Do you feel distant from others?
Is stress and worry effecting your performance at work?
Does your over busy mind keep you awake at night?
Do you want to have better relationships but find it hard to make it happen?
My client, whom I’ll call Anne came to me after the break down of her long term relationship. She was an accomplished academic but even work was starting to get infected with her progressively worsening anxiety symptoms. She knew something was holding her back, because she was stressed and often couldn’t sleep. However, she was at a loss to know what was truly the root cause of the symptoms and even more importantly what to do about it.
Gradually over time Anne came to realise that what was toxic in her life was her fear showing up as anxiety. Her racing heart, swirling thoughts, and butterflies were all tell tale signs of her nervous system regularly feeling on red alert in a detrimental way.
Fear is nature’s protector, we are wired to look for things going wrong. However Anne’s “off ” switch was no longer working properly.
Anne was in a habit of being triggered and not knowing how to calm down. Anne’s therapy helped her realise her nervous system was getting stuck on potential “trouble” or “danger” just around the corner. She was exhausted. Her body was living in fight, flight or freeze and she was having the same negative reactions over and over in a habit forming way.
What happens when you are in the grip of fear?
Many clients face threats like Anne that are no longer physical, instead their insecurity is psychological. If you are fearful you may respond like a victim, close down, withdraw and become depressed. Or perhaps you become angry and judgemental. These reactions become apart of your character. When you chronically react to anger and judgement unfortunately your body is living with an unhealthy level of stress chemicals. You can become defended and aggressive and you may not be conscious of this….. but deep down you are scared of yourself and of others.
How to stop fear and worry dominating your life
Sadly our natural response, like Anne is often to avoid the uncomfortable feelings of worry and fear in our body. Yet this just makes matters worse. When fear rules we become judgemental and hypervigilant and the price of this is strained relationships, insomnia and stress. In therapy we looked under Anne’s painful feelings of shame, anger and depression. Underneath we found unfaced fear.
With support Anne began to learn to stop running, to step out of reacting to the anxiety and fear and instead begin to mindfully open the door to the experience of facing the fear. I call this “steering into the skid.” This takes time, effort and persistence.
You have to let go and allow yourself to let it be okay to feel the fear like a “felt sense” in your body. Often surprisingly you find that what happens is that your fear wants acceptance. When you can face your fears in therapy you change your relationship to fear in a powerful way.
You allow it and you find as a result you can access your intelligence, your sense of humour, your kindness and your sensitivity. Chronic worry can be transformed when you allow yourself to face fear. This is what a skilled psychotherapist will help you do. They will help you stop fear and worry from dominating your life. Some anxiety will still be there but it will no longer be overwhelming…