Are you ready to live a life without anxiety, depression, and rage? Overcoming panic attacks begins with taking a look at what our deepest fears are.
Do you suffer from the following Distortions:
1. All-or-Nothing Thinking
3. Mental Filter
4. Discounting the Positive
5. Jumping to Conclusions
6. Magnification and Minimization
7. Emotional Reasoning
8. Should Statements
10. Blaming Others
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is based on the idea that depression, anxiety, and anger result from distorted negative thoughts in the here and now. This theory explains why we feel the way we do. However, it doesn’t always explain the self-defeating thoughts we might have during a crisis or anxiety attack.
– Why are so many people vulnerable to painful mood swings, while others seem to be naturally happy and confident all of the time?
– Why are different people vulnerable to different kinds of problems? For example, some people fall apart whenever criticized, while another fly into rage if they feel threatened
– What explains the timing of episodes of depression, anxiety, and anger, or what triggers those problems in the first place.
When the brain is stuck with several of these protective motor plans running all the time because they can’t complete, our brains run slow and inefficiently, just as our computer does. In Somatic Experiencing what we do is work to resolve the incomplete motor plans and to facilitate a resilient moving of the ANS from state to state, rather than becoming fixated in one state. When these old motor plans are allowed to complete in the SE process the nervous system can return to processing the task at hand rather than burning up brain power defending against a threat that is no longer there. This is just like rebooting your computer to get it back up to speed on the task you want to work on. But the most visible and dramatic sign of being frozen in fight / flight is rapid, shallow chest breathing (hyperventilation), often accompanied by rapid heart-beat, cold, sweaty hands, and neck spasm. We need to pay special attention to the breath, firstly because it is the respiratory system is the the only major system in the body which is usually involuntory, but which can also be voluntarily controlled. We need to pay special attention to the breath secondly because it is a very powerful and centrally important system. Somewhat like the flywheel in a car engine, the breath regulates all the other autonomic systems, including brain function. As yogis have known for centuries, controlling and changing the way we breathe, can go a long way towards getting us unstuck from the debilitating effects of central nervous system overactivation
Evolution of the ANS in Mammals Let’s look at how the three Central Nervous System responses work in other mammals and see why these states have evolved. Take for instance an impala grazing on the savannah in Africa. The impala will be calm and relaxed as it grazes with other impalas in its herd. It will be alert and will be orienting to the environment around it to assess for potential danger through its senses of sight, smell, and hearing. The other impalas are doing the same, orienting to possible danger and orienting to each other for signs that they spot danger. If they see a dangerous situation they will alert the herd to it. The impala gets a jolt of adrenaline. Its nerves become activated with electric charge. Its muscles tense. Blood begins to shift from its abdominal organs and its periphery to its large muscles to prepare it for flight. The lioness is still far enough away as to not pose immediate danger so the impala continues to track the lioness with his senses. At a certain point the lioness goes away. The impala now has to deal with all of the energy that has built up in its system that is no longer needed to flee from the lioness. It does this by a rhythmic shaking in waves of muscular discharge. The flight energy is dissipated and the impala goes back to grazing. In another scenario the lioness crosses an imaginary line that is close enough for it to be a threat to the impala. The impala takes off running to escape the hungry lioness. He is now actively in fight or flight. His behavior is flight. His nervous system state is fight or flight. The charge that had built up in the impala is coming in useful at this point, this is life or death. As the lioness closes in on the impala and is just about to grab the impala in its powerful jaws something odd happens. The impala collapses and can no longer run, can no longer even move. The lioness pounces and grabs the impala in its jaws. What just happened? The impala went into freeze. In humans full-on freeze is called fainting. Technically, freeze is called the ‘dorsal vagal reflex.’ How does freeze serve the impala? To the lioness freeze looks like death. So, the lioness doesn’t have to break the impala’s neck because it already appears dead. Because the impala is paralyzed in freeze it can’t even lick its wounds, a behavior that would signal the lioness that the impala was still alive. Also, to keep the impala from screaming in pain if it sustained bites, nature assured that in freeze the impala is disconnected from pain by causing dissociation in the brain. With a heavy shot of endorphins, those heroin like chemicals in the brain, and some rewiring of the brains switchboard, the brain literally disconnects the sensory centers from the feeling centers and the rest of the brain.
I speak about this phenomenon from experience currently practicing grief work with my clients. I