Solving the Unsolvable: Anxiety
Anxiety sustains life. Understanding that it is essential is a critical step.
Posted Jan 29, 2020
Chronic pain is a complex situation with multiple factors affecting your perception of it. Regardless of the source of the pain, your brain is rapidly bombarded with unpleasant sensations that become magnified and embedded with time. Being trapped by mental or physical pain creates sustained elevation of your stress hormones, which causes you to feel anxious. Anxiety is not a psychological problem; it is a neurochemical physiological response that signals danger. It is intended to be so unpleasant that you are compelled to take action to lower these hormones. When you can’t resolve the threat (chronic pain or your thoughts), your body secretes even more hormones in an effort to resolve the problem. You are now angry and when sustained, that wreaks havoc on your physical and mental health.
You Have No Chance of Fixing Yourself
Picture a complex circuit board that has trillions of etched-in circuits representing your lifetime of programming. You cannot change them for several reasons:
- They are memorized, similar to riding a bicycle.
- Any time you spend trying to analyze and figure them out is counterproductive. The more attention you pay to these patterns of activity, the more they are reinforced.
- As the powerful unconscious brain is estimated to process 11 million bits of information per second (compared to your conscious brain only processing 40 bits per second), rational interventions alone cannot make a dent in these circuits. It is like trying to move Mount Everest with a shovel: It is not going to happen and much of your life’s energy is consumed in the process of trying.
- Finally, you need anxiety to stay alive. What if you weren’t compelled to take a breath of air? It is the essence of sustaining life.
So, what do you do? Understanding that you cannot fix these essential circuits, nor do you want to, is the first step. You need to put down your shovel and move on. Instead of trying to “fix yourself,” new strategies are needed to create fresh circuits in your brain. Most of these strategies involve methods that connect with the unconscious part of your brain by utilizing your senses, while also calming your nervous system. It’s similar to diverting a river into a different channel. You have to begin with small steps to create these new channels, but eventually the water’s flow will aid in the process.
I have been fascinated by how often people can separate from their pain circuits relatively quickly, and almost everyone can succeed with persistence. Additionally, by letting go of trying to solve an unchangeable situation, you receive a surge of energy that allows you to move forward toward a solution. Essentially, the only obstacle to your healing is your conscious or unconscious unwillingness let go and move forward: Anger and pain are powerful weapons.
Crippled by Pain at an Early Age
I had the privilege of talking to two young adults suffering from extreme chronic pain. Both were in their mid-twenties and had been struggling for over five years with crippling anxiety and multiple physical symptoms. They had been to many physicians without success and were becoming despondent, as essentially every possible treatment had been tried. However, they were both open to new ideas and were fast learners.
I was able to spend a few hours with each of them and explain the Neurophysiologic Disorder (NPD) treatment principles. As soon as they understood that they had been spending most of their time trying to solve unsolvable neurological problems, their eyes lit up: It was time to move on. They also engaged in expressive writing and committed to getting more sleep. Within a few weeks, they made major leaps forward and continue to thrive years later.
Stop Suffering. Keep Your Mind Open.
The healing process isn’t complicated and I think that is one reason people resist engaging in it: How can so much suffering for this long be solved with such basic tools? It seems like your extreme suffering is being invalidated. Everyone needs validation, and multiple, complex procedures validate your pain and disability. But if there is an easier, more effective option, wouldn’t that be what you choose for yourself and your family?