How does anxiety start?
Have you ever wondered where anxiety comes from? How it starts or why someone you know seems to have a habit of being anxious about things that other people don’t worry about?
Other people don’t understand
It’s tough being a person who suffers from anxiety. I work with many anxious clients, and what they find so frustrating is that this sometimes debilitating state is poorly understood by friends and family, who make comments such as “get over it” or “it’s not worth worrying about”, which actually can make the sufferer feel more isolated and actually make the anxiety worse.
Because Anxiety is not an emotion, it is a state of being. When a person is in an anxious state their autonomic nervous system is highly stimulated. The autonomic nervous system is the part of your body that manages breathing, heart rate and digestion, as well as being your danger detection system.
So, when a person is anxious their brain is actually on alert, preparing for imminent threat, like you see on a movie where the sirens go off before a natural disaster hits or a giant monster stomps through New York.
Now anxiety is a useful state if you are expecting Godzilla to turn up at your front door, or if you live in Tornado country, but not so useful for navigating daily life, because anxiety does not exist on its own.
In fact, anxiety is just one pillar of an underlying sequence of emotional states. It’s often the one that people focus on, but it is the result of a deeper set of thought processes. It’s the part of the iceberg that sits above the water line.
So let me give you an example from a past client of mine. Let’s call him Fred.
Fred came to me because he found himself getting anxious before and during meetings at work. He was so worried about offending people or letting his colleagues down It had got to the point where he would try to find excuses to avoid meetings, or any situation where he would be asked to speak in front of people.
Fred was prone to guilt and worries about offending other people or letting them down, so he would go about his day anxious not to let other people down or disappoint them.
But because we can’t control what other people think or do, Fred continued to find himself exposed to anxiety provoking situations.
Every once in a while, his ability to handle these situations would wear thin and he would eventually experience an angry outburst. Often this didn’t occur at work, it would be at home or in the car during his commute.
After the anger had subsided, he would feel guilt or remorse for his angry actions, and the whole process would start again.
Not surprisingly, he felt tired all the time, because he was constantly on alert, his mind was always busy with thoughts and worries, and he found it hard to relax or to sleep.
So, whilst he came to see me about his anxiety, this was just the state that he was most aware of, mainly because it was the state that felt the most painful for the longest time. He focused on the part of the iceberg that he could see.
But, he was actually experiencing a chain of states that went from guilt and regret for past experiences, to anxiety and worry about the future, then through to anger and frustration in the moment, and back again to guilt.
So when we worked together, I focused on his guilt. I explored and dealt with the negative experiences in his life that had taught him to become so good at feeling guilty for things that had happened, that he was able to get anxious about things that hadn’t happened yet.
I worked on these experiences using a variety of techniques – Eye Movement Therapy to remove the emotional pain of these negative experiences, Heartmath to teach him techniques to manage situations that would have previously caused him to feel anxious or angry, and Neuro-Linguistic programming to help him create new, more helpful patterns of thinking.
Within a few sessions he wasn’t feeling anxious any more. His mood was improved and he was sleeping better. He would say that he would still occasionally feel annoyed or frustrated, but that he could feel it coming and had the capacity to do something about it. This phenomena is called the “pause and plan” response, and is a good indication that the nervous system isn’t on high alert all the time.
Eye Movement Therapy for anxiety, depression, anger and guilt
So if you recognise similarities between your thought patterns and those of Fred when he first came to see me, I hope that you can see that there’s more to anxiety than just that feeling of being alert in the moment, and that actually there is likely to be a chain of thinking going on in the background.
And also, that there are tools and techniques out there that can and do make a difference to people who suffer from anxiety.
Your first step in making change is to find a practitioner of Integral Eye Movement Therapy (IEMT). It’s the single most effective method for dealing with anxiety as it only takes one or two sessions to reduce or even eliminate anxiety in most clients.
You can find out more about how Integral Eye Movement Therapy (IEMT) works here on the site.
And when you’re ready to talk about how I can help you, you can book a free discovery call with me.