Even the tiniest baby steps can keep that dreaded circle of safety from closing in on you.
Elementary school math: you start with the basics, and only challenge yourself further once you’ve mastered a level. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division. Why should approaching anxiety and phobias be any different?
My limbs, it seems, have resolved their life-long impasse with my brain. This reminds me of something very important: the brain’s capability to learn and change.
Ah, paradox. A distraction that’s not really a distraction.
I wanted to re-frame a breakdown into a breakthrough.
I want to create a truce with caffeine. I want to recognize that my body’s reactions to this drug are completely normal. I want to train myself to be comfortable with caffeine again.
Caffeine is an unavoidable drug, and I don’t want to fear it. I don’t want the buzzy sensation I feel when I take the migraine meds to create a fertile breeding ground for panic.
“I can now kill a very small spider with a vacuum, which is something I wouldn’t have even considered just a few years ago, and if I see a spider that’s not moving and it’s far enough away, I calm down very quickly and I’m able to rationalize that it won’t hurt me. Until it moves. Then that’s all out the window.”
I can’t think of any other creature that can be practically invisible, then suddenly appear in quite the way spiders do.
It’s the Contrast Principle in effect: during the day, there are so many sounds in nature that we’re unlikely to hear a tiny mouse scurrying near our feet. But at night, with its absence of light, dull orchestra of crickets, and an imagination open wide, tiny sounds get amplified by our minds.
As we learned in my last blog post, in a tent full of scared eleven-year-old Girl Scouts at summer camp, a field mouse scurrying through the leaves = a big hungry bear searching for a late-night snack. At the right (or, well, wrong) thoughts and a tiny mouse becomes a big bear.
It doesn’t necessarily need to be dark outside for our mind to amplify the wrong message. When anxious, small things sound like big things. When sick, small things sound like big things. When depressed. When overwhelmed. When tired.
I mean, think about it: when’s the last time something small — say, washing a load of dishes — seemed like a gargantuan task? Maybe it was yesterday when your nerves were already abuzz thanks to your colicky little one screaming her head off.