Anxiety keeps our best possible selves out of reach
Therapy helps us to cultivate enough psychological flexibility to access our own problem-solving resources. And, when problems cannot be solved, therapy helps us develop the ability to step outside of problem-solving mode to make room for thoughts, emotions and urges without rushing in to try and fix it.
Awareness draws us into a deeper intelligence. It builds competency, knowledge and literacy. It facilitates psychological flexibility and responsibility, which in turn summons our best possible selves.
Knowledge is the opposite of ignorance and helplessness - without it we are permanently stuck behind enemy lines.
Deeper ways of knowing will forever escape us if we continue to rely on old and familiar negative ways of thinking. Knowledge increases our capacity to learn to grow to heal - it connects us to rich resources which lie largely latent in all of us.
Anxiety keeps our best possible selves out of reach. It frequently sends us into fight, flight or freeze mode. And, from here, we interpret information from a negative bias and our pre-frontal cortex, which is responsible for a lot of our higher level executive functioning, has gone off line.
Checking ourselves to assess how triggered we are is a good place to begin. On a scale of 1-10, any emotion over 7 or 8 is often a sign that the past and the future are dictating to the present. Anything under 7, and we are more likely to be operating from a more mature self. Choosing to drop our anchor when we are in an emotional storm is always a wise choice.
Asking ourselves ‘am I in adult mode?’ is a wise and responsible choice.
In adult mode we are on fast track to our best possible self. We respond with behaviours, thoughts, and feelings which react directly to the here and now. In adult mode we are more inclined to be realistic and objective about current experiences - more attuned to others as equals, better able to respond skillfully.
I frequently hear clients saying ‘someone’ is making me anxious, or ‘something’ is making me anxious’. It’s a very common way of expressing ourselves, but it often distorts the situation we’re attempting to describe. To be in charge of our own feelings before we tackle the effects others are having is, to say the least, an advantage.
ABC, the simple exercise described below, is quick to learn and quick to engage. It allows us to function in the present. It stops us being held prisoner by negative thoughts, emotions and urges. It presses the pause button. Crucially it allows higher level executive functioning back on line.
A = Anchor - plant your feet firmly on the ground, physically or metaphorically.
B = Breathe - put your tongue to the roof of your mouth and take a long deep breath.
C = Connect - and name, silently or out loud, five things in your line of vision.
ABC is a tool - it is not just a theory. Success depends on making it part of the way you function. Like all new skills, it needs to be practised. After all, you wouldn’t expect to ride a bike by reading about it.
Talking therapies help. It can be a relief to talk to someone who will not judge you or your actions. In the security and privacy of the therapeutic relationship you can explore your feelings and where your anxiety comes from. You can investigate and learn techniques which allow you handle your feelings and emotions rather than them handling you. Therapy enables us to be heard and listened to. It helps us us to make wise choices, it encourages us to learn, to grow to heal.
Warmest wishes. Yvonne
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