CBT Part II – Testing a theory

I have just come back from another great session, which ended in a real climax of excitement! Its all happening in the NHS mental health support team!

We covered some exposure exercises, to simulate the feelings associated with a panic attack. It is important to familiarize yourself with these sensations, so as not to fear them. Once in an anxious situation, anxiety tends to peak and then starts to drop. So-called coping strategies prevent the natural decline of anxiety, and prevent the subconscious from ever properly learning that a dreaded situation (such as getting on a bus!), is actually not all that dangerous after all, and there is nothing to be anxious about.

By trying to avoid bodily sensations associated with anxiety, we lend them a power they do not deserve. I call this ‘mythologizing anxious sensations’, something which feeds into the cycle of avoidance and furthers fear. Eventually anxiety becomes a general dread which you will dedicate the whole of your life to avoiding! The short-term cure, avoidance, is worse than the disease. And those who say that time heals all ills have obviously never recovered from a panic disorder before! Time will not heal this.
I must now expose myself to these situations and bodily sensations. This will let the natural course of things play itself out, and the subconscious can learn once and for all that there is nothing to fear. Likewise, I will stop fearing the sensations in my own body, which I have already done much to achieve.

This is all made much easier by going into what I am really anxious about, which my therapist helped me with by proposing a theory. Before we get to the theory, we need to examine my true fears.

Today I boiled down my fears of a panic attack to two things: i) fear of embarassment, not being helped and public humiliation. ii) Fear of bodily weakness after a panic attack, losing my independence, being dependent without a trustful support network.
So we proposed two theories. Lets start with Theory A. This states that if I have a panic attack people will laugh, think I’m weak, and might film it on their phones. The evidence from this comes from seeing lots of humiliating incidents at school and the general shittiness of certain human beings. If theory A is true, then a panic attack would be rather devastating, and the best thing to do is to avoid panic attacks at all costs and restrict my freedom. On recollection, I believe this theory to be about 20% true. In other words, its a load of anxiety-induced shite.

So lets move onto the (infinitely more plausible) Theory B! This states the problem is worry that other people will judge me, be humiliating and unhelpful. But the evidence is against it: I would definitely help others if they needed it. Some people will always want to be helpful, even heroic in such situations. And some people have similar problems with anxiety and depression, so can actually be understanding. If Theory B is true, I need to try to think more realistically and positively about things, and dispel the power of the panic attack. This is as far as I got in working things out. My therapist took the next step.
She gave me an analogy which really helped explain what we had to do to truly see the theory through. Imagine an apprentice on his first day at a building site. The workers on the site put up a wall and tell him to hold it up, or else it will fall down! He spends the whole day standing there, holding up this wall, getting tired and uncomfortable. As night falls, his bosses tell him he has to stay there all night. Well, this just won’t do. So what does the apprentice do, now that he is in doubt about the worth of holding up the wall? He can gradually release his hold on the wall, he can release his support and slowly step away. But will this do? What if there is a gust of wind or something? To truly see if the wall is sturdy, he will have to give it a darn good push!

Ultimately, a theory needs to be tested. ‘If panic attack then people will be helpful, and there will be no harm’ is the crux of the more plausible theory. So lets just say that we might end up doing some field research soon!
I am most excited about the opportunity.
p.s. Get CBT if you can, its great. Just be prepared to look deep inside yourself and realize what needs to change inside you.

 

No more neurotic dreams…

Running away, from place to place. As if you can outpace your shadow. Throwing yourself onto the back of another’s horse, begging them to save you. Is this the path to inner-healing? Is this going to lift you out of your tumult and darkest pain?

There is no utopia inviting you, there is no perfect woman waiting for you to find her. Nothing better awaits until you are strong inside yourself. No one is an island, but you must have a basis of self-love and self-worth in order to do any good for the world.

Have you got it? Look deep inside, is it truly there?

Finding this is not a sudden process, and cannot be rushed. Though it may have climaxes and peaks, it requires the opening of pandora’s box, and I wonder how much control we have over such an action. Perhaps you are lucky if you have a crisis, for now you can unlock the truth.

Your secret box is finally open, and now you are looking within, into places of deep daring. You are one with your hurt, even as it heals. And the closer you get to truly actualizing what is within yourself, the harder it is going to get. That final leap, to become a knight of faith, is the hardest step of all, harder than first opening the box or even taking up your sword.

Therefore, do not be surprised if your trembling, fearful inner-child gets worse with time, until the final battle with the ultimate shadow.

And when you face it down, know that you cannot defeat it with even the broadest of swords, for that thing is part of yourself, and to harm it is to harm yourself. Know it, and you know part of thyself. Embrace it, forgive it, and you achieve the ultimate courage, whatever others may say to you.

You accept yourself as a flawed, weak, vulnerable being, and in doing so grow tenfold in flexibility and adaptability. You become ready to evolve into something better.

There is no escaping the inner-truth, so do not long for worlds of fantasy. Do not be so absorbed in art that it loses all relevance to the world-as-it-is. Do not believe the propaganda  of saviours. Do not run from yourself, however painful the feelings, however harsh and hard the thoughts. Do not hide behind work and routine, this is to make reality mundane. You must face yourself.

Every experience is part of your history, and cannot be repressed. Nor can you stop them from impacting upon your conscious behaviour now, in the present, unless you take them unto yourself and resolve yourself. There are many patterns inside of you which you do not realize, and these shape your character. If you have not the tools and sensitivity to unweave that personal destiny, you are a slave to a motive deeper than your conscious being.

The truth must be dug up, and held up. What you truly are, a wonderful conflux of experiences and attitudes, must be beheld by your conscious mind. You must come into the present in order to truly find yourself.

Then you can take the largest step of all, and the hardest. Into true selfhood, as an actualized being of nature. Of course, darknesses and patterns will accumulate again, and there is no final enlightenment. But you will be much more prepared to deal with challenges, in a mature and adult way. You will be more than the sum of your pain and neuroses.

Fear not yourself. Loathe not yourself. Only know thyself, be thyself and love thyself.

To the depths

To the depths I went

Always brand in fist

To find what made these paths

I thought I freely trod

 

What illusions waited there

To upturn the ship of tranquillity

What machine within worked

To hide the shadows

What lies came in dreams

To veil the truth

 

And the soul’s guardian, to protect me

Stayed loyal to false master

When it should to my ambition alone cleave

And my song venerate

 

An ocean lays at my heart

It is still or stormy

Of its own wild freedom

But now I can sail it

For I am bound

To the friends of true depth

Who understand what I truly am

 

The illusions in me, games of the mind

Shocked for years, shaken in fear

Of harsh words, of the street, of night

The evidence now piles against it

I have earned my honours

In the heart of the woods

And was always of bliss

And was always of bliss

Gentleness is I, peace is I

Merriness is I, truthseeker am I