"There's something wrong with the world" - Dealing with runaway anxiety
How many readers of this page have had the feeling of runaway anxiety at some time or another? It feels as if "something is wrong with the world," but you just can't put your finger on it? You couldn't point to a particular thing and say, "that's the problem." But deep within your mind, alarm bells are going off. It feels like the sword of Damocles is hanging over you by a thread, ready to fall at any instant.
Recently, I saw a great discussion of this on the Channel 4 (WCCO TV) news. They described what it feels like, and what it's like to live with feelings of anxiety. They gave some good ways to deal with that oppressing feeling of alarm and fear that never seems to go away.
In this case, they portrayed the wife of a major sports figure. She described how she had had a sudden increase in stress, fear and panic in the last few years. For her, it began shortly after their children were born and got progressively worse. In the broadcast, she described how at one point, she couldn't be alone and needed a relative to stay with her to help keep the fear at bay. In her blog, she describes what it feels like. In part two of her article, she discusses how to come to terms with the ever-present anxiety.
What is going on? What is at the core of anxiety and how can a person come to terms with it? Runaway fear seems to be a reaction to a sudden increase in life stress. Frequently, it seems to occur when something in life changes, responsibilities increase or some other factor generates long-term stress in life. The result is that the alarm bells are triggered frequently - so frequently that the mind gets used to feeling alarmed, as if this were the normal state of life.
The mind under potential stress could be likened to a battleship at sea. Under normal circumstances, with no enemy in sight, there is no reason to be immediately alarmed. Normal common-sense precautions and a regular watch should suffice to keep the ship safe. When the radar detects the enemy, suddenly the alarm sounds "ALL HANDS TO BATTLE STATIONS." Cannons and missiles are readied to fight the enemy until the threat passes. Damage control is prepared in case the ship takes a hit. Then, once the threat passes, routine life is able to resume.
But often the mind can become overly sensitive. In the battleship analogy, perhaps the sea seems to be full of enemy ships and planes. Perhaps the radar is overly sensitive or misidentifies non-hostile craft as enemies. There are many possible ways for the alarm to sound prematurely, but the result is similar. The crew goes to battle stations frequently - too frequently.
In the same way, if a person's mind becomes overly sensitive to potential threats the same feeling battle-readiness can result. As if threats were everywhere, a person can feel fearful, ready for fight-or-flight far more frequently than their world requires. The fear is not real, the danger is not real, but the response is very real.
How can one deal with this oppressive, overhanging cloud of fear? How can one improve their quality of life, realistically dealing with life in a safe, loving, secure way. How can we get rid of that sword of Damocles and live normal lives free of the runaway fear?
The WCCO broadcast did a good job of treating the topic compassionately, usefully and informatively. They looked at ways to keep the fear at bay. In this case, she dealt with it by regular exercise such as running, by using medications, and by going to therapy. All of these work together, and all can be very effective. If you have a condition like this, please know you are not alone, and that it is OK to get help.
Several clients I have worked with have had issues similar to the one described on the WCCO broadcast. In each case, I found that the cause was relatively easy to find using hypnotherapy, and we were able to achieve excellent results. Today, these same people are able to live normal lives largely clear of the excessive fear they felt every day.
I will use the example of a typical fear-management client, whom I will refer to as "Jim". Jim was referred to me by his counselor for help using hypnotherapy. He had the same issue as described in the WCCO broadcast, ever-present fear that something was wrong - non-specific but with him constantly. Using hypnosis, we were able to take Jim into a relaxed state, bring up feelings of safety and then give him post-hypnotic suggestions that he could feel this safety at other times of normal life.
In addition, through hypnotherapy, we were able to find the thought patterns based upon memories from his early childhood that contributed to his fears. At that early time in life, something scary had apparently happened. Now, events in his recent life had reawakened this part of his mind, bringing these fears back into play. Although they were based on old-childhood events, the emotions from his subconscious were now incorrectly focused on the present day resulting in excessive fear and anxiety.
In hypnosis, we were able to return to the source of the childhood fears within his subconscious mind - as if a little child lived at the core of his consciousness. We were then able to bring adult awareness and present life feelings of safety and security back to that childhood element, reminding it of how it was - and is today - safe and loved.
The result was life-changing. Jim now lives a normal life, free of the disproportionate fear he felt before. Now he can go about his day with the quality of life each person deserves. Like a heavy weight off his shoulders, he is now free of the burden of fear.
My heart goes out to the woman featured in the WCCO documentary. And if there is any way for a person with her condition to find help through hypnosis, I would encourage him/her to check it out. In conjunction with her other physical and mental health providers, hypnotherapy can provide an excellent way to find and resolve the core issue - feeling like there is "something wrong with the world.
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