Archive: Anxiety Stress and Fear

Trigger -> Behavior -> Reward -> Repeat

trigger

Trigger. Behavior. Reward. An evolutionary mechanism within us that’s meant to help us survive.

Triggers are always about survival.  In the simplest sense, we see or feel something that scares us or is uncomfortable; we respond in some way that minimizes that feeling; we’re rewarded by feeling the opposite.  For instance, our stomach begins to rumble; we eat until it no longer rumbles; we’re rewarded by feeling full. It worked! So we repeat this mechanism for anything that makes our stomach rumble.

That’s in the beginning. Then we learn to apply that same mechanism to all kinds of things we encounter. Is it scary? Does it make us feel some kind of pain? Then do something until we feel good, or at least no longer scared.

So far so good. Then one day, a friend we counted on turns on us. We’re hurt and confused. Perhaps we feel a tightness in our belly. So, we turn to something that calmed our belly in the past – we eat a donut, perhaps.  We feel good. The pain goes away.

You and I know that eating to counter emtional pain won’t work for more than a moment. But most of us do it anyway, because it’s something we’ve built from the beginning. It isn’t logical. It’s automatic – a very well-entrenched habitual respnse, or reaction, to a particular feeling.

How can we change that reaction? The answer is to change the habit. Justin Brewer suggests mindfulness: go ahead and react, and when you react be mindful – get curious about it.  For instance, when I reach for that choclate chip cookie next time I’m anxious, I can take a moment to notice what it’s actually doing for me: the sugar high makes me dizzy, and instead of really being satisfied, I feel a craving for more. What if I take a handful of almonds?  Then I feel full fast. How about if I take some deep breaths and go for a walk? I return feeling refreshed and energized.

In other words, the more I becme aware, mindfully, to a reaction or response, I can begin to reprogram my body, and my reactions.

Worth a try!

If you like this blog, you’ll love my newsletters read you are enough just as you are get my latest one. It’s written only for my insiders who sign up, and provides weekly insights, not only from me, but from others I admire.

To sign up for my insider newsletter, click here.  If you find it doesn’t work for you, all you have to do to unsubscribe is click on the link at the bottom of the newsletter.

Looking forward to welcoming you to my growing list of insiders!

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 .

Releasing the Handcuffs of Attachment

attachments

 

The father who insists his son take over the family business.  The mother who over-mothers. The boss who micro-manages.  If they don’t drive their intended victims crazy, they definitely drive all their onlookers nuts.

But, in case you think that’s somene else, recall the last time you wanted something to work out so badly – and were afraid it wouldn’t – that you found yourself “nudging” people, places and things to get to your desired effect.  If you managed to stop and take a look around you, you might’ve noticed a lot of annoyed onlookers. You know, those guys you just handcuffed to your idea of what the future should look like.

Nobody likes to be manipulated or “lead”, including us.  But worry and desire can turn us into this kind of person.

The antidote to being attached is self-awareness. Plain and simple. Becoming aware of our impact and value in any situation can bring us back to our senses and into balance and harmony with ourselves and our fellows.

I know that, for me, the times I find myself manipulating a situatin for a desired end is when I’m afraid I’ll loose something precious to me. That someone more powerful than me will somehow destroy that possibility.  When I bring this feeling in front of me and examine it, it seems pretty foolish. After all, as an adult, the only way someone else could really do that was if I had no other alternatives.  But that isn’t likely. It’s really only my fear, my insecurity and lack of awareness that lets me think so.

If you like this blog, you’ll love my newsletters read you are enough just as you are get my latest one. It’s written only for my insiders who sign up, and provides weekly insights, not only from me, but from others I admire.

To sign up for my insider newsletter, click here.  If you find it doesn’t work for you, all you have to do to unsubscribe is click on the link at the bottom of the newsletter.

Looking forward to welcoming you to my growing list of insiders!

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 trouble with wanting something so badly when you depend on others

wanting something

Have you ever wanted something so badly you’re prepared to do whatever it takes to get it?  I have. Many, many times.

I don’t mean robbing a bank or selling your body.  We all have limits, even with this. But at times I sometimes find I’m relying on others to help me out. Not in a good way!

A good way might be: doing some necessary work for what I want and getting duly compensated; or taking what I offer because they really like and want it.

A not-good way might be: doing something for me because I talked them into it and wore them down; or promised them something that wasn’t justified; or relied on some need they have to manipulate them into supporting me.

Those last examples are all co-dependent, and enmesh me and anyone who involves themselves in it. In the end, even if it works this time, I don’t feel so fantastic.

Well, I wanted something this badly a week ago, and asked somene I thought loved this sort of thing if they wanted to be a part of it.  She said she did and I got going.  But I was always uneasy: even though she said yes, my gut just didn’t believe it. What I’d done to prepare depended on her showing up, so I was stuck with it regardless.

Fortunately for me, I did something that attracted others – something new for me – because I wanted this to happen that badly. I found them.

Glory haleluyeh! I did it!

Next time, when I get that gut feeling, I’ll pay more attention to it, appreciating what I really know.

 

 

If you like this blog, you’ll love my newsletters (read you are enough just as you are [link to https://thejoyofliving.co/everything-you-need/ to get my latest one]. It’s written only for my insiders who sign up, and provides weekly insights, not only from me, but from others I admire.

To sign up [link to www.thejoyofliving.co/7day-meditation/ ] for my insider newsletter, click here [link to www.thejoyofliving.co/7day-meditation/ ] .  If you find it doesn’t work for you, all you have to do to unsubscribe is click on the link at the bottom of the newsletter.

Looking forward to welcoming you to my growing list of insiders!

 

 

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 .

On Anxiety

Stayed up way too late last night…reading a fantasy novel.  That way, didn’t have to think about the things on my “must do” list – way too many things.  Woke only a little late…that’s good.  Having a quiet coffee and letting the day unfold in peace, if only for a short while.  Now what… I can feel my heart begin to race.  HOW AM I EVER GOING TO GET THROUGH THIS?!?!  Two people here in less than an hour, an offsite meeting after that, then pack up my car with stuff for a friend, then research on a new project, then clients …. and I haven’t even got to quality time with loved ones yet!!!!!!

The first thing that has to go is the list…just let it go.  Lists always mean, for me, that I’m too wound up already.  Deep breateh in, ,…..then out.  Ahhhhhhhh.  Priorities.  What is priority today?  My friends, quality time, my clients.  Forget about the rest, for now.

See how it goes.  And to begin, a short quiet walk to remind myself how lucky I am for my health, my loved ones, my opportunities, and this gorgeous day….

Martha Beck – Calm all fear

Quote of the Week
Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.
― Corrie ten Boom

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

Three steps to get your calm back during this stress-inducing, albeit joyful, season

holiday

This is a re-do of a blog I wrote a few years back, and thought it was worth sending out again.  This time of year is the hardest on many of us – we over-commit, over-indulge, and generally over-stretch ourselves, ending up stressed and not the greatest company to ourselves or anyone else.

So first, I want to wish you all a wonderful end of 2017, and beginning of 2018 – that you find some peace in the coming days, with much laughter and joy.

I also want to remind you of an old Cherokee story – if you’re finding yourself feeling the stress of the season.

It’s the story about 2 wolves. A grandfather was speaking with his grandson about the violence and cruelty in the world.  He likened it to two wolves fighting in our heart – one was angry and vengeful, the other was understanding and kind. The grandson asked which would win, and the grandfather replied – the one you feed.

I naturally overdo things, and I don’t need the excuse of the holiday season to do it.  In fact, I’ve been overdoing things for so long that my body finally gave out.  That was about 2 years ago. Over these past 2 years, I’ve had to learn to live differently – most of all, I’ve had to learn to listen to the signals of my body and to respect them.  In other words, I’ve stopped feeding one wolf and started feeding the other.

In Taking the Leap , Pema Chödrön writes about how people need more spiritual practice these days than ever before, because we really do live in a stressed-out world.  In fact, she goes on to suggest we extend our spiritual practice to include our communities in three ways. I’ve combined what she suggests we do for our communities with what I suggest we do for ourselves – because whatever we do for ourselves to strengthen our own spirits will eventually enrich and empower our communities. These all involve cultivating our own naturalness as human beings.

  • Natural Intelligence – when we know instinctively what to do, when we’re not caught up in hope and fear. When you catch yourself caught up, take a time-out: deep breaths in – down to your belly, completely filling your lungs; longer breaths out – letting the air out slowly, emptying your lungs completely. Do that 3 to 5 times.  Breathing out for longer then breathing in activates your calming system, and helps to bring you back into balance, and reconnected to your natural intelligence.
  • Natural Warmth – our ability to love, have empathy, a sense of humor, and to feel grateful – it has the power to heal relationships. Open your heart, once you’re back in balance, and make yourself available to everyone and everything around you. If you’re alone, get out. If you simply can’t get out, then find a way to connect – by phone, by internet – whatever way is available to you.
  • Natural Openness – mental spaciousness, giving our intelligence a chance to be able to tell us what it really knows. Pause. Do nothing for a few seconds or minutes, letting your mind take in your surroundings. Becoming truly sensitive to what there is to take in, right now.

Balance, openness, inner space.  All natural. All human.

If you’re interested in knowing more about natural human traits, you might be interested in Discover Your Natural Character, a workshop facilitated by myself and Jane Mactinger this coming February.

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

What could you do if you weren’t afraid?

If you weren’t afraid of facing a possible hostile audience, of missing out, of falling on your face … if you weren’t afraid of failing at something big for you, what would that change for you – or even open up for you? Marie Forleo brought this up on her weekly blog, challenging her audience to look at what they are specifically afraid of and what they could do if that fear didn’t exist.

Fear can be our greatest ally. Fear is painful – I mean actually painful.  Not like touching a hot stove, but almost like that! It can paralyze us.  And the more afraid we are, the worse it is.  Pain tells us that we need to change something we’re doing. Without feeling pain, we’d simply keep doing what we were doing.  Diabetics know this – after a time they lose the ability to feel pain in their extremities, and can get a serious infection, oblivious to it until it’s too late to save that toe or other body part.

Fear is like pain that way – it alerts us to something we’re doing that’s not good for us, and that we need to do something about.  It might be something we need to fear, but most often it’s something we’re afraid of for emotional reasons – like being afraid to fail.  This kind of fear tells us something like: I might fail at this and all will be lost!
If this happens to you, try this next time:

  • Imagine that your worst fear comes true, and you really do fail.  Then ask yourself if it really is the end of everything, or if it’s simply a setback.  Notice how you feel when you imagine this.  For me, I have this weight falling from my heart into my stomach; I can’t talk; I feel small and hopeless.
  • Now, imagine that you do it anyway, knowing that you have a lot of people rooting for you, knowing that you have what you need to do well.  Really imagine that, and feel it fully.  For me, I feel expansive, warm, excited and interested, wanting to get going – enjoying the moment and the connection.
  • In reality, what will happen will happen! But it’s more likely to be a positive experience – even if you fail – gong into it feeling expansive and excited than small and hopeless.

The truth is that nothing worth achieving is easy, and that it will always include failing a lot first. The best thing we can do when we fail (and we will fail) is being open enough to see what might have gone wrong, make adjustments, and try again. Every time we fail in this way, we are that much closer to succeeding.

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.

If you weren’t afraid …

Quote of the Week
There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we are in love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. Evolution and all hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.
― John Lennon

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

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 Rigid Character Structure

rigid character 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, the Oral, and the Schizoid.  This week I’ll introduce you to the Rigid body and character type.

The Rigid structure is sometimes depicted as square, or rectangular: squared shoulders, straight back. Somewhat military. When I try to imagine a rigid stance, I imagine someone like General Montromery, or Spock.

The main issue with the Rigid is early control: of being exploited by (usually) one parent – often unawares – to fulfill that parent’s own needs.  The father, for instance, who insists his son follow in his footsteps, or become a doctor, or go to a particular school – regardless of the child’s wishes and needs.  The child finds that they must swallow this parent’s beliefs, whether he believes them himself. To do so, he learns to separate his own feelings from his thoughts, developing a “stiff upper lip”, calmy and effectively doing what’s needed, regardless of what he may be feeling.

The Rigid, in separating feelings from beliefs, may find himself in dry long-term relationships and passionnate short-term ones, never reconciling his emotional needs with his life goals.  He’s the person who needs different partners for sex and for love.

At their best, the Rigid person is the righteous, clear-headed thinker. Reliable. Organized. Thorough. (And the best of all character types, according to my Rigid friend.)

The primary challenge for the Rigid is to learn to recognize, and then trust, his own beliefs and feelings.

Next week, I’ll introduce the Psychopath, or Challenger 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 Schizoid Character Structure

schizoid

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 Oral Character Structure

Oral Character Structure

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.  This week I’ll introduce you to the Oral body and character type.

The Oral  structure is characterized as rounded: rounded shoulders, rounded breasts and hips. Often, an oral is generous in their proportions, but not always.  In the diagram above, you can see that the Oral body type very often holds themselves so that their chest is concave.

The main issue with the Oral is early abandonment. It might have been because they were born prematurely, or that their mother was ill, or any number of reasons; the end result is that the child felt abandoned and developed a neediness from that point onward for the connection they missed as a young infant.

Neediness isn’t something that’s encouraged in our society, so the Oral will often over-compensate for this need, they becone super independent, and the caregivers of others – giving to others what they crave from others.

At their best, the Oral person is the nurturer –  Earth Mother or Earth Father. Open-hearted and truly generous to others.  They tend to see things differently from the rest of us – a refreshing change and valuable addition to any group or team.

The primary challenge of the Oral is to learn to nurture themselves – to learn true self-dependence. When they are trudy self-dependent, any service they do for others is solely from their heart and not invested in developing dependencies form others.

Next week, I’ll introduce the Schizoid character Type.  If you find this series interesting, and want to know more, and 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 .