Tag Archive: anxiety

Addictive substances – a good coping strategy?

Addictive substances

If you’ve ever been addicted to a substance – coffee, cigarettes, alcohol, prescription or recreational drugs, for instance – you know how you grow to depend on that substance whenever you’re feeling anxious.

It’s a way of coping with difficult feelings – such as anxiety.  We have other ways of coping – some better than others, and addiction is one strategy that can have serious consequences.

I happened across an article by Dr. Joseph Troncale that specifically addresses the connection between drugs or alcohol and anxiety. He talks about how self-medicating with drugs or alcohol in order to calm down ends up generating more anxiety, culminating in a vicious downward spiral: we feel stressed, and medicate this feeling with drugs, which can often lead to feeling more stressed, leading to more drugs to dull that increased anxiety. In his words “This cycle of self-medication and rebound anxiety digs a deeper and deeper hole for the addicted person making treatment and breaking this downward spiral harder and harder as time goes by”.

Using drugs or any addictive substance or behavior generates a spiking pattern, where we swing between feeling high and feeling crappy, with no in-between.  In the normal pattern in a day, we go through a more gentle wave of experience: we notice something, decide to engage with it, engage with it, then withdraw when we notice something new.  The in-between is the connection and the gradual withdrawal.  In the spiking pattern, there is no connection or gradual withdrawal – it’s either all on or all off.

Using an addictive substance or activity lets us bypass any discomfort of contact or withdrawal, we bypass anything beyond the initial sensation, spiking instead to a high provided by the drug. Once the effect of the drug wears off, that feeling we’ve been avoiding – like anxiety – resurfaces and we spike to a low, and we avoid that feeling by engaging instead with the addiction.  The anxiety doesn’t actually go away, but remains suppressed until we stop the addiction cycle.

There are a few ways of stopping the cycle. Dr. Troncale prefers the monitored gradual withdrawal approach. Twelve-step programs offer a different approach that work for many people. A third approach is finding a spiritual path that inspires and supports you. What any one person chooses and finds works for them may not work for the next person.

The important thing is to know what is happening so that you can make an informed decision about how you want to live.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

The Schizoid Character Structure

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In the first part of the 20th century, Austrian Psychoanalist Wilhelm Reich developed a theory explaining how we respond both physically and emotionally to the challenges we meet in life, especially in early life.   For the past few weeks, I’ve introduced you, in broad terms, to Character Structures in general, and to the Masochist, or Endurer, and to the Oral.  This week I’ll introduce you to the Schizoid body and character type.

The Schizoid structure is disjointed: one shoulder higher than the other, for instance; the person who has this structure is often much stronger, physically, than they look.

The main issue with the Schizoid is early rejection.  This differs from feeling abandoned (like the Oral): the Oral knows her parents love her but have abandoned her; the Schizoid doesn’t know this and feels rejected by her caregivers. Alone and afraid in a world they never made.  As with the Oral, the parents of the Schizoid may have done something unawares that created this lack for their baby, and sometimes it’s overt – like when the baby is the product of a rape. Covert or overs, the end result is that the child has a felt sense of not being wanted, and not having a safe place in this new and scary world.

The Schizoid is inwardly anxious, and armors herself in a way that protects whatever she feels is being attacked in that moment; as a result, the schizoid will tend to pull inward, away from her extremeties. To the external world she shows a calm demeanor; while inwardly she is trembling.

At their best, the Schizoid person is the visionary, able to see beyond the every-day mundane to the bigger picture. Creative and well-grounded, she is connected to her surroundings in multiple ways. The only true multi-tasker.

The primary challenge for the Schizoid is to learn to love herself – and know she belongs.

Next week, I’ll introduce the Rigid character Type.  If you find this series interesting, and want to know more, I along with my friend and colleague Jane Mactinger will be holding a workshop on Character Structures in the near future.  Stay tuned for a date and time.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

The fine art of letting go, and what that really means

What does it really mean to hang onto things and people and situations? We hear a lot about the virtue of letting go, but how often do you see that happen?

Not often! Because it’s a really tough thing to do. Letting go pretty much always means letting go of a belief – that something or someone is so important to us that losing it would be a disaster.  This belief may be connected to similar childhood beliefs – may even be connected to events in childhood that are still painful.  If so, then letting go is far from easy.

And yet, there’s a saying I’ve heard that goes something like “you become what you fight”. If you’ve ever witnessed someone close to you who is afraid of losing something and won’t let go, you know the truth of this first hand. We end up being alone because we fought loneliness.

So, if not letting go really means losing what we love, then what does letting go really mean? What it means is freedom. Freedom to move on, to enjoy what we have with no expectations, and to look forward to new adventures around the corner.  It doesn’t mean we won’t have our loved ones near for many more years – in fact, that’s more likely if we’ve let go of our need for them to stay . What it means is that they, and we, have no obligations that unnecessarily tie us down.

And that tastes of freedom.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

Isaac Lidsky – Letting Go

Quote of the Week
Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it. ― Ann Landers

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

When time seems not on our side

“I don’t have time for this” is a refrain I heard often from my mother. Now I say it. I don’t have time for a lot of things, and it isn’t because I’m impatient.  It’s because I try to fit too much into a day – like my mother did.

Some people are fantastic at calculating how much time something will take, but never those who never have enough time.  Those are most of the people I know.  We tend to underestimate everything – to such a degree that what we thought we could accomplish is hopelessly out of wack.

Why is this? Partly it’s because we are overly optimistic about our own abilities and the smooth running of the world.  Partly because our hopes take over instead of our objectivity. Partly because we simply have unrealistic expectations about life, especially about ourselves. Most of us are very hard on ourselves – inside us is a little diabolic dictator who mercilessly berates us whenever we fall short of her or his demands.

That inner dictator is this way, possibly because she is fuelled by fear.  Mine is. She shows up when I’m afraid I won’t be able to do what I promised; or when I’m afraid I’ll suck during a presentation.  So many things – and whenever that fear sneaks in, so does my mini dictator.

Time isn’t on my side when I try to do too much – or so it seems.  But when I stop to consider this a little deeper, I have to admit that the pain I go through whenever I’m driven like this is a strong motivator to stop doing it.  If being driven gave me pleasure, I probably wouldn’t stop.

The truth is that I’m discovering that time is on my side: I always have the time I need to do things that are really important, as long as I pay attention to what’s really important.

Time, it turns out, is a choice – my choice.

Now I’d love to hear from you about your own experiences, knowledge, opinions.  In the comments below, share one thing that you experienced as a mirror moment that changed your day, or even your life.

This newsletter is in three parts: the first part is my contribution; the second is a video I’ve found that relates to the topic in part 1; the third is a quote. I hope you enjoy the richness this brings to the topic of the week with all three parts.

Laura Vanderkam – Time is a choice

Quote of the Week
Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.’
― Lao Tzu

Announcements
At times we need more  – we know the logic, know what to do. And yet something is still blocking us. I offer both one-on-one consultations and coaching packages.  For more information, visit my website www.thejoyofliving.co/services-and-programs or contact me directly at maryanne@thejoyofliving.co

No time? How to reclaim it

How often have you said to yourself “What happened to the time? Where did it go?  I still have so much left to do!”  If it’s often, then you’re a lot like me. Every time I go away for more than a few days, the amount of stuff I have to get done before I go grows exponentially: I have to get the work I’d normally do the week I’m away done before I go; that office clean-up I’ve been planning for 6 months suddenly looms large in my mind; what about that sweater I began and never finished 2 years ago?  These things, reasonable or not, suddenly become imperatives, even if some rational part of me knows better.

My partner knows better than to argue and offer rational argument; he simply finds other things to completely occupy himself with while I go crazy and wear myself out needlessly.

It really is a compulsion, and as with all compulsions, sitting and thinking about it in an attempt to discover what’s really going on isn’t going to get me anywhere.  What’s needed is to take 10 or so minutes, and discover what my body has to tell me.  That’s right – my body.  It’s in our bodies that we store feelings and value sensations, and this compulsion is, for me, connected to my values and, possibly fears.

How do I do this? I do a body-scan, then sit quietly and meditate on what comes up for me. That’s all.  A body scan is a mindfulness technique where we breath into our body and be with whatever physical sensations come up.  We begin at our toes, then move up our legs, into the pelvic area, then up the torso to the shoulders, then from the finger tips up the arms, finally breathing into the neck, the face – jaws, mouth, nose and eyes, forehead and ears, the top and back of the head. By doing this, we not only become familiar with what is going on physically for us, we also get to know how those sensations are connected to our values and beliefs.  And for most of us, this is an unfamiliar feeling.

Here’s a real-life example from my own life: I’ll take my compulsion to multiply tasks before I leave for more than a few days.

While thinking about the impossible list of tasks on hand and my sense of urgency over getting them done, I scan my body.  I’m looking for discomfort and numbness.  When I discover these, I take note and continue my scan. In this case, I might notice a tightening at my solar plexus, a hardening at the back of my head, and a clenching of my back shoulders.

Now, for each sensation, I ask what it’s doing and how it’s helping me. For instance, if I breathe into my solar plexus and the tightening there, asking it why it’s there and how it’s helping me, it might respond with something like “I’m holding things together”, and “I’m helping by enforcing calm”.  This helps me understand that what’s really happening is panic, only what I’m feeling is tightening – tightening me up so that I can keep doing all those things on my list.  I’ve fooled myself into believing everything is A-OK.

The hardening at the back of my head and the clenching of my shoulders are similarly, helping me dull down the panic, so that I can finish everything.

Knowing this is the first essential step to changing this approach into something healthier and less driven. It isn’t the answer, but it is a huge start.

 

Maryanne Nicholls is a Registered Psychotherapist.  To find out more, gain access to her weekly newsletter, meditations and programmes, sign up at www.thejoyofliving.co .

Here and Now….

As a therapist who uses Gestalt therapy techniques, focusing on the here and now is important when helping clients understand how to overcome current challenges. Many people want to focus on the past in order to move forward. While this does work and is a great tool to use, I believe that understanding the past means dealing with the here and now.

by-take-the-future-exhale-the-past-tattoo

Through therapy, people learn to discover feelings that may have been suppressed or masked by other feelings and to accept and trust their emotions. Needs and emotions that were previously suppressed or unacknowledged are likely to surface as well. Through this process, my clients gain a new sense of self as overall awareness increases.

Again, this doesn’t devalue what working on the past has in a person’s everyday life. But thinking in terms of the present can help dissect the past and really address how to cope with different and even similar situations going forward.  Think about people , maybe even yourself, who suffer with anxiety. Usually, anxiety is rooted in an incident from the past. When the feelings or circumstances of today relate or refer to yesterday, the anxiety is usually ignited.  While we work with the past to think about how and when the anxiety started, it isn’t enough to move forward.  Dealing, however, with the triggers of today will help to harness the feelings associated with anxiety and the past.  It is important to have a conversation with yourself about today as much as you need to have it with yourself about your past.

I can help you navigate these often difficult conversations with yourself to address current and past behaviors and even others who may have caused you harm.  If you’re a bit curious about my technique, of Gestalt therapy in general, please do not hesitate to contact me. All my sessions are confidential and I work by phone or Skype. Yes, I’m HIPAA compliant.

Are You Your Anxiety?

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I tend to work with clients who are facing a lot of issues centered around anxiety issues. Unfortunately in today’s society, anti-anxiety medication is used to mask symptoms. With my courses, I help people face and understand- even bring forward- their true selves. Working together with my clients to realize who they are at heart does help treat anxiety without all the side effects of typical medications.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for anxiety medications, but they shouldn’t be a long-term solution for panic disorders.

I utilize traditional and modern aspects of Gestalt therapy when working with my clients. The goal is to really focus on helping my clients become more aware of what is going on inside of themselves. When we become more aware of the root of our feelings and emotions, we are – as humans- available to allow our true identities to emerge in these moments.

I find that most anxiety comes from the subconscious mind being completely aware that something within our lives isn’t right, almost like a blinking red light trying to get our conscious mind’s attention. As we began to feel sadness, or other negative emotions, about an aspect of our lives, we often will try to bury these feelings (or truths) until the blinking red light grows stronger and faster and turns into uncontrollable panic attacks. Together, using Gestalt therapy, we will work to help you experience your feelings more – not suppress them, so that engagement with the present can be improved and anxiety can be suppressed / eliminated.

Your journey is far too important to have it laced with anxiety that will only make your quality of life become diluted. There is an unfortunate belief that the here-and-now focus of the Gestalt approach is a way to not deal with one’s past. This isn’t true. In order to move forward we have to carefully deal with your past – but it is the approach I use that is key.

If you feel like your identity is becoming anxiety-focused, let’s talk. I can recommend programs and tips that will help you get on your true path and experience your life’s journey without the hindrance of anxiety symptoms.