Closing the five doors to anxiety
Even the Universe is becoming more understood. We know about dark matter, Buckmister fullerenes and quarks (what ever they are) I don’t really need to know they won’t affect my life one jot. Nevertheless it is important that someone understands them. Someone needs to figure out how they relate to human existence. This is the principle of divide and conquer; no one can know everything so we develop specialisms and then share what we learn over the proverbial dinner table.
I have spent a very long time working with the problem of clinical anxiety. Clinical anxiety belongs in a different league to everyday worry or feeling a bit anxious about an upcoming company event. Clinical anxiety is a problem that can come to dominate and then ruin your life. It is bad for your physical health and for your mental health. The study of anxiety is one of my specialisms and I want to share some of what I have learnt with you.
You might not like this bit but it is accurate!
You have to travel towards anxiety
To be anxious you have to travel towards anxiety and accept it into your life. This is never a conscious choice but nevertheless it is a choice that you have made. The way anxiety is created is that your brain decides that something (it can be anything) is dangerous to you. The ‘conscious you’ is not normally aware of this process. But your brain creates the belief that this thing is dangerous and then whenever it or variations of it are encountered you feel threatened. This is anxiety in a nutshell.
An example that is hard to believe but is all too common is the experience of anxiety created from being successful or by being good at what you do.
Do you feel good enough?
Let’s suppose you harbor the deep seated belief that you are not good enough. This is a nebulous feeling that really has no basis in fact but nevertheless you allow it to exist in the deepest vaults of your being. For a while this deep and not overtly acknowledged feeling drives you to work hard and learn about what you do. This naturally makes you successful. As you become more successful the responsibility you gain increases and also the number of things you need to do increases. This creates more stress to do a good job because that is the only guarantee you have that your deepest negative belief will not surface and take human form to be seen by everyone. This is your threat. This is the threat that creates the anxiety!
As time goes on your threat gains some strength because you allow the feeling to exist without it being overtly challenged. You feed it with some attention and increasingly you suspect that it may be true. This is your journey towards anxiety.
Then something happens that could be interpreted as meaning that your deepest negative belief is really true. This creates clinical anxiety. Thereafter, whenever you feel challenged, stressed or over-worked it brings you into contact with your own personal anxiety trigger.
All of this is very straightforward. But what is interesting is the journey you have taken to get to the point of clinical anxiety.
I have identified 5 doors that you pass through on the way to anxiety. As you pass thought these doors they open onto more and more possibilities for anxiety to exploit to increase your feeling of vulnerability.
As we identify each door we can do a little work and retrace our steps and then close the door on anxiety. When all five doors are shut then anxiety has been conquered.
The Five doors to anxiety
Have you developed an intolerance to uncertainty? Do you NEED to be sure about things to feel safe. Do you NEED to be in control of processes and people. Would someone call you ‘a control freak’?
Have you fallen into the trap of confusing unproductive worry with productive problem solving. Do you go over the same problem over and over again? Do you check everything over and over? Does it take you a long time to complete something? Do you feel certain that if you let any errors get through then that would be disastrous?
Are you familiar with catastrophic thinking? Will everything be a disaster, will it all turn out for the worst? Disaster and catastrophe is guaranteed to get the attention of your brain. Catastrophic thinking focuses your attention on the numerous (fictitious) reasons you need to be anxious. It just never happens. So your system is constantly on high alert for threat that never comes to pass.
Strange as it may seem but you probably avoid emotional upset. Do you avoid confronting emotional problems? Would you prefer to walk away if you feel annoyed, upset or provoked rather than say something? Do you avoid confrontation because of the unpleasant emotions it might cause? This is avoidance of the normal emotions that flow through life.
Do you sometimes think you have a physical problem? Does it seem unbelievable that the things you struggle with could all be caused only by anxiety. How can anxiety cause pins and needles in your arms? How can anxiety cause tightness in your chest? How can anxiety make you feel like you are going to collapse? Well, it does because your system remains on red alert for threat. Can your physiological arousal go through the roof at the drop of a hat, while it can take hours to settle back down again. As you well know this is very unsettling.
How to close the 5 doors
Each door needs to be closed individually. By closed I mean that you understand why the door has been opened and you have the tool in place to close the door whenever it threatens to open again. This can often be achieved by about 6 hours of effort on Panic Pit Stop.
I can’t synthesis a whole treatment for anxiety in one article but I want you to have an example of the kind of work that is done. Therefore I have included a film from Panic Pit Stop that starts you off on understanding how we go about tackling anxiety and its extreme manifestation, panic using the CBT method.
I know there is a lot here and you don’t have to view it all in one go. There is almost 12 minutes of video within this one article. But anxiety will not cure itself. It takes effort and application to get the job done. I want to get you started on the right footing.
Please help me to get the message out. Anxiety and Panic are very treatable. Please share this article with others and especially, if this is relevant to them have them sign up for the 4 Killer Apps that make worry history.