Tag Archives: stress

Anxiety and Stress

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An article I wrote today for a local newspaper…

Stress and Anxiety – Why do I feel this way all the time?

             I feel so nervous at work and at home every day. I can’t seem to get it under control.  My boss might ask me to do something that I don’t know how to do, or my kids may get into trouble at school. These feelings are always there and I don’t know why…

            Many of us feel stress and anxiety during the day – yet we cope with it in different ways, and while we don’t always understand why we feel it, it is usually manageable.  However, an alarming number of Americans experience anxiety, frequently due to stress. Nearly 40 million people, or about 18% of Americans each year experience nervousness, uncertainty, fears, and restlessness. For these people, the feelings are not a normal reaction to stress, but instead may feel like panic, and it affects their daily life at work, at school, and at home.

            Feelings of anxiety may be felt most in the social situation, or plague us when we have to participate in a classroom experience or answer the teacher’s question. Often, it is not clear why we have the feelings – the anxiety may come up in a meeting, all of a sudden, with little warning. Anxiety, and the stress that we experience, is perhaps the most common of mental difficulties that people experience – and there are several different kinds or types of anxiety disorders.  In addition, anxiety can also be part of, or exist alongside, other disorders – such as depression, physical illness (headaches, stomach problems), sleeping difficulties – and may also trigger behaviors like substance or alcohol abuse. 

            Symptoms include:

  • Constant worrying
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Nausea, sweating, rapid heartbeat
  • Concentration or focusing problems
  • Feeling easily startled or fearful
  • Avoiding social situations

Both adults and children may also exhibit other symptoms, such as striving for approval, needing constant reassurance about performance, lacking confidence, and needing to be perfectionistic.  

The stress that we feel in our work, at our home, or in the school situation can interfere with our daily activities to the point that we feel unable to function normally.  It is at this time that one needs to seek out some help,  and get some assistance in understanding why we are experiencing the difficulty, and how to find different or better ways of coping. 

Anxiety disorders are classified into 5 different types or areas, each of which has different symptoms, coping mechanisms, and treatment recommendations.  You may experience frequent panic attacks (Panic Disorder), or fear dirt and germs, and needing to wash their hands incessantly (Obsessive-compulsive Disorder). Alternatively, you may not want to go outside of your home or go to the school function because you’re frightened of the social situation (Social Anxiety or Phobia). Individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder have experienced trauma – often repeatedly, and need a safe environment to recall the events and reduce their fears.  (As I pointed out in a previous article, PTSD is common in soldiers, women and children that have experienced domestic violence, rape or sexual assault victims). 

The causes of anxiety disorders are complex, and there is no research that shows just one factor being involved. Rather, the causes may be environmental (domestic violence or reactions to disaster), genetic in nature, or due to psychological and developmental factors.  Most individuals that experience post-traumatic stress disorder have experienced some trauma in their life, and interestingly, genetics may play a role in whether someone then develops PTSD, or some other disorder as a way of coping with the trauma. 

Treatments are many, and are varied – depending on how the anxiety, or the reaction to stress is experienced. Different types of treatment are called for depending on the specifics of your difficulties.  Medications may be helpful, and may be recommended by your physician or mental health provider. However, an important point is that medication alone will not solve the difficulty – and psychotherapy, or a ‘talking therapy’ will be necessary.  Certain types of therapy are currently being researched (cognitive behavioral) for some of the anxiety disorders.  Many of the psychotherapies will include learning about relaxation approaches, such as breathing exercises or making changes in your lifestyle.  The therapeutic relationship with your mental health provider is of utmost importance, as this relationship will be the key to helping you cope differently with the stress and the anxiety.  

 Please email me with questions or comments.

  Rudy Oldeschulte, M.A., J.D. is a Del Rio psychotherapist, specializing in individual psychotherapy and parent guidance.  He has served on the faculty of the University of Arizona College of Medicine and taught at the British Association of Psychotherapists. Post- graduate training and education was done in London and at the University of Michigan.

Email address is: roldeschulte@gmail.com and his website is: http://www.rudyoldeschulte.com

60 Seconds to a Stress-Less Life – Creating the Space

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The Now Effect is based on a very simple quote from a psychiatrist and holocaust survivor named Viktor Frankl. He said, “Between stimulus and response there’s a space, in that space lies our power to choose our response, in our response lies our growth and our freedom.” But for most of us that space is non-existent as the speed of the day skips right over it. From the moment we wake up, the brain already has a routine preplanned that skips over the spaces where life is unfolding. It knows that maybe after we wake up, we make breakfast, drink our coffee, read news on our phones, take a shower, get dressed and the rest of the day unfolds like this. Sadly, for many of us our lives go on like this until some crisis wakes us up. But we don’t need a crisis, right now we can train our brains to break this pattern.

This article by Elisha Goldstein articulates the need for all of us to find that space…

Link: http://www.mindful.org/mindful-voices/on-mental-health/60-seconds-to-a-stress-less-life

 

Mindfulness and Trauma

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Stability

Stability

Mindfulness is about stabilizing. Studies have shown that people who have experienced trauma can benefit highly from this type of work. (Cullen, 2011). When people have experienced trauma, they can be challenged with high levels of stress, anxiety and depression at any time.

When we increase focus, stress and anxiety decreases, and as insight increases, depression may also be reduced. The implications of effective mindfulness on these specific features are truly significant and the more studies that are being done, the stronger the evidence of effective results of mindfulness.

When a person experiences trauma, racing thoughts and chain reactions of distressed thinking and intense emotions are more frequent, more intense and can last for longer periods of time. The thought pattern easily becomes negative and thereby creates greater levels of anxiety and depression, especially if ignored.

What mindfulness does is brings us into the present moment. Being in the present is provides direct opposition to the racing thoughts which are based in the past, thoughts about things that have happened, or based in the future, worrying about things that might happen. When we practice mindfulness, we pull away from these past and future thinking patterns and redirect ourselves into the moment, grounding ourselves in the present where we regain the ability to address the negative emotions of anxiety, stress and depression that are associated with our thoughts.
We can, for example, tell ourselves that in the present moment, there is nothing bad or harmful occurring to us. We are most likely sitting or lying quite comfortably in a safe place where we can focus on slowing down our breathing and letting the negative feelings go as we exhale. We can ground ourselves and regain our stability, acknowledging the feelings but proving to ourselves that in this present moment, we are okay…we are fine…and we are safe.
We have managed to regain control over the intense emotions that were beginning to overwhelm us. We have become more aware, more able to calm ourselves and less of a victim to our run-away thoughts.

Kabbat-Zin (1994) provides this definition of mindfulness: “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.” We are actually doing an awful lot although it seems we are doing nothing. We are freeing ourselves and giving ourselves permission to just be in the moment. And it is extremely soothing. It is like allowing our mind to float and just immerse itself in now.

It is very important for people to work out their own form of practicing mindfulness, something that works for them. I strongly advise people to do some research on it and see what feels like it might be a way to begin your personal journey.

Attention

Attention

Remember that the point is NOT to empty our thoughts but rather to pay attention to them in a purposeful way without judging them and then refocus attention onto whatever it is you were focusing on prior to the thought popping up. Mindfulness is a journey of exploration, discovering sounds, textures, shapes, temperatures, things that always exist but that we don’t focus on because we are not being mindful to them.

If you are just starting out, I suggest just a 10 minute exercise in which you find something to focus on, an object to look at or hold perhaps. It is wonderful if you become adept enough at it to practice it when you begin to notice any negative thoughts or symptoms that you are trying to decrease such as depression, racing or distressing thoughts, etc.

Snoopy Writing

Snoopy Writing

There is a wealth of information available on mindfulness as more and more people are finding it beneficial to many different situations they encounter. I would love to hear from you about your mindfulness journey and results. Feel free to comment or contact me directly.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

She Yelled and Called Me Names

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A look at the power of empathy and compassion. . .

Stressed or depressed?

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downboyblog

“Tomorrow I will get up early, work late, catch up and things will be OK.” Sound familiar? My wife and I, both young professionals working overseas, thought that some degree of burnout came with the territory. We were paying our dues, becoming used to working evenings and weekends, and not having energy for much else.

This most recent period of burnout was the third in my short career. As eye drops to hide the redness and escalating coffee consumption became my new normal, I became vaguely aware of a sense of panick. Not making it. And eventually, little by little, loosing hope that I was ever going to make it again.

In the last weeks before I was diagnosed, I noticed that hours of work yielded few results. I was falling behind and couldn’t find the energy to catch up anymore. We talked about getting a prescription for a mild…

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Stress and Memory From a Neuroscience Perspective

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Stress and Memory From a Neuroscience Perspective

 

 

 

 

 

 

“From a neuroscience perspective, amnesia in the absence of brain damage can be partially explained in biochemical terms. Stress causes a chemical reaction that affects regions of the brain responsible for memory. With repeated overwhelming stress, neurotransmitters and stress hormones are released in the brain in such excess quantity that they can adversely affect portions of the brain responsible for emotional memories as well as other kinds of memory.” p. 33, The Wandering Mind: Understanding Dissociation from Daydreaming to Disorders by John A Biever, M.D. and Maryann Karinch.

i'm not out to convince you or draw upon your mind*Image Credits (all work used with permission through CC license)–
“i’m not out to convince you or draw upon your mind” by Andrea Joseph
“Standing at the Gates of Hell” by Shane Gorski

Why Some People Actually Enjoy Having Schizophrenia

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Why Some People Actually Enjoy Having Schizophrenia

by Mhs411 of Mental Health Specialist 411

Schizophrenia , literally meaning:  a psychotic disorder characterized by loss of contact with the environment, by noticeable deterioration in the level of functioning in everyday life, and by disintegration of personality expressed as disorder of feeling, thought (as delusions), perception (as hallucinations), and behavior —called also dementia praecox – m-w.comcan be brought on by many factors.

Schizophrenia has a strong hereditary component. Individuals with a first-degree relative (parent or sibling) who has schizophrenia have a 10 percent chance of developing the disorder, as opposed to the 1 percent chance of the general population.

But schizophrenia is only influenced by genetics, not determined by it. While schizophrenia runs in families, about 60% of schizophrenic patients have no family members with the disorder. Furthermore, individuals who are genetically predisposed to schizophrenia don’t always develop the disease, which shows that biology is not destiny.

Twin and adoption studies suggest that inherited genes make a person vulnerable to schizophrenia and then environmental factors act on this vulnerability to trigger the disorder.

As for the environmental factors involved, more and more research is pointing to stress, either during pregnancy or at a later stage of development. High levels of stress are believed to trigger schizophrenia by increasing the body’s production of the hormone cortisol.

Research points to several stress-inducing environmental factors that may be involved in schizophrenia, including:

  • Prenatal exposure to a viral infection
  • Low oxygen levels during birth (from prolonged labor or premature birth)
  • Exposure to a virus during infancy
  • Early parental loss or separation
  • Physical or sexual abuse in childhood

In many cases of Schizophrenia where voices are heard, the afflicted individual often finds comfort in the company of their voices, they have conversations, debates, and can often become friends on many levels. This is why affected patients often stop taking the medications which they are prescribed because they either severely subdue the voices or negate them altogether. Why would someone take a pill that forbids them from being in contact with their best friend(s), companion(s), etc?

Truth be told, the voices that most Schizophrenics hear do not tell them to hurt themselves, or others, but rather maintain a running commentary on “their” perception of the patients world at large, sometimes even discussing things on a blow-by-blow basis.

So why not enjoy being Schizophrenic? Constant companionship, never bored, never alone. Sounds like a great around the clock party! Right? Well sure, unless you have a type of Schizophrenia with voices that DO tell you to hurt either yourself, others, of both? Then, not such a party.

I remember one treatment center at which I was doing a segment of my practicum. I was assigned a woman mid 50′s who was diagnosed with Schizophrenia Paranoid Type. She was my first Schizophrenic patient, and aside from what the text books had taught me, I had no idea what to expect in a “real world” scenario.

The woman, whom we shall call Linda, was certain, beyond any doubt whatsoever that I was her son, and that we had performed in innumerable stage shows together, and began reminiscing about each show, one by one, covering our 30 year stage career together. Truly, it was fascinating, and even though she was of no harm to herself or to others, because she was so far removed from reality, she was court ordered to spend the rest of her life in a psychiatric facility. Still, she was quite happy and enjoyed spending time with her voices! Therefore, in summation, I suppose it depends on many factors as to whether an individual can enjoy having Schizophrenia, or see it as a never-ending nightmare pushing them towards anger, resentment, and potentially even revenge on a moment to moment basis.

Photo:  http://sciencenewstoyou.blogspot.co.il

Sergeant Major’s, Maccy D’s and a nice bowl of fruit.

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If how I’ve felt for the last three days is any guide to the amount of tox that’s being released by this diet then I should be feeling on top of the world by Wednesday. Right now, I’m just hoping that the headaches, nausea and tiredness will be worth it.

I don’t do these detox diets often, partly because I don’t like choosing to feel really manky the next day but mostly because by the time I need one, I can’t be bothered with the hassle and rethink of all the auto-recipes I use. Fortunately I have Gill, who came to the rescue both for me and her as she took an executive decision, to which she is legally entitled what with being on the board of Burkinshaw Consulting Limited, (the company that Tony Burkinshaw Cognitive Hypnotherapy trades under), and after extensive research judging by the number of laptop hours she invested in the venture, she laid it on the line as to which particular detox we would pursue.

This one majors on juicing, although we do have alternatives of soup or brown rice and steamed vegetables. For a treat. Obviously.

I’ve never really got my head around the benefits of juicing. I absolutely get it that the juices of raw vegetables and fruit, particularly of the organic variety, are full of vitamins and enzymes together with a shed load of that catch word of dietitians the world over ‘nutrients’. These are good for the body because our evolutionary path was very much via the hunter-gatherer root, (if you’ll pardon the phonological ambiguity), and we evolved with raw fruit and vegetables as one of our main sources of energy, vitamins, minerals, (it’s always good to have a smidgen of dirt knocking about on your food – that’s where a lot of the minerals are, after all). At the end of the day, we function better eating the food we were designed to eat.

This makes sense. Unlike MacDonald’s and its ilk, (a sort of miniature Elk, I’m told), who firmly believe that we need a large dose of manufactured foodstuffs carefully designed to keep us going or, more likely, coming back for more depending on your point of view. Not that I’m averse to the odd Maccy D’s every now and then, I don’t want to get all evangelical about this. This is a personal detox after all, not one that I have any intention of recruiting you to.

So why the hell am I putting you through all of this dietary nonsense? Basically its this.

I was surprised by the degree of feeling proper crap that has come about as a consequence of this round of detox, together with a minor sideline about juicing which I have yet to some back and finish off. Think of it as a looped metaphor. It will all come together in the  end. I hope. I haven’t planned this particular post out, so I’m not entirely certain that I’ll succeed. Let me know how it goes.

Meanwhile back to the future, (good idea, pity they had to go through three evolutions to get to make the one they most wanted to, although I suspect there’d have been a good deal more dust and grime than the film seemed to think was apt for the wild and the west). Anyway. You’ll probably have noticed that one of the themes running through my few posts on this blog is that there is such a thing as the mind-body connection. You know, whereby what you thinks affects how you feel and how you feel affects how your body responds and how your body responds affects your health, which then goes and affects every damn thing you’ve just read through and sets up one or more of those vicious circles, although why they’re vicious and not just negative feedback loops is probably all down to marketing and advertising.

Mostly, however, I’ve focussed on how past experience affects stress, anxiety, fertility and how we hold pain, finding it almost impossible to let these go without someone showing us the way.

I’ve not talked much about how constant pressure from the world affects your general state of health whilst you’re still coping, albeit you may not be particularly at peace with the world or revelling in unbridled happiness. It’s a bit like the situation Jonathan Miller referred to way back in the 70′s when he talked about the idea that becoming ill was a tactical choice we make at the point we find we can no longer function. Think about it. If you have a cold, you tend to go to work, look after the family, and generally function normally other than a tendency to moan a lot or act like a true martyr not complaining at all whilst making sure that everybody knows that you’re not complaining at all. You know the type. I’m not letting on which one I am.

It gets different if the initial cold turns out to be ‘flu by which I mean actual influenza and not just that your cold is far worse than everyone else’s. I’m talking about temperature spikes, the shivers, hallucination, chronic muscle ache, migraine style headaches, you can’t see properly and it’s pretty much impossible to move let alone think. That sort of ‘flu.

There comes a point in the progress of wellness to ‘flu where you’ve been struggling on, forcing yourself to function way beyond where it was sensible to stop because you don’t want to let anyone down. And then, despite your best efforts, you can’t make it in to work, (always assuming that you thought it was worth making an effort in the first place). You decide that you can’t carry on. And what happens? Your mindset changes from being unwell to being ill. You take yourself off to bed and can’t get out of it for three days.

You went from hero to zero in 60 seconds. This is what Jonathan Miller was referring to when he said becoming ill was a choice. He absolutely didn’t mean that we choose to bring illness on ourselves, he meant that there is a point beyond which each individual tallies up the pros & cons of forcing yourself forwards and once that reaches a sufficiently negative tally, (which is different for every person and situation), you make a choice to down tools and enter a self-protection mode of being. You shut down as much as possible so your body can recover and recuperate. You move from being unwell but functioning normally, to being ill.

This is why some people can ‘soldier on’ (where do you think that phrase came from – there are way more important things on your mind than being ill when life or death threatens, including having to face down a drill-sergeant bellowing in your ear to stop being a whatever it is he’s telling you to stop being and which is way too impolite for this post), and others can’t. (Back track, it does read correctly, honest). It all depends on you personal tally and your personal situation both external, (caring for children is a big driver to continue functioning), and internal, (your father despised weakness so your unconscious is locked into ‘we’ll show him’ and you’re never going to give in. Even though he died fifteen years ago).

It’s a fairly obvious changeover with illness or injury. At one moment you can carry on, at the next a switch flicks and you can’t. Decision made. The cons outweigh the pros. It may be an unconscious decision but it is a decision nonetheless. According to Jonathan.

Unfortunately, it’s more subtle with stressors of the mind. If the particular stressor is slow and insidious, you may not even notice just how much pressure you’ve been under. If the pain is ongoing and permanent, then even at a level most people could handle for an hour or so, after six moths and longer it gets tougher to function. It drags you down. Yet you may not have reached that point that your unconscious flips the recovery switch and shuts you down. Sometimes it just doesn’t notice how tough it’s got.

Enter again the mind-body connection. If you’ve been under prolonged stress, low-grade illness, long-term pain at a level which hasn’t stopped you functioning, you’ve never been dumped into recovery mode by your unconscious. So the mind-body connection link has been working in full reverse for some time, storing up the negative processes which have followed as a direct result of this long-term difficulty. Guess what one of the consequences is?

Your body doesn’t metabolise particularly well. You crave foods that give short-term relief because that’s the nearest thing you can get to looking after yourself. You slowly deplete your body of essential long-term micro-nutrients and don’t metabolise away the build up of waste. Toxins.

Enter the detox diet beloved of magazines whenever there’s a lack of other interesting articles to publish.

So I find myself on one of these diets.

Why oh why am I so surprised that there’s apparently so much crap to be flushed out? I really should have expected it. Without any detail, because sympathy is not the aim here, here’s a brief resume. Since 2005, we found out that we all had undiagnosed conditions which affected our ability to function, I’ve had two (minor) heart operations, both daughters were diagnosed with serious and permanent health conditions, I became redundant and set up a business and Gill had to leave work for health reasons. There is more but so what, you get the gist. This has all been low to medium, (and occasionally high), level stress. And it’s been going on in the open for 7 years and for many years before that when we weren’t even aware of it.

Most of the time I’ve been functioning ‘normally’, so that mind-body connection must have been building up a mass of wonderfully toxic crap in my system for years. No wonder it’s taking more than a couple of days of detox to flush it out. The worse the headaches are now, the better I’ll feel by the end.

See what I mean? If I wasn’t detoxing, I’d more than likely have taken to my bed feeling really ill and wondering what the hell I’d caught. On the other hand, maybe it’s got nothing to do with the diet and there’s a manic virus running riot in my system. Time will tell.

in the end, I suppose this post is really about those people who haven’t reached the point, mentally or physically, of having to down-tools because of their stress or health.  Sometimes the answer may be as simple, if unpleasant, as a detox. A change of lifestyle. Out with the old and in with the new.

Sometimes though, even that is too big a step to take. There simply isn’t enough left in the tank to consider it. It just doesn’t fit, doesn’t feel right. Yet you know something must be done. Over the years, toxic thought-habits and reality tunnels build up unnoticed and start to take over. Perhaps what’s really needed is a detox of the mind.

Guess who can help with that one? Feel free to get in touch if that sounds useful. One of the benefits of this particular blog is that it gives you viewpoints from several different schools of potential help. Mine happens to be Cognitive Hypnotherapy because that suits my skills and outlook on the world. There are others. Find the one that feels as though it might suit you. Help is out there.

And what of the missing juice loop? The part I don’t get is that juicing fresh fruits and vegetables leaves an awful lot of ‘waste’ behind. But isn’t this ‘waste’ that self-same fibre these self-same dietitians promote in their other, non-juicing, diet books. The stuff that gives fresh food it’s crunch?

Whatever happened to a salad and a nice bowl of fruit?

Juice that!© Tony Burkinshaw 2013

Juice that!
© Tony Burkinshaw 2013

This post was first published on Posts of Hypnotic Suggestion

 

 

Standing Fate on it’s Head

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So there I was, complimenting a work colleague as you do, (or perhaps don’t depending on where you work I suppose), as part of the feedback I was giving and encouraging him to think about where he could use similar verbal communication techniques to maximum effect.

Obviously, in an effort to ensure that all relevant future-scuppering spirits were appropriately warded off by my apparent blasphemy at actually telling him he was good at something, (which he really was by the way), he spake unto me thusly: ‘Oh now you’re tempting fate! It’ll never go like that again’. He paused for a moment. ‘Mind you, if I pretend you never said it, maybe I’ll get away with it. Touch wood.’

Now I could ramble on here about the origins of wood touching and fate tempting but that’s not really the point. Habits are habits and depend an insanely large amount on cultural heritage. Being from the UK, my cultural heritage includes seeking safety from the vagaries of the eternal Fates by hugging trees, although these days that’s been diluted into finger tip contact most typically with dead trees which have been turned into furniture thereby saying little for the fate avoiding ability of the tree sprites and spirits of dead ancestors whose power we’re trying to evoke, seeing as the particular tree in question couldn’t. Avoid its fate, that is.

I’m not entirely certain how well touching wood travels in terms of its warding off meaning. It’s entirely possible that in some places touching wood carried other connotations entirely, given that getting wood doesn’t always entail stocking up your fireside fuel store. At this point I find the teenage boy in me smirking. Never mind. Maybe I’ll grow up one day.

I find myself wondering, (and as you already know, in Cog-Hyp Land, it’s good to wonder), why we are so bent on trying to avoid or control fate in whatever manner is appropriate to your heritage, although personally I draw the line at pretending my own head is the wooden object in question unlike some I know. It’s one of the relatively few things which really bug me. Trust me. It’s not endearing. Your head is not made of wood. Please cease and desist. I know the confidence leaching power of self-deprecation even when it’s supposedly humorous.  (I apologise if I seem to be talking about you. I really ought to find out why it bugs me. It could be quite enlightening. Maybe I should get some therapy).

What’s actually going on, now that I’ve stepped off the mini soap-box, is a couple of making-sense-of-the-world tactics. We humans love patterns, event sequences which make sense of our lives. Cause and effect. Complex equivalence. Our brains are designed to seek them out. Without them we’d be lost. Even when they don’t exist we see them. They’re everywhere. If you’re late for work, its red lights and traffic-jams tail-backs all the way; if you take a chance on the weather, it’s sure to rain; I’m British, I have to talk about the weather; successful people are always lucky; bad things always come in threes; I always find a parking space, even though I’ve repeatedly tempted fate by telling you.

Some are so deeply ingrained that they’ve become folklore. Broken mirrors, black cats, Friday 13th. They all help us make sense of the purely random. They help us feels as though we can predict the future. And here’s the strange thing. They’re almost always negative. A reason for something to go wrong. Why is that? Weird isn’t it? Why haven’t we developed a folklore for making everything go right?

Well there are potentially loads of future posts wrapped up in that one so suffice it to say that for now, I’ll go along with the notion that from an evolutionary point of view, most of us are better off if we can be in control when things go wrong. If you feel prepared for the worst, because lets face it according to old wives tales most everything you do or say could herald some negative potential, then you are more likely to survive and pass those genes on to the next generation. If you’re only ever prepared for the good times then you’ll die at the first sign of frost, or the appearance those not-so-cuddly toothed beasties of yore.

And in this light perhaps it makes some sense. If we seek out patterns, cause and effect sequences, then even if a lot of them are red herrings and totally unreal, some of them will turn out to be absolutely for real.

It’s far better to take avoiding action many times for things that turn out to be irrelevant and totally uncontrollable, (if you were going to live or die, you’d have done so anyway, whatever you did), so that you actually do take avoiding action for the one thing that could be controlled. In this one vital case, you live. Onwards with those genes.

Interestingly, our protagonistic chappie at the beginning of this post was covering both cheeks so-to-speak, so that whatever happened he would prove himself right all along. If he tried his smooth-talking verbals out and it all went wrong then of course that was entirely my fault for tempting fate, wasn’t it?

But if he tried it and it did work, well hey, he’d touched-wood hadn’t he? (Stop smirking). So of course it was going to work!

In a way, this double-control tactic actually let’s him try the techniques out again without taking any personal responsibility for its success or failure. If it works it’s all down to calling in the tree spirits and if it fails it was all my fault. And therein lies the rub, to coin that somewhat Elizabethan phraseology once more.

Whilst evolution gave us a cognitive ability which ensures we seek out patterns to over-sensitise us to taking avoiding action in order to ensure that the one time we really need to we actually do, it has also dropped us neatly into our relatively secure, (for most of us with access to WordPress blog-posts anyway), present with the propensity to see doom laden options all around us. Maybe this is why newspapers are so much more interesting when they’re full of bad news. Maybe this is why governments somehow ensure that whilst there is always a fundamental threat to our way of life, they somehow seem to be able to ration them out to having only one enemy at a time. Maybe this is why most of us feel as though the world is happening to us. It absolves us of responsibility for what goes on, for how we decide to deal with our lives. It quite simply isn’t my fault. It’s nothing to do with me.

External Locus of Control.

For most of us, if we’re stuck in a job we don’t like, we feel we have to keep it because let’s face it, we need the money. If your partner does that weird thing they do of ‘looking at you in a funny way’ it can ruin your day, make you angry, insecure, worried. You walk into a room and people stop talking and look at you, you know they’ve been talking about you. If you’re ill, it’s up to the medical profession to fix you except they can’t because you’ve got a chronic illness which just isn’t going to go away. The world decides how we feel, how we live our lives. It’s just not fair. Really.

As always, there’s another way. A paradigm shift if you will.

In a very real sense, (sense being a very appropriate word), the world is simply electrical signals interpreted by your brain. (Well Morpheus hasn’t said much for quite a few posts and needed to get in again). Emotions are the interpretation your body gives to the ebb and flow of multi-peptides slooshing their fundamental communication between every single cell you own, each letting all the others know what’s going on. It’s how your entire body knows whether it’s living in a healthy, growing, secure environment or is hunkered down in protection, focussed on getting past the next threat that’s on its way. Each and every cell reacts to the environment it’s living in and behaves accordingly, letting every other cell know how it’s behaving so that they can do the same. Majority rules in this complex flow.

There are peptide receptors everywhere. Organs, intestines, brain, blood, muscle and bone. Each cell sends and receives. It’s thought to be the most fundamental communication method of living creatures. The brain controls most of the relatively recent electrical signalling but everything controls the peptide flow. Your body affects your brain because of how it feels. You know this to be true. You think differently when you’re angry or scared or sad or happy, hungry or full.

Here’s an interesting thing. How you think affects how you feel. If you try to deliberately relax, a conscious process, you can with practice or guidance not just relax your muscles but your mind and vice versa. You can take an anger or a fear and sooth it. Change the peptides flows within your body. With practice and guidance you can take some fundamental beliefs which have guided how you react to life and change them. These fundamental beliefs, if they’re negative, tend to keep your body in protection mode, vulnerable, constantly on the lookout for threats. And that pattern hunting skill will seek out everything it can to confirm that it’s view of the world is right. And trust me, it will find whatever proof it can.

If you could find a way of turning it on its head. Realising that if the world is how you interpret signals, then perhaps there’s a way of choosing what reaction is best for you and your future. Consider the options and discard the ones that work against you. Move from protection into growth. After all, most of our threats are emotional rather than life threatening. Give your mind and body a chance to reconnect and start deciding your own future rather than leaving it to the profound negativity that exists out there in digital communication land.

Even if there’s a real problem, an illness that won’t go away, perhaps there’s a way of deciding how you live with it. Defining your world by how well you are, rather than how ill. With practice and guidance, you can change which parts of your life get your full attention, so that by the end of the day looking back, the snapshot memories of your internal photo-album are mostly of the things that went your way and the ones of the times that were less than good are fewer and stored as faded images that carry less power.

Even chronic pain can respond. Pain is your body’s way of warning you that you are in danger. It’s a vital signal. It keeps you alive. Pain is your friend in a very real way. It keeps you alive.

Here’s a thing though. If you can let your body know that you know that it’s been in danger. If you can let your body know that the danger has either passed by or is under control, let it know that you know and that there’s nothing to be afraid of, then that pain begins to understand that it has done its vital job. It isn’t necessary to alert you because you already know. The signals can reduce, returning only when the situation changes and you need to be alerted again. It can take time because by its nature chronic pain has been around for some time. It may take time to set up something that convinces a process that’s become embedded that it has done its work. But it can be done.

Where does all this lead? Internal Locus of Control.

Whilst you can only influence your surroundings and what happens to you to a limited extent, you absolutely can decide every single time how you choose to react to it. In a very real way, no-one can make you angry, sad or happy. You really can choose. This doesn’t mean that you will live the rest of your life in some blissfully ignorant nirvana, rather sometimes it will be absolutely the best thing for you to decide to become angry or sad. Or happy.

The point is, you really can choose instead of letting everyone else determine how you feel about your life.

It might take some practice or guidance. It’s one of the key changes that I look for in clients. It’s a key indicator that the work is almost done. Once you take your life into your own hands, your destiny becomes your own. Once that happens, therapy has done its job.

Your world becomes exactly what you choose it to be.

If you like, I could show you how.

Choosing where to look © Tony Burkinshaw 2013
Choosing where to look
© Tony Burkinshaw 2013