B roads, then A roads, then Motorways. They seem unstoppable.
One method of removing the thought is to change the meaning of anxiety to what it truly is. A beneficial tool for survival.
Example thought: "my heart is palpitating" - <MOTORWAY> - Conclusion "I'm going to have a heart attack!!!!!!"] = FEAR
Using this example this is the way you can make anxiety work for you:
You can't simply get rid of the ‘motorway’ short term, but you can find the benefit.
Example thought: "my heart is palpitating" - <MOTORWAY> - Conclusion "I'm making my heart stronger !!!!!!"] = REASSURANCE
This is the reason why we need to view anxiety as a positive thing because in truth it is.
Sticking with the above example, the subsequent pattern emerges, as the reality of the reassurance outcome is realised, the motorway becomes less used (because we do not fear the outcome) and returns to being the deer track, and eventually this pathway is bypassed completely by a new beneficial pathway.
Know that thoughts are harmless. I viewed my negative thoughts in the same way as I would watch subtitles on tv. They are merely thought patterns. I learned not to fight the thoughts, but simply accept them. They would come and go and it took me a while to let them flow freely in and out of my mind. But once I did this, the vicious circle began to fracture. In the anxiety ‘disorder,’ negative thoughts cause the physiological changes and the physiological changes cause the negative thoughts. You only have to eliminate one of these for the circle to dissipate.
It is true that one of the hardest aspects of dealing with any anxiety-based disorder is the issue of negative thoughts.
What is a negative thought? Any creative thought with a detrimental outcome. They pander to the three main fears of the human self.
Example Thought "I’m going to die!"' "I’m going mad!", "People will laugh at me!"
Root Fear: Fear of physical death, Fear of psychological death, Fear of social death
These thoughts seem to pop into our conscious minds without warning or invitation and are usually very distressing. They can make us feel like we are no longer in control and often promote notions that we are somehow losing it, going mad, becoming severely mentally unstable, having a nervous breakdown or experiencing massive cognitive (thinking) collapse. Don't worry none of these are true.
Let me remind you that there is nothing wrong with you. There never has been anything wrong with you. You are completely fine.
My own condition caused me to experience negative thoughts every fifteen seconds of every waking hour regardless of where I was. Consequently, there were many occasions when I would wrap pillows around my head to deaden the sounds whilst in a protected foetal position and be literally screaming. Not my finest hour considering there was never anything wrong with me. But nothing to be ashamed of either because this is a very common reaction to severe anxiety-based disorders.
I thought I was under attack from a part of my sickeningly crazy mind which was hell bent on destroying me mentally, physically, socially and emotionally. I was, of course, completely and utterly wrong.
You can see that it is often difficult to "see the wood for the trees." If it is difficult for the traditional well-read, intelligent psychologist to grasp the big picture, you can bet your cat that in the midst of an anxiety disorder, where everything but scary protection based thoughts are filtered-out (due to them being incorrectly categorised as non-pertinent) it seems almost impossible.
During my early days of exceptionally high anxiety, I remember reading a government mental health help booklet that briefly discussed the existence of the persistent negative thought. I was presented with a new murky character called the Unhelpful Thoughts Mugger.
The name given to this character is simply the result of the wrongly perceived nature of the thoughts themselves. I can't blame the author for that, that is exactly how these thoughts initially seemed.
You are busy going about your day and bang! Your own thoughts are 'hijacked' by this malevolent and shadowy assailant.
Well the perpetrator has to be malevolent surely? He's a mugger! When is the last time you met a 'nice' mugger who thrust cash into your pocket with a warm smile, no questions asked and then simply buggered off to share his endless generosity with another unsuspecting beneficiary?
He was even given a cartoon depiction as a masked, overweight, comic-book street-thief with an air of menace about his person, as indicated by his home-made cudgel with which he was ready to batter his next victim. He hid, poised to strike behind a gloomy bricked-wall corner. Frankly I’m surprised he wasn’t drawn in black-and-white surrounded by darkly sinister swirls to fully deepen the negativity of the intention he was designed to represent!
I must say in all honesty that apart from that the guide was intuitive and informative. It is not my intention to be critical, I'm just making a point using an example from my memory. I'm sure there is much in this letter that will leave you, the reader, exasperated. Nobody's perfect, nor should it ever be our goal to be so. The goal is simply to be ourselves.
Now the naming conventions of traditional flight/flight psychological literature has always been one of my bugbears.
'Mugger' indeed! It would be far more helpful if this character was described as a Good Samaritan. Why?
Because the function of these so-called 'negative' thoughts is simply to protect you. They are formed because we have taught ourselves that we and our loved ones (we are social animals) need protecting, all because we have taught ourselves that there is something very wrong with us. These protective thoughts can take on some frightening forms:
What If I hurt myself?
What If I hurt my spouse?
What if I hurt my children?
The reality is that if you were the type of person who could really hurt yourself or others with no remorse you would not be fearful of the thought. Your protective thoughts, subsequent fear and the consequent fear-loop produced is proof that it is impossible for you to do harm to yourself or others.
These thoughts can take two main forms:
1. The What-if though or to give it the big word "Catastrophizing”.
2. Persistent Self-checking and a constant reminder of your predicament.
I mentioned earlier that these thoughts seem to pop into our conscious minds without warning or invitation.
High Anxiety is simply the fight/flight response that we have inherited from our evolutionary past:
Let’s see why that is, let's return to origins of anxiety disorder and a tiger scenario.
If protective thoughts and their subsequent actions had to be invited the following scenario would unfold:
In this example Mr sabre toothed tiger is not strolling into your cave on the off chance of a potentially scavenged meal. He has seen you first, his brain has identified you as viable and easy prey. He has been patient and has stalked you with elegant stealth. He has the speed and size advantage and the element of surprise. The first you know of his existence is you seeing him running directly at you. There is maybe fifteen feet between you both. You have maybe two or three seconds at best to respond with an action. Do your protective thoughts need an invitation to be present?
"Excuse me, I’m your fight/flight response, do you mind if I take up a minute of your time to offer some options regarding your current predicament? You see, I’ve just received some information relayed to me by your visual cortex which has all the characteristics of an imminent and grotesque death in the shape of a rather large hungry tiger. I strongly urge you to temporarily provide me with control of all your relevant physical and mental functions for the purposes of providing you with a series of potential exit strategies. Would that be OK?”
If this was the way the fight/flight response worked then the scenario would play out like this:
"Excuse me do you mind if I ...." At this point the tiger has ripped your throat out.
In the real world, your thoughts would issue the following instruction:
They may not even be time to form the word consciously, but the concept would still be rationalised and implemented immediately. Not later.
If the threat was as imminent as the above example describes then you would be running even before having to consider the concept of ‘run’. Not only would you be running but you would be running in the most appropriate direction which would give you the greatest chance of survival based on all the factors available such as tiger speed; tiger bearing; tiger estimated weight, tiger inertia and thus predicted turning speed of tiger etc.
That is exactly why anxiety always seems to get there first and arrive totally uninvited. It's supposed to happen this way! There is nothing wrong with you. There never has been.
In the modern day situation there is no tiger so we simply invent new fears and think about them because they frighten us.
You are simply running through the fight/flight response, because you incorrectly fear anxiety.
In my experience the best way to initiate the reset/digest response (calming down/restful and happy result) is to act completely normal. Accept your situation for the short term because it will soon get better.
Now we know a little more about negative thoughts and how they are completely harmless. We are less scared of them and when we don't fear them, they disappear.
How should we label negative thoughts, OCD?, GAD?, Panic? , Anxiety?, Phobias?, Depression?. It doesn't matter. They are just the same but with different clothing that the anxiety based-disorder wears. They are simply symptoms, or more accurately, classifications of the Fight/Flight response.
In the same way, symptoms of the Rest/Digest response (clothed) could be categorised as conditions such as happiness, laughter, relaxation, enjoyment, social confidence, self assurance etc.
When we are happy (utilizing the Rest/Digest) we don't try to classify it, nor should we do with the Fight/Flight response.
There is nothing wrong with someone who overuses the Rest/Digest, thus there is nothing wrong with someone who overuses the Fight/Flight. Its the same feedback mechanism.
To stop using the Fight/Flight, practice using the Rest/Digest. Your brain will automatically rewire itself and all the negative/irrational thoughts will be replaced with positive/rational thoughts.
A common thought is this, I wish my Fight/Flight response was cleverer, then I would not be in this condition. Use that to your advantage. The Fight/Flight response does not know the difference between a real and pretend threat (the cause of the 'disorder'), thus it does not know the difference between a real and pretend response (the cause of the cure). Pretend, and act like all is well, you will then initiate the Rest/Digest response, keep at it and you'll be laughing.
Everything is in balance, it always has been, and there is nothing wrong with you. All you have to do is prove it to yourself. Every time you are feeling anxious, you are using anxiety links in the brain. Every time you react positively and ignore anxiety you delete these links.
What you understand on a Monday effects what you do on a Tuesday.
What you do on a Tuesday effects how you feel on a Wednesday.
What you feel on a Wednesday effects how you think on a Thursday.
What you think on a Thursday effects what you understand on a Friday.
Byproduct = Cure
Acceptance is one of the anxiety removal strategies championed by many experts. When they use the term acceptance, it is very difficult to understand what they mean, after all it's just a word, how can anxiety be solved with just one word?
We are conventionally told what to do. Accept your feelings and your feelings will go away. There is no magic happening during the acceptance approach, it is simply cause and effect. The thinking behind why this strategy works lies in understanding the dynamics of the anxiety vicious circle.
Our bodies produce adrenaline in response to stress triggers. This adrenaline produces huge changes in the body to enable us to fight or take flight. The thoughts available to our conscious mind become limited, we filter out all notions except those based around the concepts of fighting or fleeing. We become scared of these changes and produce more adrenaline. The circle is formed.
The notion of acceptance works like this. If we simply accept that we produce high levels of adrenaline, accept that we experience the bodily sensations produced as a result of this high adrenaline, accept that our thoughts will be negative, and ultimately accept the fear, then the vicious circle is undermined and as a consequence eliminated. In other words, we accepted we didn’t react.
So we know that this method agrees with the irrefutable laws of cause and effect.
Well I mentioned briefly that we are told to accept our feelings and the feelings will go away but we are not told how to do it.
Time for another question: Why is it so incredibly difficult to implement Acceptance in practice?
First a reality check.
Why on earth do we call it a vicious circle when its sole Purpose is to keep us safe and protected? The world of anxiety-based disorders has (for as long as psychology has been used) been the unfortunate victim of negative spin. In other words, on the surface, the condition seems horrible, non-beneficial and on the whole destructive so it also feels natural to describe it in negative terms. It does not take a genius to conclude that if we identify something as negative, our responsive interaction will also be negative, and our situation exasperated.
Irony is afoot. In the field of therapy which prides itself on looking beneath the surface, this negative superficial terminology is rife.
Of course many therapists appreciate this irony but nothing has been done to change the wording. In a world of economic limits, I imagine (and completely without sarcasm) that it would be too expensive.
If we remove the confusion and give the vicious circle a far more accurate and fit-for-purpose name we would choose terminology such as a 'Safety Loop' or 'Protection Circle' or 'Positive Feedback Shield'.
You are now starting to see that an anxiety-based disorder has never been an illness. it is merely the body doing what it is designed to do. Protect you.
How on earth are we supposed to accept living within a vicious circle which attacks us with episodes of panic, all compounded by the existence of an unhelpful thoughts mugger?
We each attach emotions to words.
The fight/flight response interprets these words and their emotional connotations (rooted in personal memory) as a cue to initiate additional protection (produce more adrenaline).
We are designed to keep ourselves safe so why would we (at the time when we feel most vulnerable) simply accept being mentally ill and under attack from a mugger who perpetuates the chronic vicious condition.
Sometimes I wonder why we don't go the whole hog and call the unhelpful thoughts mugger the mind rapist (sarcasm restored).
Accepting being under attack is simply outside the parameters of our design. Our natural reaction to such terminology is to keep fighting. However, acceptance arrives so much easier if we know we are accepting being protected by a Good Samaritan who operates the short term safety loop for our benefit. That's how acceptance is achieved.
The rest/digest response interprets these words as a cue to initiate relaxation.
Now we know that the fight/flight response is harmless. It will serve us better if we develop a method of acceptance that directs our attention to the wider world and away from the pointless scrutiny of our own anxiety situation.
The answer to complete acceptance lies within the bravery and wisdom to leave the question unanswered. I have a strong belief that most people misinterpret the notion of what true acceptance is. Acceptance is not the acceptance of the anxiety condition. That is a small part of the solution. We need to accept the reality that our reactions and conversations with the anxiety condition is now firmly in our past. In truth, acceptance is understanding that there is nothing whatsoever wrong with us in any way, shape or form.
To do this we start to behave in a way that would be in-step with our choice lifestyle if we had no anxiety. We would act normally, we would pretend all is well in the face of our own negative anxiety beliefs. Our subsequent action becomes inaction with regards to fight/flight 'advice' and we get on with our lives. Our rest/digest response is initiated and our unneeded 'protection' memory associations are deleted.
This action removes the physical anxiety and the 'negative' protective thoughts and we emerge once more into the sunlight.
So with regard to acceptance, we are not accepting anxiety, we are accepting recovery.
The Good Samaritan described here is an odd fellow. It is obvious to us that we don’t need his advice. But on first impressions he has convinced us he is very clever, always there first to give us safety ‘advice’ we don’t need.
If only he stopped giving us advice we could recover. We have told him time and again he is no longer invited, but he simply does not listen.
Not strictly true. He does ‘listen‘, in fact he’s listening and watching all the time, it’s just that we have never intentionally ‘spoken’ in his language. We have spent weeks months if not years telling him in our spoken language to stop.
Here’s the problem, when we talk and write we predominantly use the language centres of the brain (Broca’s Area/Wernicke's Area).
These areas have relatively little to do with the Limbic System compared to our raw senses.
OK, there are minor linkages (the emotional attachment to abstract recognition words and phrases), however, the influence of Mr Broca & Mr Wernicke is negligible in relation to the language of the Good Samaritan.
Question: Can you remind me of what language the Good Samaritan speaks?
Answer: The language of Sensory feedback.
Demonstrate to yourself (and thus your senses) that inappropriate anxiety is a fallacy and it goes away.
MOTHS, FLAMES AND FEAR INVITATION
The technique of inviting fear is irrefutable in its logic, it is designed as a simple demonstrative tool, nothing more, a way of showing and proving to ourselves from within that the fight/flight response is harmless. But the issue many people have is that they believe the 'answer to all of anxiety' lies within intricate scrutiny of the symptoms, sensations or experience. They incorrectly believe the answer lies at the other end of a panic/anxiety-attack. So they keep their focus directly on the fight/flight response in the same way the photo-attractive moth is compelled to dance endlessly to the compulsion of the flame.
Regarding anxiety invitation, it is true that some people do experience relief when they realise that the panic/anxiety episode is completely benign, however for the vast majority of fight/flight 'users', the fear is more complicated than being only frightened of the mechanics of the panic attack itself.
So we find the following thing happens, we manifest the attack, we notice that we are still intact before, during and after.
For most people the main fear is not of the panic itself but the notion that the anxiety condition will continue to impede our abilities to ever be 'normal again." In other words ,we fear that we will never be ourselves again. A truly terrifying thought.
This has the effect of impeding our motivation and thus our predicament is exasperated.
ANXIETY KILLS MOTIVATION THUS MOTIVATION KILLS ANXIETY
Regarding the invitation of fear I spent a long-long time trying to 'want' fear, but every time it came, I was scared witless of it.
I was treating the whole concept as a test. I was trying to 'earn' the cure. Maybe during the next 'attack' I will start to like it and therefore no longer be scared of it. This was my driver, the compulsion to find the cure was the reason I got stuck deep in the loop.
There is a subtle difference between:
1. not being scared of fear and
2. not being scared of anxiety
I remember driving home from work one day. I was always scared of driving so I decided "what the hell" and I realised something (let's not call it a road to Damascus epiphany, it was more a realisation of a simple piece of obvious information - most of the cure is just that!) as I questioned myself one more time.
Why it this so scary? Why can't I stop being scared of it? In other words I was asking myself for the millionth time. What am I doing wrong? Well I must have been doing something wrong because I still had high anxiety, right? In my mind, I had an obvious answer. I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it before. Sometimes I really am thick.
The reason why it was so scary is because it was 'fear." It's SUPPOSED to be scary, that's its job. It's not called the fight/flight response for nothing.
Naturally, the conclusion is I cannot stop fear being scary so why am I even trying? Just let it be scary if it wants to be. I concluded that me wanting fear was akin to putting my hand in a campfire over and over again and wondering why I couldn't stop it hurting.
What a pointless exercise I had been undertaking for as long as I could remember. I was trying to achieve the impossible. The "make it worse" strategy is there for one simple purpose.
If you stick your hand in the anxiety fire it hurts like hell. You take your hand out and see that there is no damage. In other words, a demonstrative tool. Self evident proof.
You have a panic attack, and you are still alive and kicking afterwards. That is the only function that inviting fear performs in relation to the cure. Invitation is just proving that the fire does no damage, not that the fire does not hurt.
I mentioned that there is a subtle difference between:
1. not being scared of fear and
2. not being scared of anxiety
The strategy of inviting fear is there not to prove that fear is not scary (1). It is there to prove to yourself that fear does no harm (2). So you know that anxiety does no damage. You know that fear is scary. This is the core of why we constantly analyse our actions. Should I put my hand in the fire? Yes, a few times if you want just to prove to yourself that you emerge intact.
Should I walk away now I know this? Yeah, I learned my lesson, fear is scary and anxiety is harmless. I now know that anxiety is harmless, I can now accept that fact, I can now accept anxiety.
SUPERMAN AND DISTRACTION
What is the distraction technique? Let me explain it very simply.
Fear is kryptonite, you are Superman. Kryptonite hurts Superman. Superman has been holding the kryptonite for as long as he can remember, trying to work out how he can 'beat it'.
Why on earth would Superman keep kryptonite in his hand??!
"Hey Superman, just throw it away for fuck's sake!!"
When people talk of distraction, all they are talking about is Superman throwing his kryptonite away. Superman does this, he feels great, and he goes on to help people. Has Superman in his solution somehow cheated? Of course not, he did the sensible thing. Did kryptonite win? Who cares!
In other words when you get anxious, accept the situation, accept its normal, don't run for the hills and just do what you would have done had you not been anxious.
Superman feels great, and he knows what to do every time he comes in contact with kryptonite. He treats it with the contempt it deserves and simply throws it away.
The only difference between you and Superman is when you throw your kryptonite away it takes a few days to a few weeks for your confidence to bubble and your smile to return and you may get the odd setback along the way. But if you read the setback section then we find out why set backs are good things
On a point of interest it is completely possible to enjoy fear; adrenaline junkies like ‘Brad’ (we meet him briefly later) do it all the time. All I am saying is that it is not necessary in the slightest.
There are loads of ways to exit anxiety, do whatever method feels best for you. There is no way to fail. It is time for you to walk away and live your life.
If you do find yourself starting to ritualise then simply start the recovery process again (just reset the clock), each time you do this, happiness, relaxation and clarity come back faster and stronger.
We have discovered that we are still completely balanced in body and mind even when we experience the anxiety-based disorder in all its glory. Previously, our beliefs in our own imbalance caused us to overcompensate. This overcompensation was manifested in our attempts to control or correct the error.
So, the chronic condition is caused by our attempts to solve it.
Now you know. There is no mental or physiological error, nor has there ever been a mental or physiological error.
So we demonstrate to ourselves that there is no problem and the problem vanishes, the speed at which the problem vanishes is direct proportion to the magnitude of the 'pretence', so not only do we control the frequency and magnitude of our fight/flight and rest/digest responses we control the timeframe of our recovery.
The only factor outside of our control is the slight time-lag we experience between our positive actions and our subsequent recovery. This time-lag is simple honest-to-goodness subconscious processing (cerebral administrative red-tape). It is the time it takes for our brains to remove 'blocks' of anxiety memory.
Why is it removed? Simply because we have demonstrated that we no longer need that memory purely by our choice actions which in turn feeds back through the senses etc.
The time-lag is the reason why people get caught in 'the loop'. In my experience it is anywhere between a few hours to a few days. The time lag is the reason we can’t simply instantaneously snap-out-of-it.
The simple trick of nipping the fight/flight in the bud by accepting there is nothing wrong with us is the ticket, we accept there is nothing wrong with us by performing actions that self-demonstrate that there is nothing wrong with us.
INFLUENCING EXTERNAL STRESS TRIGGERS
Stresses: external factors that affect cause our Limbic System to initiate fight/flight.
Anxiety: internal factors that effect our Limbic System to initiate fight/flight.
There are too many negative words here so lets balance it up.
Opportunities: external factors that effect our Limbic System to initiate rest/digest
Serenity: internal factors that effect our Limbic System to initiate rest/digest
Here's a simple experiment that you can do to demonstrate that you can effect the mood of others (and therefore yourself).
You are driving in your car, and it comes to a point where either you should give-way or the other driver you meet should give way.
Normally what we do is this:
Someone else gives way and you hold your hand up in a static wave of courtesy to say thanks. You may get a raised hand or a nod in return.
The next time you give the right of way to another driver and they wave in courtesy do exactly the same with the warmest smile you can muster. What will happen is that the other driver will respond with a beaming smile because they did not expect this kind of warm fleeting and safe intimacy. It works best for the opposite sex because positive flirting gives the flirt-ee an upsurge in confidence. If she gives way then do the same, a massive and warm beaming smile back.
You can explain the interaction with as much sociology based dynamics as you can muster but in reality you have altered the setting in her Limbic System. See? You didnt have to be a psychologist/psychiatrist with intricate knowledge of Limbic feedback loops to do that. You just simply did it. For the next few seconds the other driver has an increased level of happiness and a greater initiation of the rest/digest section of the ANS. If this happened every day for a week you would certainly be complicit in reprogramming her Limbic System in a very positive way. She would be nicer to other people she encounters, reprogramming their Limbic Systems along the way and they would do the same etc.
If you do this with your friends/colleagues/ family then you are effectively reprogramming their Limbic Systems positively which ultimately results in them giving you less stress. You will reap the benefits, lots of little things make a big difference.
On the flip side, if we abuse the act of courtesy shown by the other driver, this will have a negative effect and all the negative implications that ensue. You are sill reprogramming her but this time negatively. We reprogram ourselves and others all the time. We all have this power and is up to us to decide how we use it.
It is simply your choice, just as when you wish to recover is your choice. If you want to feel so much better in a few short days, make the choice to start now. You will simply be amazed at your power and influence.
So here presents you with another choice:
The choice to heal yourself to heal your world, heal your world to heal yourself.
With all the strife around today, imagine if just a few of us started to positively reprogram the Limbic System of everyone we meet. The feel-good factor would be unstoppable.
Remember it may feel unnatural to give a warm smile because we still have anxiety memory associations, so pretend that you are happy. The person in the other car does not know the difference, just like the Limbic System.
Anxiety disorder is simply a viewpoint. All the symptoms we get are the same as someone else would get if they were vigorously exercising,. The person would not be bothered by a racing heart, breathlessness, dizziness, depersonalisation etc because it is normal to do so under those conditions.
Anxiety is the same, it is just the body doing what it does, what it is supposed to do but at some point in the past these changes spooked us and we turned our ‘deer tracks’ into ‘motorways’.
Think about your average adrenaline junkie, ‘Brad’. Brad wears the latest in extreme sports anti-fashion & the expensive sunglasses. He says things like “Yo dude” and he...
Hold on a minute. Sorry Brad, I know nothing about the amazing extreme sports community. I’m sorry for being a bigoted, asumptionalist idiot. I am deriving all my knowledge from ‘1080 Snowboarding’ on the Nintendo64 and a particularly bad Wesley Snipes' film about Parachutes.
I do however know one thing. Brad is thrilled at the effects of the adrenaline ‘buzz’. He loves the boost of energy, the feeling of power, the feeling of strength, the strong thumping heart, the brighter, sharper and more vivid colours which are processed by his visual cortex which enter via his dilated pupils. Good for Brad, what a nice chap. Brad is a wonderful example that we do not have to react negatively to the fight/flight response. Brad knows that Adrenalin is a 100% safe natural high. Nature's best pick-me-up. Brad know's that when he get's his fix and it's the only time he feels truly alive. Brad even enjoys derealisation. Brad's OK. I like Brad.
I’m not saying you’ll be out base-jumping in a few weeks. What I am saying is that if we start to view the fight/flight response in a positive way, our reactions will start to become positive, which in turn will delete the pointless time-vampire that is the anxiety-based disorder.
Adrenaline is fun. You will get better.
Think of a diamond shape. That is anxiety.
Think of a square shape. That is normal body/brain function.
They are both the same thing just viewed at a different angle of 45 degrees.
Change the meaning of the outcome and acceptance of anxiety arrives easily. When acceptance arrives, we can 'Let's Pretend' more easily. The more we do it, the more the inappropriate anxiety dissipates and eventually disappears. It stops feeling like pretence, we are cured and our new understanding ensures that the cure is permanent.
IS ANXETY A WEAKNESS?
Some anxiety sufferers believe it to be a weakness but this could not be further from the truth. It is the constant fighting against anxiety that makes you experience anxiety.
You are creative and intelligent. Any new psychological sensation is proof of our awesome creativity. Once you channel that creativity towards something else, you will be amazed at how enviably creative and imaginative you are. GAD & Panic 'sufferers' are the energised. Anxiety is proof of your awesome energy and if channelled towards something else in the same way you channel your creativity, like creativity, you will be amazed what can be achieved with so little effort.
Software engineers would refer to these anxiety symptoms as BIT testing (Built-In-Test). A self diagnostic tool running analysis algorithms to check on the health of the software. Anxiety does the same thing. Think of the Mind-Body combo as a perfect operating system. Anxiety is when we loop the BIT testing. This temporarily slows down the performance of the operating system (OS) itself. Once the BIT test is complete the OS functions exactly as it did previously. The BIT test never breaks or damages the OS, it just tests it. Having anxiety is similar. It is a process of self testing.
Just remember your OS and complementary BIT diagnosis tool were not hastily put together by a few engineers who submitted the lowest bid. It was put together by 350 million years of evolutionary perfection. Anxiety is an amazing diagnostics tool.
Home PC users can look at it as virus checking software. It temporarily slows down your PC but all in all it is beneficial.
If you ever read anything which made you feel better, it wasn't the reading material tat calmed your anxiety down, it was you. Every time something happened which relieved your fears just remember it was you, every time. You can do it, you have done it, you may be doing it right now, and you will do it again and again and again. Anxiety does not own you. It never has and it never will.
It is nothing without you.
ADRENALINE IS THE FIGHT/FLIGHT HORMONE
Adrenaline is just a natural energising chemical. It can make you feel frightened or it can make you feel powerful or a mixture of both. I believe that if you take small steps in changing the perspective from fear to power from victim to victor you can really make adrenaline work with you and for you. You can also remove it by pretending.
TROUBLE ACCEPTING ANXIETY WHILST PRETENDING?
That intense feelings you get in the pit of your stomach, starting with butterflies, escalating into higher nervousness, starts the fear cycle.
Well, look at it as energy, not nervousness. Fear is the energy that enables us to turn goals into reality.
If you were a potter,anxiety is the clay.
Having experienced anxiety and panic you are courageous, brave, gutsy, valiant, gallant, heroic, bold powerful, daring, audacious, daring, intrepid, fearless ad probably much more besides.
I am not overstating this! Each anxiety symptom only prolongs its own existence because you are scared of it. Each time you stand in the midst of your fears you become stronger, braver and more empowered. You own your fear; it never owns you. It is not the avalanche that chokes you; it is the mountains of your making that you stand surefooted at the summit.
THE CHEMICAL IMBALANCE
Here we enter the contentious issue of the chemical imbalance. The medical profession believes anxiety is caused by a chemical imbalance, others believe it is not caused by a chemical imbalance at all. As anxiety disorder is a loop. I don't think it matters either way.
Maybe the catalyst was stress at work; a new baby; moving house; maybe it is unidentified. The initial catalyst(s) for my anxiety were irrelevant to me. It's not what happens,it is all about the way we respond.
As explained, when we enter the fight/flight response we undergo some amazing changes to keep us from harm, filtering out all the fun bits because the fun bits are not necessary for survival. The body is exceptionally well designed, efficient and adaptable. As far as our survival/anxiety circuits are concerned it is unnecessary to be happy during the fight/flight response. Our body is not working against us, it is working for us.
The chemical imbalance referred to is the imbalance that causes the re-absorption and subsequent non-use of Serotonin. The chemical messenger Serotonin (the happy chemical) is still produced within the brain, but as it is transferred across the gap from one brain cell to another, it is ‘sucked’ backwards, broken down and its energy reused. Not only is it not necessary to keep us safe, its presence could be detrimental to the speed of the fight/flight response.
To explain this in a pre-historical setting, when we chance upon a face to face meeting with a wonderfully designed predator (sabre toothed tiger) intent on turning our very existence into lunch, it will do us no good whatsoever if we stand there smiling happily within its presence. It will serve us best if our body makes us feel so awful that within milliseconds we are running away to save ourself or if cornered, playing dead, or clobbering it over the head with whatever is handy.
During the anxiety/panic disorder we are constantly within this state of self-protection, thus happiness and all other positive emotions elude us, the protection system concludes that there is no point in being happy or positive during the fight/flight response.
NON MEDICINAL BALANCE
“But I know there’s no predator, I know I’m not under attack, I know it’s irrational. If only my Limbic System was cleverer, I would not be in this state in the first place!!!”
Hang on a minute. Let us turn that to our advantage. The Limbic System’s stupidity is a great advantage because we can fool it with ‘The Doing Nothing Technique’. It does not know the difference between a real or pretend threat so it would not know the difference between a real and a pretend response.
Chemical imbalances are quickly readdressed by certain medications such as SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor) medication and will give us a step up to successfully implement all the techniques and philosophies within this letter. The only minor problem with medication is that you may feel that it is solely responsible for your recovery (in reality it only speeds up the process initially). Ultimately, it is you that makes your anxiety and you who will remove it and recover.
If you take medicine, you may even feel that you are somehow cheating. Medicine is technology. Technology is not cheating. Are you cheating if you take a headache tablet? Of course not! Are you cheating if you go to the hospital to get a cast put on that broken arm? Of course not! Are you cheating if you drive a car from Cardiff to Crewkerne instead of walking? Of course not!
Medication is a great shortcut. it can give you the breathing space to attain clarity. Some people recover without anxiety medication; some people take it. Whatever your choice there is nothing to fear.
The fear of medication is only the grossly misunderstood and stigma ridden opinions of conditions that fall under the umbrella of mental health. If you suffer anxiety/panic disorder you are officially covered under ‘mental health’. The reality is that you are not mentally ill but they have to categorise you somewhere so mental health seems ‘a good fit.'
In my humble opinion, the argument over whether anxiety disorders are ‘caused by’ or the ‘effect'’ the chemical imbalance debate is pointless. In a panic/anxiety loop the cause is the effect and the effect the cause. The loop starts off very small and gradually grows and grows. It creeps up gradually and becomes overwhelming.
Remove avoidance and the Limbic system will inevitably trigger the Parasympathetic Nervous System to initiate relaxation. The Serotonin will no longer be reabsorbed and broken down. Happy optimistic thoughts will then stick around for longer and a positive feedback loop of recovery will be formed and consolidated. Pretences may not trigger relaxation immediately, but their purpose is to set the stage for the next successful ‘pretence’.
What is a memento? A memento is an item you keep close to your person in order to remind you of someone or something (you probably knew that already).
What is an anxiety memento? It's an item you keep close to your person in order to remind you of your anxiety.
Why on earth would I keep anything close to me that reminds me of my anxiety-based disorder? You keep it close because you honestly believe that it helps you cope better with your anxiety-based disorder. OK then, if the memento is not helping me, what is it actually doing? It is reminding you of your anxiety. It's a memento, that's its job.
This grandmother can suck eggs already. Did you write this section in a hurry? OK, OK. Dickens eh! Jammy sod. Please bear with me, there is more
I once heard that lavender was a very good herbal relaxant. During my early anxiety years I would carry round a sprig or two. Maybe it had a positive effect, maybe it didn't. It was my little ritual. I would leave my house for work and traverse the lavender sided path from my front door to the front gate, it wasn't far as it sounds, I just wanted to use the word 'traverse' because it makes me sound more 'daring-do'. Every morning, when the lavender was in flower, I would break off a few heads, deposit the bounty into my shirt top pocket and off to work i went. It stands to reason that if I had to catch a train, changing at Bristol Parkway Station, I keep a few more sprigs in the rucksack. The bigger the outing, the more I felt I'd have to cope, the larger or more numerous the coping strategy. Sound logical? What happened on the days when I was too rushed to ritualise and left the house lavenderless? You guessed it, I was more anxious. I had taught myself that if I failed to complete my ritual my anxiety would be enhanced. The memento was the sprig, the ritual was me picking the sprig every morning.
Anxiety mementos can take many forms. Let’s look at a few types that you may be using:
The Anxiety Document.
It is likely that you have been carrying an anxiety document quite a lot recently. It may be a print-off from an internet anxiety based website, it may be a self-help pocketbook. It may simply take the form of a series of self help books on your bookshelf. Always there, always close at hand, always within the visual field.
If you remember I told you that this letter is not a keep-in-your-pocket quick reference guide, it is a keep in your mind philosophy that weighs nothing (Thanks Ray!). It's OK to keep it with you for a while but if you're anything like me, you will have read it so many times you can recite it verbatim in a matter of a week.
Entries in your Internet Explorer (other web browsers are available) 'Favorites' folder are also mementos. They are the classic memento of the modern age. You keep the shortcuts to anxiety help sites simply because you feel the need to keep the help close at hand. Every time you open your web browser you see the shortcuts. Your memories of your anxiety-based disorder are reinforced.
The internet is THE greatest distraction ever conceived by mankind. So what do we do? We spend all the time looking only at the websites which keep the anxious input flowing round the visual cortex.
Yep, that’s us, straight on to the anxiety/depression/obsession chat rooms. More reinforcement, more anxiety.
What other mementos are there? Ah yes. Heath Service/Local Surgery phone numbers in your mobile phone phone book are another modern day classic.
More reinforcement. More reminders. More anxiety themed sensory input.
The Limbic system is privy to the data processed by the visual cortex. Wallop, the SNS is kicked into operation. Everywhere we turn, we (by our own choice) have decided to feed back anxiety themed signals back to the Limbic System.
Here's an example of an abstract memento which exhibits a personal meaning. Keeping a pair of sunglasses handy just in case we get the derealisation/vertigo anxiety-based visual disturbances. To someone else, they are just a pair of cool-looking shades (do people still use that term?). To us they have become a defence against fear itself. Many vertigo/derealisation sufferers carry a pair. It stands to reason why, when we get anxious, our pupils dilate to let in more information. This enables us to scan for danger more efficiently. We try to cut down the amount of information by cutting out some of the light. What does our Sympathetic Nervous System do in response? It dilates the pupils further to let in more light. Sunglasses in this context are a coping mechanism. We teach ourselves that if we forget them, we cannot cope. To carry an anxiety memento is to carry the expectation that we will again be fearful of anxiety. So, should we take the sunglasses with us or not? Yes we should but only if it's sunny.
Of course you knew all this already. We all know what happens when we make the mistake of leaving our child's security blanket at Auntie Jenny's house. The child is going to take a good while longer to get to sleep that evening because they have learned that sleep is difficult without the abstract concept that is a piece of cloth. The child is going to kick up a big fuss. Let's take this example further. We won't see Auntie Jenny for another week. Will the child be sleepless all week? Not at all, they will learn quickly that the cloth is not necessary and won't be kicking up a fuss for long.
The child is your anxiety.
Of course, children are far more neuroplastic (the ability to rewire cerebral associations) than adults. The next night will see the child sleeping soundly as if he/she never had security blanket. But adults are far more neuroplastic than we give then credit for. Something that might take a child a day will take an adult about a week.
Mementos cause anxiety input to be piled on top of more anxiety input. The Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) has been getting overused by nothing more than the sum of our own choices.
So what’s the answer? Yes, you're there before me. Spring clean your life and you'll spring clean your sensory input. With no visual reminders of anxiety avoidance being processed by the visual cortex, the anxiety memory links will dissipate. The Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) will then initiate relaxation, clarity and happiness.
This section links into the Alcatraz discussion. I considered including it there but decided against for reasons I cannot remember.
Your Prison Issue Clothing: What we wear defines who we are. Since our arrival we have been wearing the uniform of the condemned, the uniform of an Alcatraz prisoner.
Initially we may have been told by ourselves or by someone else to wear it. Since that time we have been wearing it without question or quandary.
We each dress ourselves in relation to the culture and society we reside within. We have been existing within the anxiety culture for far too long and thus our clothing is worn accordingly.
Our Alcatraz clothing is the definition we apply to ourselves,
"I am an anxious person"
"I am an obsessive"
"I am trapped"
"I am ill"
So the conclusion being drawn is that there is something wrong with me.
As we now know, with that conclusion made we are then set on a journey to cure the 'disorder', to solve the 'problem', to 're-address the balance' to discover 'the secret', to find 'the answer'.
As our Alcatraz uniform is our self-determined anxiety-identity it is therefore our self-imposed mal-perception of limitation. We are ultimately responsible for choosing by action to limit our choices, and by this choice action we choose to demonstrate to ourselves that the inappropriate use of the fight-flight response is the correct course of action, with all the connotations that ensue.
This clothing may have been supplied by an external source, the well meaning and often genuinely helpful professionals:
You are prone to Panic-Attacks. You have Generalised Anxiety Disorder. You have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. You have an anxious personality.
Initially these professional assessments seem correct but are only collections of words, abstract entities with an accepted personal and social meaning. The crucial matter is that this assessment is a result of our own choice actions, is temporary, if we choose it to be so.
If we then act and react normally, we naturally remove the fight flight focus and the professional assessment would change to you are not prone to Panic-Attacks, you do not have Generalised Anxiety Disorder, you do not have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, you do not have an anxious personality".
Regarding personality, there often seems to be a perception that the condition is a facet of personality which in turn is a product of genetic factors and environmental conditions. Yes, we can change environment, we can change understanding, but the understanding that genetic propensity for anxiety is pre-destined, ingrained and thus inevitable is just plain wrong in my opinion. My understanding is that we do not have a genetic propensity for the creation of anxiety in any form. We have a genetic propensity for logical intelligence, wonderful creativity and pattern based reasoning. That is our personality. We are deep thinkers. If that is a crime worthy of incarceration, then lock up all the greatest minds who ever lived.
As we did not understand anxiety prior to our manufacture of it, we logically made wrong assumptions, we made creative leaps of faith based on limited information. In short we mistook correlation for causation.
It is the choice to focus on the fight/flight response by the unquestioned acceptance of the anxiety clothing that creates the superficial impression of this propensity, nothing more.
Since arriving in Alcatraz we have drastically changed our identity. We have chosen to accept the label of 'ill' and even applied a more detailed description of ill to ourselves.
For Exampl, one quick conversation with a sufferer will see something akin to the following response:
"I'm ill, I have an anxious phobia of vomiting, needles, clouds and Tom Cruise narratives,. I also have OCD, Depersonalisation and seemingly endless mind-chatter"
Another very real and simple example of this self description can be found on anxiety, compulsion and depression chat rooms all over cyberspace. Whilst registering for these sites we have a free choice of a new name, a user-name, an identity, it is up to us to choose anything in the world. So what do we choose?
We choose 'anxious-dad', 'panic-prone', 'shitting-bricks', 'fucked' and the like. Ok, 'shitting bricks' & ‘fucked’ would probably not make it past the moderators, but I'm no fan of any cultural element that has to ensure that any so called 'free' conversation is kept 'moderate'.
I dislike limitations, you get the idea. We put on these identity 'garments' and wear them again and again. We choose to label ourselves with a description indicative of limitation, thus, we limit our perception of our choices and abilities. Another example of this can be found in conversations of social invitation.
"Hey Chris, do you want to come to the cinema, there‘s a Tom Cruise film on?"
"No Sorry, I can't, I'm an anxiety disorder sufferer and thus I avoid places that could escalate my condition. Also I think Tom Cruise is rubbish."
Translate this into reality and I am saying:
"I choose not to come out and utilise my PNS which would naturally remove my ailments because I am currently pre-occupied with focusing on my SNS in an attempt to solve my obsession with the SNS. Oh and I think Tom Cruise is rubbish."
Here I have freely chosen to define myself, and in doing so wear the garment of its limitation.
These concepts are ingrained with the emotional connections we form both individually and socially with the abstract concept of words.
So in order to prepare ourselves for life outside the anxiety culture we have to redefine ourselves by understanding the condition and implementing that understanding. In short, we change our clothes.
Screw you Alcatraz and your fashion limitations. I'm walking out the front door in my best shirt, newest underpants, shiny shoes and the most wonderful pair of trousers you have ever seen.
I’m going to damn-well go to the cinema, I am going to damn well find a great seat, and I’m going to damn well...
Oh, hang on, I remember now. Tom Cruise is rubbish.
What about the Halfway Inn instead?
Three pints of SA, and a packet of dry-roasted and a spicy-meat snack. Marvellous.
Sorry Tom you're not that bad, the wife and I loved Minority Report.
THE RECOVERY PHASE
This is what you will start to enter as soon as you finish reading this letter. It is a rather important part of anxiety we need to understand in order to quicken the recovery process. We 'cure' ourselves from anxiety, we DON'T directly try to stop thinking about anxiety (that's impossible), we just stop doing any anxiety avoidance 'stuff'. If we follow this path, the anxiety symptoms and thoughts drop away (like the slow operation of a dimmer switch over the period of a few days). During this time the brain rewires itself back to a happy calm and confident 'you'.
I have heard many terms to describe the process of a temporary return of anxiety during the recovery phase. Some terms are beneficial some are detrimental.
One man's relapse is another man's setback.
One man's setback is another man's blip.
One man's blip is another man's opportunity.
I will choose to use the term setback in this description and illustrate how the term is inaccurate.
Here is a fact. Setbacks are very good for the recovery process.
What causes a setback: Well you have been implementing the advice and experienced some initial relief. This was not false relief but actual relief. During your time of implementing the relief advice, you have already deleted many anxiety ‘links’ and replaced them with calm ‘links’ within the brain. Your protection mechanisms are determined to ensure that you are kept safe and have reacted by squirting some more adrenaline into your system temporarily. Setbacks are the result of the temporary anxiety-pathways that you have created within your brain circuitry. Setbacks are another opportunity to remove a great number of these unnecessary pathway and the time to keep proving to yourself that you do not need this overbearing protection. Just keep at it, regardless of your negative thoughts keep acting like “all is well” because it is. If you act like all is well, then all will become well and all negative thoughts and sensations will be lessened and then removed.
So what is a setback if it is not a setback? In reality it is a 'Recovery Accelerator'.
What we are achieving here is the following.
Firstly we know that if we truly want anxiety, we don't get anxiety. So when we choose to enter the recovery phase, our new understanding presents with two scenarios.
1. Anxiety never returns. Excellent result!
2. We want a setback because we know it is an great opportunity to purge huge blocks of anxiety memory 'linkages." Excellent result!
If we 'pretend' that all is well during a setback, we find that the amount of anxiety 'deleted' is in direct proportion to the magnitude of the setback. The bigger the setback, the more cerebral memory links they use so when you ‘pretend’ all is well during that setback the more anxiety links are being deleted and overwritten with confident calm happy ones. So the bigger the setback the quicker your recovery!
It never feels like it is working at the time that's why so many people get stuck in the cycle - we all want the gratification of instantaneous relief. There is always a time lag whilst the subconscious processes your new calm reactions and feeds them back to the Limbic System's Amygdale which will calculate the new lower anxiety setting.
So the advice to cure anxiety is the same. You have to ignore anxiety and the bigger the setback, the quicker the relief. You never have to bother thinking positive or trying to fight negative thoughts, all you have to do is "do positive", the negativity will disappear as a result of the Limbic feedback loop. When that happens you'll be laughing!!
FURTHER EXPANSIONS ON RECOVERY
If you have managed to read this letter this far, you’ll know that my writing style is mildly eclectic so naturally I’ll start off with expansions about being “In Recovery” and probably end up wittering on about Scooby Doo.
A large and much underrated part of recovery is how we identify ourselves in relation to the 'disorder'. Statements such as "I am in recovery", have a very powerful effect.
Naturally if we balance this with the negative: "I have a disorder" our resultant responsive actions of this self-labelling statement will conversely be negative and our fight/flight ‘disorder’ cemented for the duration of this limiting diagnosis.
How do these statements work? If we make the statement "I am in recovery", we naturally plan our next course of action in relation to that statement. In other words, a new recovery path is illuminated, we become open to new challenges, we expand our list of capabilities, and our Autonomic Nervous System selects the rest-digest response as the default (due to it’s calculation that the fight/flight response is now no longer necessary), and the anxiety ‘disorder’ is slowly switched off.
Many previous examples of "Can't do" turn into affirmations of "Can do".
The "Can Do" quickly evolves into a determined "Will Do" and the progress of time ensures any "Will Do" is converted into a "Have Done".
The behavioural feeding of anxiety is removed and the anxiety shrinks.
Logically, the more we do this, the more anxiety shrinks.
With each implementation of this process, our circle of calm capability expands, our fears of "what-if" are debunked, the “What–If”s convert to “So-What”s and "Whatever"s, our confidence is even stronger consolidated and our inappropriate anxiety further eliminated.
This process taps into the limbic feedback loop of sensory demonstration as described elsewhere in this correspondence.
The feedback loop then works to our advantage by nothing more than the sum of our own choice responses to the fight-flight feelings.
We use that loop positively and inherit the inevitable positive results, if we use it 'negatively' and we are likewise 'negatively' effected, it is all choice.
The manufacture of the cure is the realisation that:
The choice to recover is available. (We are not the victim.)
The choice to recover is ours. (it always has been.)
We have been making that choice all along but tailoring our response actions in relation to inappropriate fear, and thus consolidating the necessity for safety-borne sensations (the symptoms of anxiety).
If we alter our actions to those of positive intent then the ‘what-if’ debunking is proven in real time and first hand. Our anxiety is removed in due course using the same feedback loop that caused the anxiety in the first place.
We are both the cause and the effect of ourselves, and we are magnificent.
Those with the least fear tend to maximise endeavour.
Those with the most fear tend to minimise endeavour.
... as we are dealing with a loop the following are also true ...
Those that maximize endeavour tend to have the least fear.
Those that minimise endeavour tend to have the most fear.
The realisation of this cause and effect initiates the understanding of the ‘disorder’
The realisation of available choice is the spark that initiates the removal of the ‘disorder’
The choice to travel this path is gained from the understanding that the anxiety sensation is not a negative and attacking entity, I hope that this letter describes this in enough detail.
The path is the positive action despite the negative feeling safe in the knowledge that anxiety is benign.
The unmasking of anxiety disorder within this letter provides the you with the knowledge that anxiety is similar to any villain within any episode of Scooby Doo.
When Shaggy and Scooby are being chased by the villain, they are brimming with fear, they, run, they hide, and in doing so they reinforce their fear.
We, as viewers know from episode inception that the ghost, ghoul or monster is a ruse, he's a silly chap in a mask; we know that Shaggy and Scooby are in no actual danger.
The only reason they are scared is because they believe there is a danger.
If they stopped running for just one second and held their ground, the spectre would soon lose its power.
If we understand that anxiety is not dangerous and act upon that understanding by going out and living our lives then the villain is unmasked and the end credits are rolled on an episode of our lives that we can now confidently define as well and truly in the past ... we are now “In Recovery”.
It is impossible for Shaggy and Scooby to fear Old Man Wiggles after his unmasking.
As we know the disorder is perpetuated by our fear of the disorder, thus once we see Old Man Wiggles grumbling about “those meddlin' kids” we are freed from the fear and the circle is broken.
This is my opinion of what the cure actually is.
I spent years with an anxiety disorder until I realised I was in choosing via action to live in a non-concluded episode of Scooby Doo, I acted upon that realisation and with that action the villain was unmasked. This is not complicated stuff if so we choose to make our conclusion survive the Occam's Razor of common sense ... there is no mystery incorporated within these ‘disorders’.
Being “In Recovery” can be a difficult choice to make, or it can be an easy choice to make, but it is a choice nonetheless, and a choice you can make right now, and by "right now" I mean right now.... right this second.
Just start by saying it:
“I am in recovery”.
Now go and actually do something which demonstrates “I am in recovery”
Well done, you are now in recovery.
You are on the right track.
Now keep going.
the wonderful wizard of oz
What lies at the end of a Panic/Anxiety Attack? … The sensations build; the fear escalates; the mental and physical manifestations start to reach their crescendo, we are desperate to avoid the point of no-return. What would happen if we saw the whole thing through from beginning to end? The answer is absolutely nothing; llareggub; zilch; nada; a big fat zero.
It is impossible for the fear to keep escalating without the body putting on the brakes. The first time we experience Panic/Anxiety we are Dorothy and her new-found 'Ozzian' friends shaking in fear at their first meeting with the Great and Powerful Oz.
When we return, we find 'Oz' is actually the little old man strangely peeping from behind a curtain whilst he quickly winds his hand up and down on his strange 'contraption'.
'Oz' eventually offers to give us the ride home to Kansas, we don’t even need his help; all the time we had the power to help ourselves. All we ever needed to do was to tap our heels together three times and decide (by action) to go home ourselves.
There's no place like home.
Diet has a bearing on your anxiety levels because diet has a bearing on everything. I’m not a dietician so I will make no attempt to lecture to you. The correct diet for wellness is obvious, plenty of fresh fruit & vegetables, good fish, good meat, plenty of fluids and a reduction in stimulants. If you are a vegetarian then get a good vegetarian diet. I’m not going to tell you what to eat or what to avoid as I would be guilty of hypocrisy. I’m the sort of person who stares at a frozen pizza wondering ‘how do I turn this into food?’ The only reason I have a good diet is that my wife is a good cook. However, I love strong coffee and even back in the days of high anxiety/panic I would still load my cup with two mountainous spoons of cheap instant trash and topped off with a hand-rolled cigarette, this is probably not good advice but I’m here to be honest. I am what I am and I do what I do. Camomile ‘tea’ is great for initiating relaxation. Regarding ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods, as far as I’m concerned there is no better indicator than the exit test. If it looks ‘good’ on the way out you are on to a winner.
There are plenty of good websites out there to get/keep fit if that’s your thing. Exercise is obviously great for anxiety/stress reduction I’m no expert as I am very lazy. I do however own a pair of trainers.
I am no expert on clinical depression, but anxiety comes associated with its own version, anxiety-depression. They may well be the same thing.
I believe anxiety depression is another manifestation of the fight/flight response, remove it in exactly the same way as anxiety.
Really? They are the same thing?
Yes, in my opinion they are both the fight/flight response.
My fantastic doctor once told me that Depression and Anxiety are:
"Two sides of the same coin"
It took me a while and a day to realise what he meant.
Doctors are the Mechanics and Systems Analysts of the human body, they themselves are obsessives, but obsessives with a positive agenda. To amass a colossal knowledge about the human body, and with that ever expanding knowledge, help those in need.
Due to the sheer demand for their benevolence and unfathomable expertise they are only able to give you and me limited timeslots in which to work their magic.
The best doctors are able to summarise the massive complexities of which they know and understand into bite size phrases for you and me to chew over, if that is our inclination.
"two sides of the same coin"
The complete relationship between all anxiety disorders and the leviathan of depression.
Our Alcatraz man-who-can-get-things really is the lighthouse of all humanities interlectuals.
What does he mean?
The "two sides of the same coin" statement refers to the chemical interplay within the brain, in particular the over-reabsorbtion of seratonin across the synapses that occurs with both anxiety and depression.
The fight/flight response is another facet of this whole topic that is insufficiently named. To give it its better term it is the Protection Response.
Modern day: The production of adrenaline can cause many more reactions than simple fight or flight. We are not binary, we are complicated, we all have our own personalities we all have our own perception of ourselves in relation to the world. When experiencing high adrenaline, some people fight, some people flee, some people misdirect, some people play dead, some people freeze and some people just love the buzz.
As we can see ... fighting and fleeing are not the only reactions.
Let's go back to the origins: It is also true in this scenario ... the production of adrenaline can cause many more reactions than simple fight or flight. Back to the caveman scenario as described earlier.
Today, Mr 'Ugg' has had speared a rabbit and he's slowing roasting it over his fire. He is on his own. A huge grizzly bear pads into the encampment with the intention of discovering the source of the compelling smell. Mr Ugg visually identifies the threat and his Limbic system starts to calculate. Based on all parameters available the following conclusion is reached:
The bear is bigger and stronger so I cannot fight and survive.
The bear is faster, so I cannot flee and survive.
"Hey fight/flight! Can you offer me any more suggestions? Is just two choices the best you have!?"
What other options does Mr. Ugg's Limbic system offer him?
Yes that's right, play dead, keep motionless, stay quiet.
That is the origin and the essence of depression, simple, concise, easy to understand, nothing to fear.
He is attempting to
a) create a possibility that the bear cannot see him,
b) create a possibility that the bear cannot hear him
c) if discovered, maximise his chances of survival by effectively demonstrating to the bear that he is not a threat, he is saying to the predator in this chance meeting scenario, "In relation to you ... I am not important". Mr Ugg's physiology is also using this opportunity to conserve energy.
In short Mr Ugg is trying to create an non-threatening impression of non-existance in relation to the threat. He is communicating the following message to the bear, "I am not here".
Depression is another characterisation of the fight flight response. The solution as always, to demonstrate that the 'bear' does not exist by going out and living your life. The Limbic recalculates that there is no bear, initiates the rest/digest response and the seratonin is no longer reabsorbed, we experience happiness.
Why do you think, many of us who experience anxiety/depression are also prone to early-rising?
We awaken early because we are inadvertently choosing to constantly use the SNS, yes, the fight-flight. We wake early to look for danger that does not exist, purely because we have told ourselves through reinforced action after reinforced action that we need to keep the SNS switched on.
SSRI anti-depressants (licenced for both depression and anxiety) simply operate by blocking the holes in the synapse in which the seratonin is reabsorbed. In other words they force the happy natural chemicals to be used even when we are initiating the fight/flight response. In return we realise that although we still experience anxiety/depression we can (at the same time) experience a retun or relaxation and happiness. We worry less about the condition because we know the medication is having a positive effect and start to act more normally. This acting normally is the cure. The SSRI medication was the catalyst (the helping hand).
So if you choose medication, that's fine, no problems.
If not then likewise.
If only the answer to all life’s questions could be found at the bottom of an empty bottle. If only!!! Unfortunately this is not the case. Alcohol is a depressant, but that's no worries any more, we know what depression is now. But alas, moderation or abstinence is still the ticket. If you drink to have a good time, or simply to enjoy the experience there is nothing wrong with it. If you can’t relax without a drink, then it’s time to knock in on the head for a few months. Obvious isn't it.
the best fear to conquer
As we are always told to face our fears then logically the best of all fears to conquer is the fear of relaxation.
did you know that statistically anxiety can ...?
You may have heard some statistics regarding anxiety, anxiety medication, relief methods which sometimes seen to spin a non-beneficial web within which the confidence in our own recovery is ensnared.
You can link anything to anything else if you try hard enough.
For example: did you know this fact:
When the sun's magnetic field causes a greater intensity of magnetic flux 'tubes' in the Sun's convective zone, then statistically a chap called Alan is more likely to catch a ball six rows behind the boundary line whilst watching Glamorgan play Surrey at Sofia Gardens Cricket Ground, Cardiff.
... a genuine honest to goodness fact.
Let's break it down:
The greater change of magnetic flux 'tubes' in the Sun's convective zone causes a greater number of sunspots, a greater number of sunspots causes a greater chance of solar maximum energy release, the greater energy release causes a greater change of energy transduction by excitation of the earths atmosphere which in turn cases a greater likelihood of higher air pressure and warmer weather, a greater air pressure causes less rain due to the lack of converging weather fronts, less rain and warmer weather causes a 'faster wicket', a 'faster wicket' causes a greater number on runs scored as the cricket ball’s travel on the surface is faster due to less water 'friction' (due to the adhesion-cohesion principle of non-polar liquids (if memory serves from Mr O'Regans Chemistry class) having minimal impact therefore favouring the batsman, thus decreasing the likelihood of a fielder stopping the ball, a greater number of runs causes the batsman to become more confident (limbic feedback loop), a more confident batsman causes the greater likelihood of him swinging for a six when the right ball presents the opportunity rather than 'playing safe', the greater the attempt at sixes, causes a greater chance of achieving a 'six', the greater number of sixes causes a greater chance of a spectator catching the ball, as the chances are increased everywhere then the spectator position and name is arbitory thus the position and name is a statistical red herring. Or something like that. I probably got some of the science wrong but shucks, the sentiment still stands.
My usual response to fouth-cousin-three-times-removed correlation linkages is to ask quizzically and with my greatest 'cynically-sincere' tones: "yes that's very interesting, and in a similar vein did you also know that if you push your belly-button too hard, you arse falls off?" whilst raising the left eyebrow and tilting my head with wide open eyes in an attempt to communicate:
1) a piss-take,
2) genuine sympathy, and
3) an openness of wonder that could only be instigated by my incredulity at such genuinely delivered heart-felt bollocks.
By the way, good catch Alan, thank you for being part of the experiment.
But I'll have to admit, the actual likelihood of sunshine in Glamorgan is still rather low.
So in reality had this actually occurred Alan would have probably had an anxiety episode. An episode in response to seeing the unidentified big-warm-yellow-glowing-thing hovering in the sky. In the oddly-coloured and never seen before blue-Cardiff-sky for the first time whilst his Spanish wife Inocencia has to firstly calm him down and secondly explain to him that the dark and mysterious Alan-shaped phenomenon attached to his shoes is actually his hitherto unseen shadow.
It's grey most of the year in Cardiff, It's not a bad grey, it's a harmonious grey, a poetic grey, a January grey, a rugby grey. So much so that the neighbouring and often grey wonderful county of Somerset has for a millenia and more been called (in Welsh) Gwlad yr Haf. A sincere comparative statement which literally translates as the 'Land of Summer'.
That's where I live now. The Land of Summer!
Yes it rains a lot here too, but in comparison to back-home ... it's fucking Jamaica.
Having said that, Cardiff has the heart of my youth and will always have the the home of my greatest geographical fondness, Somerset (to me) comes a very very close second.
Shite, I'm rambling again ... Where was I? oh yes, I started on anxiety statistics ended up chatting about the weather. Well I suppose that demonstrates perfectly how much respectful credence anxiety statistics earns within my brain cell. Yep, that's it. The square root of 'jack shit'.
We each have a fear of the unknown. Nothing more than a simple Limbic instigated what-if to keep us safe, a hanging what-if that we are yet disarm by referencing against known facts.
We are simply yet to embrace the fact the the anxiety world (however intense it can sometimes feel) is nothing more than a ruse.
Just as Alan sees the sun for the first time, he feels the anxiousness of apprehension.
If we added the known fact (the fact only attained from self-observable analysis) the fact that's its completely normal, then the anxiousness of apprehension becomes the excitement of opportunity.
In Alan's case the excitement that he could get a genuine (and utterly non-Gavin-Henson-esque) Welsh tan straight from the the sun god Bladud himself, and in the the case of the now enlightened ex-anxiety person, the excitement that they could do (and do well in) anything they wanted or dreamed.
to sum it all up
Anxiety will never leave you, you have to leave it. You must take the first step.
i once said to my wife
"I've tried everything and nothing works"
Ultimately I was right, ironically "nothing" was the only thing I hadn't tried.
There is no cure because there is no illness, there never has been there never will be.
All curative methods, be they CBT, NLP, Hypnosis, Fitness, Meditation, Medication, Yoga, Distraction, Acceptance, Desire or Sheer Bloody Mindedness are only the catalyst that enable "doing nothing about it" (the real 'cure') mechanism to work it's magic in the background.
Anxiety was nothing more than a conjurer’s trick.
Yes it may the finest of all conjurer’s tricks but a trick nonetheless.
You were the magician.
The cause was nothing more than slight-of-hand misdirection and deception hiding in plain sight.
It is traditional for an author to ask for some money, my resources are rather limited to say the least, however money is not my driving force, I have just given away my entire knowledge of a very 'marketable condition'.
There is a fundamental difference between 'want' and 'need', my wise father taught me that.
Time for a bit of balance once again:
OK, I have given away free information, but I'm not any heroic benevolent type, I actually enjoyed the process, free-writing has now become a bit of a hobby of mine. You may have noticed by the long winded delivery of this letter!
By "free writing", I define "free" as two-fold,
1) Free as in no cost, and
2) Free as in I am under no editorial control.
Both of these result in me getting a genuine good feeling, so we are all getting something from this exercise.
It feels good, thus proving that pure altruism is the absolute, the unreachable ideal.
So we have a no cost journey, a free lunch, we all benefit, can we now expand the benefit even further by me asking you a simple favour. You may accept or decline, it is your choice.
If you found this letter to be of help, and, only if you have some spare cash providing unnecessary gravitas to your bank account then I ask you to make a donation to one of the following three charities who are genuinely in need, however if your means are limited then you are completely free to have no guilt whatsoever if you cannot donate, that's OK with me:
"LATCH is a voluntary organisation set up to support the special requirements of the children's oncology centre in Wales which is based at the Children's Hospital for Wales to help affected families and promote research in childhood cancer."
"An international charity that provides cleft palate surgery to those in need"
"The 737 Challenge is proudly raising funds for Marie Curie Cancer Care."
I have always believed that we have a personal responsibility to help all those within our sphere of influence for the betterment of humanity and to use our creativity to continually expand the boundary of that influence. So here I am starting out with nothing more than words on a single page.
It is my hope that you will use the understanding that you now possess to assist you in completely removing your ailments and spread the word to those who suffer needlessly with these conditions. If you are like me and have limited means then there are other ways in which you can help. You can give blood, you can become a blood platelet donor you can become a bone marrow donor ... these actions do indeed save lives.
There are both adults and children who desperately wait in hospital wards worldwide for the lottery of chance to smile upon them. You can increase their chance you can be that change, it all starts with choice and action. Again, these actions may be very difficult for somebody with a recent experience of anxiety so yet again you are free to have no guilt whatsoever if you feel you cannot donate. There are no compulsions whatsoever in the entirety of this guide.
Our anxiety based disorders can led us on a path to cure ourselves permanently and also to know how help cure those around us, simply by how we interact with ourselves and others. Simply put … we cause and affect our anxiety.
Your anxiety-based disorder has led you to read this letter, and if it works for you I am hoping that (in an ideal world) you will consider helping these charitable foundations make this the world a slightly better place for those who have so little resources (the real heroes).
You get better, and by doing so you have the notion of helping someone else in the forefront of your minds.
Now that is the type of cause and effect that really matters.
So what's the other message? Simply that although pure altruism may be unobtainable, it doesn't mean that we shouldn’t sometimes try.
What type of literature is this?
Quite frankly it is up to you to make up your own mind. I'm not a salesman, and I'm not selling anything.
I’m certainly not going to tell you what to think or how to act.
There is far too much of that in the world already.
It never ceases to amaze me in my general encounters with other people the amount of time we spend attempting to force our dogma, philosophies, beliefs and thus limitations on others, and in doing so restrict the bandwidth within which all our social cognitive freedoms exist.
I am constantly reminding you the reader of your choices within this letter. Reminding you that there is no compulsion to do what I say at all. The exercise of choice via the realisation of our own freedom-birthright is a magnificent game changer, a cartoon light-bulb-moment.
I try to make an effort not to define myself within any singular description. For these descriptions eventually become the limitations in which we force ourselves through practice to reside.
So what type of literature is this? As the author it is not my place, need or want to conclude a resolution to that limiting question apart from to say that ...
... It is what it is.
So for example next time anyone asks you to invite you ideal dinner party guests remember you can be as free with your choices as you wish
It is your free choice and right to think as you see fit regardless of the social fears of yourself and others.
This freedom will always be your greatest ally.
My guests and thus my thanks go to Roy Walker, Carl Sagan, Jones, Fernando Sor, Benny Hill, Richard Parks, Gavin Henson's fake tan, Ray Mears, Mr Chips, Mr Limbic, Dr Claire Weekes, Dr David Carbonell, Sonny 'Whatif' Smith, a bear, Mr Debit, The Good Samaratain, Superman, Mr O'Regan, The Wizard of Oz, Shaggy, Scooby, Old Man Wiggles, The 'unhelpful thoughts' mugger, 'adrenaline-junkie' Brad, Bladud the sun-god, Toby (twat), Mr Ugg, Wally (now found), Alan, Inocentia, poor ‘mad’ Auntie Kitty, a tiger, my dad, my mum, my brothers, (especially the neurophysiologist), Auntie Jenny, Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Alfred Russel Wallace, a relaxation therapist called Karen, Dr. Bobby Bollock, my brilliant wife, my amazing children and you
I must be honest, I was so close to inviting Plato to the party to discuss the 'Allergory of the Cave' but due to financial restrictions I couldn't afford the stamp to ancient Greece.
My choice eclectic delivery of this information and my selected protagonists were most deliberate, a simple demonstration of freedom coupled with the maximization of the curative literary effect.
thank you for your time
Diolch yn fawr iawn (Thank you very much indeed).
Why did I write this? Well why not, it was a choice, a choice to attempt an action, an action to initiate a response, a response of hope.
My hope is that you have found something within my words that will assist you. Even if you improve by a few percent then we have (through nothing more than words) achieved a little something.
In my greatest imagining, you now have the tools, knowledge and understanding and you can carry them around for the rest of your days.
This understanding weighs nothing; you can carry it in your mind and in your heart.
By the time you have finished reading this last little paragraph I sincerely hope that you will start to feel the seeds of your confidence germinate and your possibilities blossom.
My wish is that you will start to achieve the success that has eluded you for far too long.
So there we have it, an intricate description of my solved Anxiety Based 'Disorder', complete with Limbic-Feedback Loops and a few 'knob-gags' thrown in for good measure. I suppose that serves as a good, memorable and demonstrable example that anything is indeed possible.
Lastly ... Is it hard to accept a panic attack? Fuck yeah, for the first few times, but after that it gets much easier. Calling fear's bluff works, deep slow breathing helps. Practice, Practice, Practice.
I thank you for reading my thoughts; I truly appreciate the valuable time you have given me, if this letter provides no assistance then you sincerely have my apologies.
At very least please use these words to know that relief and relaxation are most possible.
If you remove the fear, the condition cannot exist.
There may well not be a one-size fits all removal tool for every type of every anxiety within every person, but some positive actions based on knowledge go a long long way into helping us to help ourselves.
So go out, have a laugh, have a giggle, read "Where's Wally", write a book, walk a mile, run a marathon, paint a picture, paint a bathroom, join that team, ask that girl out, give those spare pounds to charity, become that comedian, become that philosopher, make that woman smile, write that symphony, open that mail, get that job, learn that language, go on that holiday, learn that instrument, design that car, make that fire, clean that oven, cut that hair, surf that web, write that screenplay, write that blog, enjoy the magnificence of that thunderstorm, help that person, cook that masterpiece, design that garden, eat that pork pie, make that bench, build that house, plant those seeds, watch ‘Catchphrase’, take Dr. Bobby’s advice and add that infinitum.
I would like to take my leave of you with some true inspiration from the depths of my creativity. But for the moment no words are forthcoming. The next successful words and chapters are up to you, your future is yours to make. I can think of no better way than to leave you than with this simple line from an underrated film:
“Greetings Professor Falken” ...
“A strange game ... the only winning move is ... not to play ...”
See you in San Francisco.