24 Apr 2017
Good Morning, Robin,
I don’t know if I’m being impatient but I was hoping to be feeling a lot better by now – I’ve adopted a new approach to anxiety and I’m doing everything I should be doing in order to eliminate this anxiety – but I’m feeling worse, especially in the mornings. People I have read about who do adopt a new approach to anxiety say that once they start doing this, they begin to see improvements. Well, I’m not and I’m scared as to why it’s not working for me.
The mornings are becoming almost unbearable. The minute I wake up, scary frightening thoughts are tormenting me BEFORE my eyes are open. Don’t get me wrong, I have had some eureka moments like yesterday, I felt dreadful, in a trance, mind in a fog, not sure who,what,where I was, but I relaxed, carried on gardening and I actually could feel the anxiety leaving me. It was wonderful and I felt a deep excitement and was happy I had found the “power.
However, this morning, BANG, it’s back – scary thoughts and churning stomach. I’m ashamed to admit I just thought “should I end it all!” Sorry, Robin, I know I shouldn’t think like that. Did you ever struggle in a morning? Did you ever have thoughts of ending it all? I know I won’t because I am scared of dying!!!
I know you have told me to expect to have to repeat new behaviours many, many times, but why? Why is the new attitude not working quicker for me? I’m so worried I’ll be like this forever, Robin and it is so opposite to the “real” me. Before all this, the slightest little thing would make me burst with happiness. Now, no matter what I try to do or think, it doesn’t make me feel happy.
My question is, PLEASE can you give me any encouragement, advice as to how I can cope with the horror of my thoughts and feelings first thing in a morning. Usually by late afternoon, I’m beginning to feel more comfortable and then I’m always hopeful I’m getting better but then, come the following morning, it’s all gone.
Sorry for sounding so miserable. I don’t mean to. I want to be able to write to you and say I’m cured because you are THE ONLY person who has spoken with such sense and clarity to me and understood me. Thank you, Robin. Thank you.
The answer is so obvious we miss it
You will be free of anxiety when you lose your fear OF it
So it’s like an equation
amount of fear OF the fear = the length of time you experience recurrences OF the fear
If you read your own words you can see that you are ‘desperate’ to get rid of the thoughts and sensations
you say you had found the ‘power’ when you had a good morning – even this shows that you are thinking there is some ‘entity’ that you have to find ‘power’ over to eliminate
You are most likely EXPECTING to wake up with scary thoughts – so you do wake up with scary thoughts
Its what you DO about that that counts
Your words also clearly show that you are ‘desperately’ hoping that this practice will take ‘it’ all away – SOON
It was only a few days ago that I told you that this can happen thousands of times – but you are saying again that ‘its not working for you’
when you say ‘it’s not ‘working’ what you mean is ‘its not getting rid of the damned anxiety!!’
can you see that that is the attitude that CREATES the anxiety in the first place?
and dont worry – we ALL do that – its natural
You ask ‘why’ do you have to repeat the new behaviours many times?
because you just do – thats the way it is – accept that
The whole point is you have been unwittingly creating your own anxiety – by adding extreme fear, by resisting, by fighting, by desperately wanting ‘it’ all to ‘go away’ – you have simply been sending more fear signals to the body
and you have been doing this for so long now you have developed quite a habit and quite a fear
That just doesn’t change overnight
and you say you read where other people feel better quickly – some people have anxiety for a week – some a month – some a year – it’s all down to how long – how extreme
I am telling you that EVERY SINGLE CLIENT I have helped took a LONG time – but they eventually worked it out – and they said ALL the things you are saying – word for word
When you wake up with the frightening thoughts
Your level of fear OF the thoughts shows the level of understanding that the thoughts are just generated by anxiety and cant harm you and that the more you see that the less they will arise
so – just accept that your level of understanding is still very shaky – one one hand you DO understand – but on the other hand the fear takes over and you end up reacting with extreme anxiety which feeds the cycle
I know how hard this is – it took me 5 YEARS before I really made any progress once I knew what to do
You just need to go over it all again
and like the majority of people I help I would guess that you dont keep panic diaries or thought records or do planned behavioural experiments or planned exposure
So you have to accept that if you are not doing all that then you are holding up your own progress
You need to be serious about investigating this scientifically – rather than just expecting it to ‘go away’ after reading some of my emails
You ARE doing well – as well as anyone else I have helped – but you need to figure out how you are subtly adding more fear and how you are subtly resisting by wanting ‘it’ to ‘go away’
and SO many other subtle ways that you try to AVOID allowing the TOTAL fearful thoughts and sensations to exist in their FULLNESS – for as LONG as they want – like they were just indigestion
You need to ‘see’ in your head that you DO still have a TON of fear about these thoughts and sensations – and since you now know that added fear creates more fight or flight then it is obvious why you are still so caught up. You sound like you are really surprised that you aren’t ‘cured’ – but why are you surprised
•••when you LOSE the fear or the thoughts or sensations THEN they will stop arising•••
Can you say you have lost the fear yet?
then thats why you are still suffering
so your job is to figure out how to lose the fear WHILE the thoughts and sensations are there
Your mind thinks you will lose the fear when the thoughts and sensations are GONE – that sounds logical
but with anxiety it doesnt work that way
There IS NO separate anxiety
we create it ourselves through our reactions
Forget about WHY and WHEN and WHY ME and all that
that makes it go on longer
get back to the practice – go over the books and DO the worksheets – DO the experiments
every time you wait until the fear arises before you work on it – thats what I did and that why it took me so long
Modern CBT teaches you to BRING IT ON deliberately so you can practice with it
this really is AMAZING acceptance – to DARE to bring it on
The problem is you are always trying to hide from ‘it’ – looking over your shoulder to see if your ‘practice’ has made ‘it’ go away – hoping that you will wake up free of the thoughts – then being 1000% exasperated when the darned thoughts are STILL there!!!!
That is just a cycle and it will keep going round and round and round
You are at a VERY VERY VERY early stage in your understanding – trust me – you have more work to do – accept that – thats just how it is – you are no different than anyone else – and EVERYONE wants ‘it’ to be over RIGHT AWAY – of course we do – thats understandable
but it just doesnt work that way – so tell your self that you just have to ACCEPT that and EVERY time the fear arises you TRY your best to catch it and practice with it as soon as you can
and if you dont thats ok too – just do it as soon as you can
One practice you can definitely do is this
When you go to bed – tell yourself that when you wake up you expect to have the thoughts but you are going to try to ‘step back’ INSTANTLY and allow them to be as they are
You expect that this wont be easy but it is now your practice
so – you wake up – subconsciously your mind wonders if you are ‘thinking the thoughts’
so of course BECAUSE of that the thoughts arise
Usually this freaks you out and you react with frustration, fear, anger, confusion, desperation, questions and so on
But from now on you are going to JUMP on the process like a cat jumping on a mouse
BEFORE the whole thing spirals
You JUMP in
see that there are thoughts – yes – not nice – horrible
there is YOU watching the thoughts
step back and OBSERVE
and allow the thoughts to swirl around
then listen to sounds – take in the room
Imagine you were at the cinema and you had fallen asleep during a horror movie and just woke up when the most scary scene was playing – immediately you would be terrified
and if you stayed with that you may freak out
But if you LOOKED around and LISTENED to people next to you you would realise you were SAFE in a cinema
and the scary movie is STILL playing but you aren’t focussing all your attention ON IT
and you would drift in and out of being scared of the movie and feeling ok because you are actually in a cinema
Its just the same – your thoughts are just a scary movie in your head – for NO reason other than random anxiety – tired thoughts in a tired mind
You have given them ‘importance’ – that they dont deserve
and you have forgotten that YOU are there watching
You think YOU are the THOUGHTS (YOU are the MOVIE)
its not true
try that from now on
and get used to the fact that this WILL take MUCH more time
24 Apr 2017
Thank you, Robin. I do try NOT to contact you. Two reasons, 1 because I know how really busy you must be and I don’t like to think of myself as being a nuisance to you and 2 because I know that I am fuelling my own anxiety by seeking reassurance. Having said that, as always, you guide me into getting everything back in its right perspective but is it so wrong to have a spoonful of reassurance now and again? (I will try not to do it regularly though.)
We have never met yet you “know me” so well. You are correct in saying I still harbour a great deal of fear. I do. I just haven’t quite learnt to take that leap of faith. And just you being able to see that in me gives me confidence in realising that I am simply treading a well-worn path walked by so many before me and instead of sprinting down that path to get to the safety of the end, I realise I need to stroll it at my leisure and take in the view as I go.
I’m sorry for being impatient, Robin. I’ve had this anxiety for 2.5 years and, to me, “it should have gone by now”, especially as the original reason anxiety happened in the first place has been resolved. I know I am a fighter – without going into details, I have had to be at certain times in my life but that’s been a good thing because it made me into the person I am (or was before this anxiety).
To stop fighting goes against everything I know! But you have taught me so much, and you have shown me a new set of rules which I need to get into the habit of implementing. And I will. I promise. I am truly so grateful for your help, guidance and patience with me. I can ‘t begin to thank you enough for the kindness and UNDERSTANDING you have extended towards me in order to get me to change for the better.
Bless you and thank you so much. Thank you for replying.
Seeking reassurance can be the marker for where you are at with your practice
I dont mind you asking for reassurance as long as I can see that you are missing something that I can help with
As with most people I help you probably could be doing more with regards serious ‘planned’ practice – worksheets / thought records / planned exposure / etc
so how about this – if it seems like you are asking for reassurance too often how about we set you some ‘homework’ which might force you into taking this to the next level. If we were face to face I would be checking this and we wouldn’t be moving on until you actually do the homework
Go through the workbooks again and read over all the worksheets and find which are relevant to you (also read the Obsessional Thoughts workbook)
Have you done any daily worksheets?
Have you done any thought records?
Have you done any restructured thoughts?
Have you made any Flashcards for when you feel overwhelmed?
Have you done any ‘Interoceptive Exposure’
Have you done any ‘planned exposure’ on thoughts or sensations
Have you tried any Behavioural Experiments like deliberately repeating thoughts or recording them and listening to them
Have you experimented with deliberately going ‘towards’ the thoughts as part of a planned exposure?
All the above is ESSENTIAL
so your answers to the above will give you a clue as to where you are with your recovery
If you HAVEN’T done any of the above – don’t beat yourself up – most people dont do all this until they are forced to
But at least be honest with yourself and realise that your recovery is down to YOU at the end of the day and if you aren’t taking your ‘medicine’ (all the above) then dont be surprised if you still feel stuck
But also keep in mind that not doing any of this won’t make you any worse. You are NEVER in any actual danger anyway!
But you may just be stuck with the fear until you do all these things