Most of the people who contact me tell me that they are suffering from anxiety. Walking around all day worrying or with a pit in the stomach or ruminating or feeling fearful…these are not the ways you want to experience your life. When asked about their goals for anxiety therapy, the most common response is…”I want to feel better.”
Let me tell you a bit about how I approach anxiety.
First, anxiety is considered medical condition and is often treated as such. If you go to your doctor, an anti-anxiety medication (usually the benzodiazepines such as Valium, Klonopin, and Xanax) might be prescribed.
Early in my career I would have told you that I was biased against medication as the primary mode of treatment. After working with many clients over the years, I realized that someone should not have to suffer any longer than necessary if there was a medication to remedy the suffering. There are always tradeoffs with taking medication but if they help you to function better in your life, then I support their use.
One thing to mention is that most of the research shows that medication is most effective when taken in conjunction with counseling or therapy. Anti-anxiety medications are effective in taking the edge off the feelings of anxiety, however, they do not teach how to manage the uncertainties and other anxiety-provoking aspects of life. Counseling can help with that.
So, this all being said, I approach anxiety differently. I tend to see anxiety as a symptom of an underlying condition, namely, unresolved trauma. By trauma I am not referring only to the type we hear about in the news such as that experienced in combat or as a victim of a crime or a weather incident or other incidents that can be overwhelming and traumatizing. All of those can be traumatic and can result in prolonged anxiety. We call those the Big T Trauma.
The more subtle type of trauma is what we call Small T Trauma. Most people tell me that they have not experienced trauma. Most who have had pretty abusive childhoods know they had trauma but those who have not been beaten or sexually abused don’t feel they’ve had trauma. Small T Trauma can result from either chronic childhood stress (for example, constant put-downs, an alcoholic or addicted parent, blatantly unfair treatment, sibling abuse, bullying in school – or on the internet, a mentally ill/unstable parent, watching a sibling being abused, and the list goes on)….or any event that may not qualify as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) but was impactful enough to have caused a heightened sense of fear that has gotten stuck.
I had one client who had been humiliated by a teacher, in front of the class, for doing a math problem wrong. She was about 7 or 8 years old. Her young mind made a decision not to ever feel that way again. This resulted in her pulling in and being extremely afraid to make the wrong move or do or say the wrong thing. She was unable to make a lot of decisions. She has no idea that this old experience has impacted her but with processing and clearing this Small T trauma her fear lessened and a few weeks later she called to say she’d made the decision she needed to make and felt liberated by it.
So, while anxiety is a tangible, uncomfortable experience its origins are both physical as well as emotional.
As such, I work from the inside out as well as the outside in.
The inside out is where we work with the brain and central nervous system to get to the origins and contributors to the anxiety. I use Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR®), the Flash Technique and Brainspotting to work with the brain and body to release the stuck traumatic memories. Even if you don’t know exactly where the anxiety came from (and it’s usually an accumulation of experiences…not just one incident) we can work with the body and brain to reduce its impact. In addition to EMDR® therapy, Flash Technique and Brainspotting, I use guided imagery therapy and ego state visualization as well as body awareness and releasing to finish unfinished business and to start creating new “neural pathways;” to continue the release of the old…all to make room for the new.
The outside in is where we find strategies that work for you to manage anxiety. This might include breathing exercises, heart coherence exercises (check out Heartmath.com), movement, cognitive behavioral therapy with thought challenging and changing perspective, laughter, and whatever we can find to help you daily manage the anxiety.
Contact me today to start your successful anxiety therapy.
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