Category Archives: Fear

Dealing with anxiety

DSCF1098aOne of the most common complaints that bring people to therapy is anxiety. Anxiety is something familiar to all of us. Part and parcel of our human condition it peppers our existence and we develop strategies and learn how cope with anxiety on the daily basis. However, sometimes anxiety can become so intense or so frequent that it severely undermines one’s life.

In order to learn how to deal with anxiety it is important to understand its nature and the role it plays in our life. In this blog article I am going to look at the various facets of anxiety and discuss its underlying neurological and emotional mechanisms, root causes as well as possible treatments.

Anxiety symptoms

What are the signs that you may be suffering from anxiety? There are a number of symptoms, emotional as well as physical, that can help you gain a better understanding of what is happening.

Emotional symptoms include feeling fearful or panicky in certain situations. You may be constantly worrying that something may go wrong. You may be nervous and uneasy about social situations. Sometimes people have difficulty in concentrating or struggle to express themselves in an articulate way. Mood changes, sudden irritability, feeling overwhelmed or feeling that you are out of control are also common.

Physical symptoms may include shortness of breath, heart palpitations, stomach ache, nausea and sickness, headaches and migraines, dizziness, cold sweat, sleep disturbances with difficulty in falling or staying asleep as well as blushing, stammering or nervous coughing.

Anxiety… is your friend!

Anxiety is an uncomfortable psycho-physical state and our instinctual desire is to get rid of it. However, surprising as this may sound, anxiety is not your enemy. Quite on the contrary, the ‘function’ of anxiety is to protect us, to help us keep safe. The feelings of anxiety arise as a result of neurological processes in our brain that responds to perceived danger and issues warning signals. These signals, which we experience as anxiety, make us alert to the possible risks and indicate that we need to be prepared to meet them.

How then does it happen that the same situation may trigger only mild or no anxiety in some people and be absolutely overwhelming for others?

The answer to this question once again belongs to the field of neurology. It turns out that our brain, sophisticated as it is, cannot distinguish between the ‘real’ and the ‘imaginary’ danger. Neither can it always estimate correctly the scope of the perceived danger. It bases its evaluation on our previous experiences.

Notice what situations trigger anxiety in you and ask yourself what you are afraid of. Are you afraid of being laughed at or criticized? Are you afraid of being physically hurt? Or perhaps you are afraid of failure and the ensuing feelings of shame and worthlessness? Whatever feelings come up, the chances are that you have already experienced them sometime in the past in a situation that bears certain resemblance to the current one. In that case, anxiety draws your attention to some emotional wounds that you may be carrying within you and that need healing.

Fear of not being able to cope

Anxiety is usually defined as the ‘fear of the unknown.’ This is true insofar as the ‘unknown’ triggers the feelings of anxiety, suggesting that there might be potential risks if we go in that direction. Very often though what we are really afraid of are not the challenges as such, but that we won’t be able to cope with them or the possible ‘negative’ outcome.

For example, if you are afraid of failing an exam or a job interview, your anxiety is not about the actual failure, but about emotions that this failure may evoke in you. Similarly, if you worry about losing your job, a great deal of your worry is about not being able to deal with the possible situation of financial hardship and the stress of finding another job.

Feelings of anxiety about doing routine things or things that are slightly out of your comfort zone may indicate that you are simply too tired and need to take a break to re-charge your batteries.

As I wrote above, it is very often the case that anxiety is rooted deep in our past experiences, which underlie our current experiences and intensify our emotional response to them. How can you tell whether this is so? If your anxiety appears to be disproportionate in relation to a particular situation chances are that there is something more to it, and in order to alleviate it you need to look at the root cause.

Helping your inner child

Psychological resilience, and trust in your ability to deal with whatever challenges life may throw at you, is the basis for coping effectively with anxiety. We develop this resilience throughout our life, but a foundation for it is created during our childhood. If your needs as a child haven’t been adequately met, if you didn’t feel safe or had to carry too heavy emotional burdens it is likely that you may be more affected by anxiety as an adult.

One of my clients used to suffer from acute anxiety when going more than 10 minutes away from home. When we explored the sensations she was having in her body they led us back to her early childhood. When she was growing up her parents were very busy at work and often left her as young as the age of 6 alone at home to take care of her younger siblings, including a baby. She remembered sitting petrified near telephone anxious whether she would be able to reach her parents and get help quick enough if something happened. A part of her, overburdened early on with too much responsibility, never properly matured, and faced with the challenges of adult life would fly into panic.

It is important to be compassionate and patient with these child-like parts deep within us and help them grow and gain confidence. For this task we need to engage our adult parts that are equipped with knowledge and life experiences. When we perceive our inner children panicking we can gently talk to them, reassuring him or her that they are not alone and will be given the right support and care.

How to deal with anxiety

The first step in dealing with anxiety is becoming more aware of what is going on for you in your mind and in your body, learning to recognize the triggers and pre-conditions (e.g. tiredness). If anxiety is persistent and intense, and stops you from enjoying your life and doing things that you want to do, I would encourage you to seek professional help.

Counselling and psychotherapy in combination with some form of body-mind therapy will help you to understand the root causes of your anxiety and release it from your system. In my practice I work a lot with Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT tapping) and find it very effective for healing past traumas and ‘rewiring’ your brain. EFT is also a great self-help tool for coping with anxiety as you can apply it ‘on the go’ to bring the anxiety levels down immediately.

I see people face to face at my practice in Cambridge and also work online via Skype. You are very welcome to book a session if you would like to try my approach and see whether it can help you become free from your anxieties.

 

 

Can therapy really help to change your life? For anyone out there who is suffering and feeling hopeless

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In my previous blog I spoke about our deep-seated fear of change. Change, in many ways, is akin to dying since it entails ‘dying’ to our old beliefs, our old ideas and ways of being. But change is also about rebirth. Just as in fairy-tales and myths, where frightening monsters are faced and conquered, the descent into our own underworld equips us with the special powers, skills and knowledge needed to make changes in our everyday life.

Most people who decide to try counselling and psychotherapy (or EFT and other forms of therapy) express their doubts as to whether this would work for them. These doubts and scepticism are very natural, normal and healthy. Indeed, how would you know if therapy can really help to change your life? If you have been struggling with depression, anxiety, lack of confidence and relationship issues for a long time it may be difficult to imagine (even if this is what you want) how they can metamorphose into joy, contentment and fulfilment.

Embarking on a therapy journey does require a leap of faith and commitment. It is similar to growing a flower: it takes time, nurturing care, and patience for the seeds that you’ve planted in the earth to bring forth their shoots and eventually blossom. This growing process is subtle and changes can be almost imperceptible until they become visible.

Therapy is not an exact science. Its effectiveness is evidence-based, and from there you can take your faith: if it worked for other people it may work for you. Below I share a ‘real-life’ story told by a client of mine, a young professional woman, with whom I have worked for over two years. It just shows how much things can change, how one’s life can heal and unfold in wonderful ways. I hope you find it as encouraging and inspirational as I do.

For anyone else out there who is suffering and feels hopeless…

My journey in self discovery and healing started almost four years ago when I felt I had reached rock bottom and had almost become unable to do the most simplest of tasks let alone run a business or deal with the family and relationship issues that I was faced with.

I had trapped myself in such negative situations, thought processes and beliefs after suffering great losses, hurt and betrayal, that it felt like I was in a prison I’d never be able to escape from. I was no longer able to trust in the world and people, and had lost considerable hope and belief in myself. I couldn’t see a solution, yet was continually trying so many things to ‘improve myself’. My physical and mental health had become so weak and fragile I felt it would be next to impossible to feel ‘normal’ again and have ‘normal’ friendships and be able to cope with the challenges of life and a demanding career.

This is where I turned to therapy as my last resort. After an incredibly challenging year of conventional counselling I sought out Ludmila because I have heard that EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) was very efficient in helping people recover from trauma.  I will admit it took a tremendous amount of effort, dedication and perseverance on both my and Ludmila’s part but, as with most things in life, the hard work eventually started to pay off and I slowly began to heal from my mental anguish, fear and trauma. And little by little, small, almost imperceptible changes have lead to several major breakthroughs in my life, which I can only fully appreciate now, looking back to where I started…

The biggest breakthrough but also challenge was accepting and forgiving my mother. It was very painful to acknowledge through therapy that my mother was actually a very damaged person. She loved her children very much but was, unfortunately, unable to give us nurturing care because of her own traumatic childhood experiences.

I was always so conflicted about my mother… On the one hand, I knew she loved me and my brother, and she tried her best encouraging our education and cultural development, acquainting us with film, art and performance, ensuring that we got to a good school and later supporting financially my university studies… After the divorce from my father she has been on her own and also juggling a full time job. I appreciate all that very much and I don’t want to wrong her and do her injustice by focusing on the negative things, and yet sometimes it was more than often unbearable growing up with her.

I was living in constant fear that she would blow any second at the smallest thing and scream and shout at me. I became an emotional punch-bag for her unresolved pain which had effectively formed into a severe mental illness. This manifested in constant criticism and resentment towards me, as well as extreme negativity and distrust of life and most of the people she knew or met. Constant mental instability, switching from a seemingly rational and wonderful person to a completely irrational, made her very frightening.

Growing up I was unable to fully understand this, I just tried to keep safe within the emotional war-zone my brother and I lived in by forming effective coping mechanisms. These coping mechanisms consisted of continually ensuring my mother’s needs were met, however irrational or unfair they were. I placed them before my own in order to keep the peace and try to manage her behaviour as much as possible. I effectively looked after her emotionally in exchange for a home, food and education.  I was unaware at the time that this was abnormal, that I was just surviving and not really coping at all…

It only started to become apparent for me years later when all the trauma of those years and subsequent experiences just became too much to bear. Those learnt coping mechanisms no longer protected me, instead they became undermining. I had been living a life driven by the need to please others and putting others’ needs before my own to severe detrimental effect. I didn’t know how to enforce healthy boundaries and was almost unaware of my own feelings and needs, allowing myself to be exploited and never feeling happy or fulfilled.

Acknowledging and confronting this was painful, but also empowering. It has been essential in re-establishing a new healthier relationship with my mother and other demanding characters in my life. Coming to terms with the fact that I am not the cause of their mental anguish, and that it is not something that I am able to resolve for them, was very healing.

I learned to assert my newly-found boundaries and realized that it could be done in a non-aggressive manner. The wonderful outcome has been that my mother and other similar characters in my life now treat me with more respect and no longer seem to unleash their demons on me as much. Or – more importantly – if they do, I no longer feel responsible for their irrational behaviour.

It was very difficult for my mum initially but over time she has adjusted and it has actually brought us closer together although, sadly, we will never be really close and I will always remain on guard in order to protect myself. Nonetheless are relationship is healthier than it has been since I was a teenager, which has benefited every aspect of my life.

I came to forgive my first love for his betrayal and abandonment. Hard as it was, I came to terms with the devastating illness of my father. I also succeeded in reconnecting and repairing my relationship with my partner and learned to stand up to bullies in my professional life.  Even though it seemed almost impossible to achieve, I managed to overcome my huge fears of exam failure, shame, ridicule, exposure and guilt in order to complete my education and become a fully qualified professional in my field.

But, most importantly, I came to forgive myself for all the criticism I constantly gave myself, for not being good enough, smart enough, pretty enough, successful enough, cool enough… the list goes on… I began to acknowledge that I am not a bad person but am worthy of love and goodness in my life.

Looking back at my life four years ago, I have come such a long way, and it’s sometimes incredible to believe the changes I have made in both my personal and professional life. I don’t believe I would have made it without Ludmila’s help, for which I am so grateful. Her strength, conviction and dedication, her compassion, encouragement and faith in me have been truly transformational.

I haven’t by any means come to the end of my journey, but I am now on the right path and feel able to trust in life again and feel secure acknowledging and accepting my hurt and emotions. For anyone else out there who is suffering and feels hopeless, as painful and difficult as it might be, try not to give up on therapy. It can sometimes feel impossible to ever recover from great trauma and despair, but I truly believe we are all capable of healing and great change with hope, dedication and perseverance – together with a therapist you trust.

Emotional awareness

How much our life is influenced by our emotions?

Have you noticed the difference in the way you interact with your friends, family, colleagues when you are in a good mood and in a bad mood? Have you ever caught yourself postponing for days or even months making that important phone call or writing a letter for the fear of a negative response? And probably all of us have experienced how a seemingly insignificant little thing – a sudden minor disruption of our plans – can cause a bright day go grey.

Run a simple experiment. Sit quietly, take a few gentle breaths, in and out, and think of something you would really like to achieve. Now imagine a kind wizard, wrapped in an invisible cloak coming up to you and revealing to you that this thing will actually come true, just do what you have to do. Notice how you feel (inspired? motivated?) and how your body feels (tingling? energized?). And now imagine that a sad fairy comes and says that, no matter how much you try, there is a very little chance of success. Notice the change in your mood and in your physical state.

Emotions, implicitly, shape our life to a great extant. They colour the tone of our voice, impact our actions and, in general, affect our sense of wellbeing. They arise spontaneously, powered by our subconscious mind, and it may seem that we can do little to control them. This is, however, a wrong assumption! There is much that we can do to understand our emotions, befriend them and master them. By achieving that we gain the power to shape our lives consciously, to become the pilots rather than the jets run by auto-pilot.

The first step towards this goal would be developing a greater awareness of emotions that we experience day-to-day. As it happens, very often we do not recognize what emotional states we are in (angry, anxious, overwhelmed, etc.). Becoming mindful of our emotions simply by learning to witness them in a friendly, non-judgmental way prepares our brain to the second step when we are able to ask the question “Do I want to experience this emotion or not?” This is a stage when we are able to make a choice, which would be the next step. Yes, we can actually choose what emotions we experience! We can consciously decide not to immerse ourselves in an emotion that puts us into a negative frame of mind, and opt instead for a positive emotion that invigorates mind and body and creates a sense of well-being.

I have created a simple template-calendar that can help you to monitor your emotions on a weekly basis. You can download it from my website: http://www.soultap.co.uk/downloads.

The calendar is in a Word format, and you can easily re-tailor it for your individual needs (if you need help please feel free to contact me.) All you need to do is at the end of the day (or throughout the day) put a tick (or several ticks) next to the emotions that you have experienced. If you wish, you could add a very brief note about the trigger of the emotion as well as its intensity. After a couple of weeks of this practice you will have a pretty clear idea of your prevalent emotions and their habitual triggers.

The most important condition is NOT TO BE JUDGEMENTAL. We tend to beat ourselves up for experiencing “bad” emotions, and this is a biggest trap and impediment in achieving the mastery over our emotions. So, just take it as a game. At this level of the game you score points not for succeeding in changing your emotional responses, but simply for noticing them, witnessing them non-judgementally.

Enjoy! Stay open-minded and prepare to be surprised!

And if you have questions or need support please write to me at connect@Soultap.co.uk or leave your comments to this blog.

Warm wishes,

Ludmila Gin

Science behind EFT

More and more people today have heard of “this weird tapping thing” that for some reason works. Another name for tapping is EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). Its forerunner – TFT (Thought Field Therapy) – has been developed by American psychotherapist Roger Callahan at the end of the 70s. Both forms of tapping therapies have been recognized for achieving amazing results where various conventional means have failed. In the States EFT has been used successfully in restoring to life war veterans suffering from severe Post-traumatic Stress Disorder:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQerP14LgP0.

In Rwanda EFT is being engaged to bring healing and hope to orphaned young people who still bear horrific scars of the genocide of 1994:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ymp4vbK8O0g.

On a day-to-day basis, EFT is being used with great success both in therapy and in home settings to help people achieve relief from a wide range of uncomfortable emotions and conditions, including

–          Fear

–          Anger

–          Stress

–          Anxiety

–          Depression

–          Food cravings

–          Childhood trauma

But how exactly does EFT work? Why does the simple act of tapping with your fingers on some acupressure points produce such a shift?

Recent scientific studies have begun to throw light on this mystery. It appears that tapping has a calming effect on the amygdala – a “fear centre” in our brain responsible for the “fight or flight” response. The amygdala gets activated in response to the perceived danger, either real or imaginary. By the prompt from the amygdala, adrenaline and cortisol are released to prepare our body for action (i.e. to fight or to run). The aroused amygdala, in interaction with hippocampus, also facilitates the deeper engraining of the learned information (both emotional and intellectual) in our brain and in our body. Thus, for example, if a person has been in a road accident, the experienced emotion of fear gets recorded in the body and this person may experience anxiety every time she/he has to travel by car.

So how does EFT help?

When doing tapping one has to tune in to an uncomfortable emotion or state that one suffers from. When we do that the amygdala gets reactivated. However, the subsequent series of tapping on acupressure points actually calms the amygdala and thus “persuades” the body that nothing wrong is happening right now, so that it can stop producing stress hormones. In this way the body “unlearns” the trauma and returns to functioning in a more relaxed and optimal mode. Tapping has also been shown to increase the production of endorphins and assist in overcoming chocolate and other ‘comfort-food’ cravings.

For more information about scientific research on EFT you can read an article by David Feinstein:

http://www.eftuniverse.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=10571&Itemid=21

To tap on your own, you can download a simple one-page tapping guide from my website: www.Soultap.co.uk.

There is also free manual available on Eftuniverse.com. And if you would like a brief individual consultation you are welcome to book a free meeting with me at Jade Healing Centre.

Happy tapping!

Ludmila Gin

 

 

Tapping on fear

I have heard from my spiritual teachers that there are only two states of being: love and fear. When we are in the state of love, there is no place for fear. In the same way as when we switch on the light in the dark room – it expels the darkness. It may sound like an abstract concept, but when we become conscious of it and start paying attention to the way we behave and feel, then we begin to notice that this is true. Presumably, only truly enlightened people can live constantly in the state of love. But we all can experience it at moments – in our daily life. And we can work to make these moments last longer.

There is also a theory that what we are actually afraid of is our hidden powers. Quoting Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a Child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
(A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles,” Harper Collins, 1992. From Chapter 7, Section 3.)

There are various techniques and approaches to dealing with fear. In her book Feel The Fear and Do it Anyway, Susan Jeffers urges us to tackle the fear by facing it and doing the very thing that frightens us. It really works, because when we just imagine the thing, our fear puffs it up into a bloated monster, and augments it beyond all proportion. Once we move to action and our attention shifts to practicalities the monster deflates and the thing that we were so afraid of turns out to be well within our limits and abilities.

What happens sometimes, however, is that our fear may be so big that it prevents us from going into action, paralyses us. Here EFT proves invaluable. If the fear is very big you can start by tapping on it without going into details – to take off the edge. After that you can get more specific. From my experience, even a few rounds of daily tapping can create a significant difference. Safety, of course, comes first, and if your fear is too great so that there might be a risk that you feel overwhelmed, it is better to work with a therapist.