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Understanding Anxiety

Understanding Anxiety
Anxiety (Photo by © WavebreakmediaMicro - stock.adobe.com)

"How do you feel today .........?"

As therapists, no matter what modality of treatment we employ, the title of this article is a question that invariably appears within the first few minutes of a client's appointment. It's what we say ..... we do it naturally. After all, it's our concern; the well-being of this individual before us. Do we mean it? Well, of course we do. Do we always comprehend the depth of the reply? Of course we don't! The sensations experienced when suffering with whatever ails one, be it a psychological or physical problem is totally unique experientially. In other words, we can never understand fully what the other person is thinking or feeling. Nor should we at times, for as indicated by Milton H. Erickson, clients speak in their own metaphorical language; for us to attempt to comprehend it fully would be foolhardy, and, most of the time superfluous.

People with a problem depict it in a way that they wish it to be seen; as therapists, it is important to stand back a little and be impartial. That is not to say that we should not be sensitive to our clients' needs, on the contrary. In order to form a rapport with another person, it is imperative that a bond, albeit temporary in nature be formed betwixt the two minds. This formation of rapport is extremely important in Hypnotherapy. Trust, rapport and relaxation make for a really good start to any Hypnotherapy encounter. But I don't need to tell you that.

As an indication of depth and intensity of feelings experienced by people suffering with a 'mind problem', I have included an actual letter from a woman who has suffered with severe anxiety, and panic disorder for some years. It illustrates in quite a dramatic way that "mind - body connection". She kindly gave her permission allowing this to be published, in order that we may all begin to understand this problem a little more fully. For obvious reasons of anonymity her name is not shown. For those of you not familiar with the anxiety based disorders, it may indeed be educational. Take note just how physical the symptoms can be. The letter is printed verbatim, but with her name excluded.

Anxiety at its Peak:

Hi Dan, just had to email you to ask you a couple of questions, if you don't mind. For the past 10 days I have been having the worst time, I feel as though I have been living in terror mode. Each day I have been waking up nervous, a shaky jelly mess from the tips of my toes to the top of my head. There is a revving inside that has made me feel terrorized. I haven't been able to concentrate on anything other than the scared body reactions I'm getting, they feel like they are pulsing through you like bolts of electricity. All the muscles in my body have tightened to the point where they feel like to move is going to break them. There is pain in muscles and bones and I've had these crampy twitches in the whole body. My shoulders are up around my ears most of the time I can't seem to drop them and relax. I've noticed too that I have had heaps of static electricity in my body as well. I am finding the cold weather is affecting me as well and the revved terror feeling is worse as the day gets colder. My body seems to lock up and when I check my blood pressure it has gone way up and then I start having thoughts like "Oh my god, am I having a stroke or is the pain I feel a heart attack" "is this numby feeling in my hands, feet and legs because my circulation is bad" terror, horror, "am I dying" My mind gets so terrified I cant talk to anyone and my body revs up even more then. I have had bubbly sick stomach and pulsy bubbly heartbeat feeling in my abdomen, as well as foot and leg cramps that tighten the muscles so much they feel like they will break. I get this stiffness in my body that scares me and I feel like I'm on overload that I might just loose the plot one day. The days seem so hard and when I have to entertain, even my family, I feel like I can't handle the body sensations, I can't concentrate on conversations even. There are days I wonder if I am going mad, it feels that bad. Are these things I am feeling all a part of anxiety Dan? Because all I know is that I am feeling absolute terror and that terrifies me. If you can shed any light on this I would be so grateful.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to your reply.

Well, there it is. The physical terror of anxiety at its worst. I hope in some way that this helps all of you to develop an understanding of this affliction, and comprehend a little more fully the link between mind and body. It is a powerful and very important nexus, which we as therapists need to keep at the forefront of our own minds. I wish you all well from Australia.

Dan Elliott is a retired hypnotherapist in Queensland, Australia.

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