Counseling for Anxiety
Human beings are designed for survival. Our brains and bodies have thousands of years of training to avoid pain and reach for pleasure. While this is important to the survival of our species, modern experiences of stress can be perceived as threats to our survival, creating a negative feedback loop of avoidance. Over time, avoiding things that cause us anxiety can begin to narrow life down to only those things perceived as “safe,” while simultaneously increasing the number of experiences perceived as “unsafe.”
Healthy awareness of safety is useful, and can keep us from stepping into traffic, touching a hot stove, or walking into an unsafe social situation. When anxiety veers into unhealthy territory, the mind can respond to many kinds of pain as if they are inherently dangerous. For example, being hurt in relationship might understandably cause someone to avoid dating. While this is very useful short term, long term it means a loss of potential connection and intimacy. The mind can latch on to pain (including anxiety itself) as “bad” and drive people not only away from pain, but also from a full and meaningful life. There are many ways that this can play out for people, but I like the acronym “DOTS” to describe ways that many of us can respond to anxiety and pain: Distract, Opt Out, Thinking (Ruminating), and Substances/ Other Strategies.
If you notice you are doing these things to calm your anxiety, you are aware that they definitely do work! At least, they work until they don’t, and then they actually make both the initial pain and the anxiety WORSE. Darn it!
I see anxiety as a notice from the psyche that you are feeling something, and that feeling (even if it’s painful) might actually be pointing towards what you need. Pain is instructive, informative, and ultimately can lead you back to integrity within yourself.
I help people re-orient to pain and anxiety and take back their capacity to do the things that make like worth living. This is a liberating, transformative process of fully accepting yourself, and approaching your pain with kindness. If we can have access to all of ourselves, we have incredible power to make choices and take actions that are aligned with our deepest values. We can live in congruence with a deep wisdom, which allows for the possibility of true peace of mind. I would love to help you find this inner freedom. Give me a call and let’s talk about how I can support you in reclaiming yourself and your life from the anxiety dictator within.