Thinking Yourself out of Anxiety

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In responding to anxiety, there are three primary mindsets people utilize, and these are objective based, morality based and primal based mindsets. These mindsets have a lot to do with the role anxiety plays in our lives. For example, you are more likely to experience feelings of anxiety when interpreting a situation from a mindset of primal or moral reasoning, than if you interpreted the same situation from a mindset of objective reasoning.

Take for example, you are going in for a job interview, it is not uncommon for you to experience some measure of anxiety before the job interview. But what if your level of anxiety is coming from a mindset of reasoning you should not be using to interpret the upcoming interview? Your level of anxiety would be very high if you were evaluating how the interview would go from a primal mindset. This is because the primal mindset is concerned with getting your fundamental needs met, in short, survival. From this mindset, you would be most concerned with your need for money, in order acquire or maintain your access to food, water, shelter and security. You are most likely to experience high anxiety from this mindset because primal reasoning is often activated by thoughts of scarcity. So, questions like, “what if they say no”, or “what if they say they are going to call me back and they don’t”, would be most predominant in your mind.

The next type of thinking that brings about anxiety, but usually at moderate levels are moral based reasoning. With this mindset, depending on the values you learned in your formative years, you may be concerned with your level of competency for the job or at an extreme end, the level of status the job may communicate to others. Typically, these values are merged to varying degrees. So, if you were concerned with competency, you would be most likely concerned with whether you have the right skill sets to perform the job, and if you can adequately communicate this to the interviewers.  If you are primarily concerned with the status associated with the job, you would most likely be concerned about how likable you come across to the interviewers.

But, what if you approached your concerns about the job interview from an objective based mindset. An objective based mindset is one of neutrality. Nothing personal is taken and none is given, instead the person simply observes and accepts his or her reality for what it is. This means that if you were to adopt an objective based mindset in preparing for your job interview, you would become prepared to accept whatever the outcome of the interview maybe. So, if you are not accepted for the job, regardless of whether it was for lack of qualification relative to other interviewees or likability issues, a decision of “no” would simply mean that you are not a good fit for that work environment. From an objective mindset this would be a good thing, as you would conclude that it is evitable that you will find a job where your services are valued, and where you would fit in well.

It takes significant practice to adopt a mindset of objectivity in assessing anxiety provoking situations. However, what makes this mindset both effective and powerful is the inevitable conclusion that there exists a preferred if not ideal situation waiting for you to experience. What keeps sufferers of anxiety trapped in fear-based thinking is a difficulty to objectively assess situations and visualize what works for them.

Ugo is a psychotherapist with Road 2 Resolutions PLLC.

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Dealing with Stress and Anxiety

Feelings of stress and anxiety are predominantly influenced by the bio chemicals adrenaline and norepinephrine. The chemicals come into the play during situations the brain perceives as dangerous, activating a fight or flight response. The problem is that most times people experience stress and anxiety are related to situations that are not life threatening. The fight or flight response system is perfect for life threatening situations, such as a house fire, or narrowly avoiding a car accident. However, the fight or fight response system is grossly ineffective for inconveniences such as the possibility of job loss or an ongoing feud with a neighbor whom you perceive as aggressive.

When the fight or flight response system is employed for non-life-threatening situations, the bio chemicals involved remain in the system for longer than necessary and begin to cause health issues in the person who is experiencing prolonged stress and anxiety. A common unwanted effect of prolonged stress and anxiety is a compromised immune system, which leaves the sufferer susceptible to a wide range of illnesses.

With this being written, there are three strategies to effectively cope with and move past issues with stress and anxiety. These strategies are as follows.

Control your thoughts.

The space between what you think and how you choose to behave, lies your feelings. Therefore, all feelings are influenced by your thoughts. What you think produces a spectrum of positive or negative feelings to the degree that things are going your way or otherwise. Your thinking influences your perception of everyday events, which include your perception of your ability to get your basic and psychology needs met, regardless of the challenge. This in turn influences your overall sense of confidence and subsequently your behavior. To control your thoughts means that you should begin practicing positive and reality-based thinking. So even when things are not going your way, your positive thoughts will help you in practicing resiliency through challenges and in resisting the temptation in resorting to old negative thoughts.

Recognize your triggers

Once you begin practicing strategies for positive thinking, you need to become aware of people, places and things that trigger your old negative thoughts. After all your brain is still wired to think this way, and it usually takes about 30 consecutive days of practicing the new thoughts, for you to develop significant resiliency to the old ways of thinking. Once you have successfully identified people, places and things which trigger your old ways of thinking, and subsequently behaving, you have two options. Your first option is to avoid these identified triggers. In most cases this isn’t feasible, this leads to option number two, which is to change your thoughts on how you perceive these identified triggers. Ideally, it is best to exercise both options, if possible.

Create your new reality

This is synonymous with controlling your thoughts, in fact it is the same thing, but taken to another level. To create your new reality, is to identify what types of people, places and things you would ideally engage with. The next step will be to identify the pragmatic steps towards making your ideal situation a reality. This is the most powerful step in the process of dealing with stress and anxiety and the most challenging. Because in the process of identifying the types of people, places and things you prefer to be surrounded by, you are now tasked with the difficult step in orienting yourself towards becoming more compatible with your ideal reality. So yes, this involves the process of picking up where you last left off in changing yourself for the better.

All these steps are possible, and they involve commitment towards practicing the necessary cognitive behavioral strategies towards dealing with and moving past issues with stress and anxiety.

Ugo Uche is a psychotherapist with Road 2 Resolutions.

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Moving Past Fear and Towards Your Goals.

I have a new quote on the bottom of my email, it goes; “We are our own prisoners and consequently, our own liberators.” It’s a quote I came up with and it was inspired by works of Victor Frankl and David Hawkins, but it’s not quite new as I have been using it for at least the past three months to date.

Most of the reasons we have for experiencing fear in our lives, make sense. However, nursing these fears leads to anxiety, and results in you resorting to primal instincts of either being confrontational or avoidant. When this happens, this creates the illusion that external factors prevented you from realizing your goals, or in some cases, creating your goals in the first place. However, the fact is, your goals where not realized because you did nothing.

So regardless of what rules you follow, what beliefs you hold or what you witnessed someone in a similar position to yours, go through, you prevented yourself from thriving. This is good news, because since you have control over the choices you make, you can then go through the challenging process of liberating yourself. Yes, the process is challenging, but you can liberate yourself.

One common reason why you have failed to meet your goals is that you understandably play it safe. Often when people play it safe, they are living dangerously. They could be living a situation that they find convenient and perhaps comfortable, but they are not thriving. When their attention is turned to towards promising situations, they find the investment too costly and risky if they cannot be guaranteed the outcome they desire. So, they remain in their current situation. The problem with this strategy is that things change, and things change because change is a constant.

This means that stagnation is an illusion, because if you are not keeping up with changes then you are regressing. When people play it safe, they don’t develop the necessary skills compatible with changing times and subsequently find themselves out of practice in taking action when it really matters. Further, playing it safe brings you closer to your worst fears, when you are no longer able to maintain your “safe” situation. A good example would be finding yourself phased out of a job. Deep down you knew the job was really a dead end, but you shied away from opportunities to improve your situation due to the amount of sacrifice involved and not being guaranteed an favorable outcome.

The solution lies in knowing this open secret; while there are no guarantees in life, for as long as you are alive and in good health, you will always get your needs met. Things will always work out for you at the bare minimum, because you are simply not going to sit still and allow yourself to wither away. Herein lies your guarantee, aim high enough, and even if you don’t reach your mark, you will land above where you started.

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Understanding Your Fear in Socializing

Some years ago, I happened to watch a reality television show. The show was about a group of strangers put on an island to “survive.” The premise being that after a series of competitions, there would be a last person standing kind of a deal. In the interim participants of this game would team up into various groups for competitions and they would often attempt to vote at least one person off the island after every competition. People voted off were often voted off due to performance issues.

What I found striking about this show was that the format seemed to mimic theories often put forward by evolutionary psychology regarding how our early ancestors behaved in the ancestral environment. For example, men are most often concerned with earning the respect of others, respect they often earned through efforts demonstrated in the hunter gatherer environment. Long story short, people who did not live up to the expectations of their tribe risked being kicked out of the group. In the ancestral environment, being on your own for an extended period, was essentially a death sentence. This is a popular theory as to why human being evolved to become social animals. In that we need each other to survive and thrive.

So, we could deduce, that fear comes from a concern about being abandoned. Not deemed valuable enough to contribute anything of meaning to the tribe, resulting in being ostracized. Then there is the other fear, that must do with a fear dying, but that deserves a post of its own.

A typical coping strategy, that clients I work with, who struggle with social anxiety employ, is avoidance. By avoiding social situations, they reduce the risk of experiencing rejection, for failing to meet various social expectations. The problem with this strategy is that they are already self-imposing what it is they fear the most, which is being ostracized.

The solution is to develop emotional resiliency through increased social interactions. While it is certain that you will experience rejection from increase social interactions, it is also true that you will experience more acceptance from others. Thereby it becomes an issue of tuning your attention into what you desire and modifying your behavior to experience more of what you want. Conversely when you are so focused on what you do not desire, and you resort towards avoidance strategies, your lack of experience only confirms your fears during the few times you interact. This is because your lack of experience leads you to become drawn to the same types of people who have habitually rejected you throughout your life.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and Life Coach.

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Fighting the Right Fight

Some years ago, while working for an agency, I found myself at odds with two therapists who were my coworkers. More specifically, they were at odds with me. They had learned about my verbal judo exercises and were offended about the scenarios I had practiced with clients where the clients would do their best to insult and upset me, while I got them to stop without retaliation.

They complained about me to our supervisor, alleging that my behavior was not professional. I defended my actions with solid arguments in addition to research to support my methods, and our supervisor gave me the green light. Shortly thereafter after one of the therapists who had complained about me, the most vocal of the two, experienced an incident in which he was verbally accosted and bullied by an aggressive client. I so happened to have witnessed the entire event in person. As the client laid into him, he became so flustered, he went speechless. I then decided to intervene and quickly deescalated the situation. I said nothing about the incident to him, and he never mentioned it on his end. However, by the time I had left the agency, he and I were on good terms.

The interesting thing about this guy is that among us, he was very vocal about demanding respect from the clients and would habitually communicate to us an air of importance about himself.

The point of this story is to elaborate a pattern with people who become easily upset and offended by the words of others. That pattern is this; they have no plans for a fight. No, I am not talking about a physical altercation (I do believe in self-defense), I am talking about practicing assertiveness to take care of oneself. People who place a lot of emphasis on how they should be treated, are mainly concerned with how they should be perceived by others because they have no intention, courage or comprehension of how to stand up for themselves when things get tough.  When we focus on how others should treat us, we delude ourselves into creating messages that convince us that we have control over the words and actions of others. This takes away from the process of learning and preparing for how to effectively respond to the unwanted words and actions of others.

The process of getting offended and harping on how one should be respected by others is an act to ward of bullies. The problem is, it is an act that seldom works with bullies. A proper bully sees through the facade and goes into attack mode.

If you struggle with confidence, assertive, courage and other anxiety related issues, you can learn cognitive behavioral strategies to rewire your brain to become more comfortable and embracing of conflicts.

Settling for the role of a pretentious tough guy or girl only alienates good people from your life, leaving for mostly bullies in your life. Even if you take on the role of a bully, the people in your circle will consist mostly of bullies, and fair weathered friends.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC

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Why You Are Terrible at Conflicts

We are the sum of our life experiences to date, and as we get older our experiences become redundant. Same you, perhaps different people, perhaps different places but the story remains the same. If you struggle to hold your ground when dealing with difficult or high conflict people, it’s because you were unintentionally conditioned to be someone who is easily pushed over.

How you address conflicts stems from your early life experiences, whether you were bullied by a parent, an older sibling, a classmate or classmates. If you were bullied during your formative years in the absence of intervention, forces around unintentionally shaped you to become docile towards conflicts.

This is difficult to see, because most conflicts we experience are usually us dealing with one particular person. So when revisiting the situation, we often fall for the fallacy of what one particular person did to us, rather than the role we played in inviting the person to bring suffering on ourselves.

There are a number of ways by which we adopt a timid mindset throughout our lives, and they are genetics, parenting and socio-economics.

Genetics

Really this comes down to your personality. I have become a solid believer in the correlation between genetics and personality as a father of three children. After from the first day, the personality of this child starts to show and becomes more consistent after about a month. Now a personality by itself does not predispose you to being the target of bulling. However, your personality mixed with your interpretation of your experiences plays a huge role in how you address conflicts.

People with easy going personalities are more susceptible to being bullied, if they are raised by parents who bully them, or who assist in feeding them messages that they are not supposed to stand up for themselves.

Parenting

Emotional and physical abuse coupled with neglect is a common reason people become timid during conflicts. The reason for this is because the child having no other options resorts to developing coping strategies for dealing with an abusive experience. The child becomes hypervigilant towards predicting the temperament of the abuser and often times the child ends up internalizing his experiences with the abuse and engaging in self-blaming. Children engage in solipsism when thinking about themselves in relation to the world around them. The child believes that he or she is the only true mind that exists and that the world evolves around him or her. This leads to children believing that they are responsible for everything that they experience and in error, blaming themselves for abuse inflicted upon them.

The neglectful parent is just as bad, in that he or she fails to advocate for his or her child when the situation calls for. It could be an incident with being bullied in school or being treated unfairly by another adult. The same phenomenon is observed when the child, adopts a passive persona and becomes increasingly conflict avoidant.

Socio-Economics

Socio-economic circumstances play a big role in certain types of children adopting an attitude of timidity, who grow up to be timid adults. Put simply, most people who are poor tend to feel inferior to people who are economically well off. A child who is raised by improvised parents, who have adopted a sense of low self-worth in relation to their wealthier peers, will likely adopt his or her parent’s attitudes. This plays out in quality of education received, certain circles the family can afford to be a part of and disputes regulated by the state institution. Even those raised at an economic disadvantage, who grow up to be wealthy, find themselves with strong lingering feelings of timidity when it comes to addressing conflicts with others. Particular others who they perceive as more well off and educated than they are.

In truth, learning to address conflicts with others is easier than most people realize. Perhaps the most difficult step is learning to become reactive to difficult feelings which arise when provoked or triggered. After that the next step is utilizing cognitive strategies to firmly convey your message of disagreement. Most people who struggle with issues of timidity, strongly believe that the difficult feelings they experience during times of conflicts with others are caused by those who seek conflict with them. In truth these feelings are simply natural and are experienced by everyone who experiences conflicts. The difference with people who are timid, is that they have been conditioned throughout their lives to become reactive and flee from these feelings.

Without proper treatment, people who never learn to be assertive during conflicts experience chronic relationship problems at work, with their spouses and with their children. They tend to develop a pessimistic attitude towards people and may struggle to connect with anyone.

With proper treatment, primarily through cognitive behavioral therapy, people in this position can discover just how competent they are at resolving recurring conflicts in their lives.

Ugo is a psychotherapist and owner of Road 2 Resolutions PLLC

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