Therapy for Anxiety
Anxiety symptoms can come up in different ways, shapes, and forms. For some, anxiety shows up as a relentless worry about the past or future. It can also look like inability to slow down, relax, be present, and “turn your brain off.” For others, anxiety is that constant guilty feeling that is accompanied by thoughts like: “What is wrong with me?” Often, anxiety is tricky in that it can make you feel anxious about feeling anxious. It can make you worried about your performance at work, or about how you are doing as a spouse or a parent. Worrying about making a mistake or being ridiculed, judged, or shamed is excruciating and exhausting.
Until I became a therapist (and did my own therapy), my definition of anxiety was incomplete, and my way of dealing with it was not sustainable. I thought that the only thing I could do with anxiety was to relax, think positively, exercise more, and give myself a pep talk that everything will be just fine (or to complain to my husband about it!). On top of that, how often do we hear from society: “Just change your attitude!” “Be grateful!” “Don’t worry so much!” “Exercise more!” If the solution was that simple, anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems wouldn’t be so prevalent.
What is it that people often don’t know about anxiety?
Hilary Jacobs Hendel and Diana Fosha came up with an easy way to understand it. Anxiety is only a part of our full experience. Underneath our anxious feelings, there are seven core emotions—FEAR, SADNESS, ANGER, EXCITEMENT, SEXUAL EXCITEMENT, JOY, AND DISGUST. These are hidden.
Also, anxiety is actually an inhibitory emotion. What does that mean? Well, it functions as a red light that sends the signal “STOP! Don’t feel that!” In that sense, anxiety “protects” us from feeling our core feelings. I can see a benefit of that…feeling frantic and anxious about getting things done just right can be somehow easier than feeling that deep fear of failure, for example.
Interestingly, even when the emotional experience switches from the core emotion to the inhibitory one, the core fear, sadness, or anger does not disappear. In fact, it stays deep inside of our system—unattended, unprocessed, and unmet. We end up alone with that emotion, and often we cannot even access it ourselves. If these emotions habitually are left alone, anxiety, depression, self-doubt, shame, destructive beliefs, addictions, and more can start creeping in.
Anxiety counseling can teach you how not to get distracted by the anxiety, and instead address the very core feelings that are bubbling underneath your anxiety. Therapy for anxiety can help you understand how you “metabolize” your core emotions and how when we don’t allow them to get processed and to be experienced, our core emotions will start to fuel our thoughts, causing anxiety and also creating harder defenses, such as denial, depression, zoning out, blaming, rage, and more.
Past showing up in the present
More often than we think, our past experiences have taught us that certain CORE EMOTIONS are not acceptable. For example, if you were labeled “too sensitive” when you were sad, you might have learned that your core emotion of sadness is not allowed and that there is something wrong with you for feeling sad. As an adult, if sadness gets evoked in you by seeing someone else being sad, for example, the INHIBITORY EMOTION of ANXIETY will UNCONSCIOUSLY get triggered in you to “protect” you from feeling sad. Fascinating, right? Anxiety counseling can help you discover what past experiences are showing up in your current life and how they are possibly affecting your relationships.
What can we do about this?
Well, we can first help you understand how anxiety comes up in you. Some people get dizzy, feel a knot or clenching in their stomachs, or they breath shallowly, or they get jiggly legs, or they simply space out and get confused. Anxiety counseling is about first making your implicit ways of coping explicit. Then, it is about developing flexibility in the way you cope. Together, in therapy for anxiety, we would want to discover a way to “outsmart” your anxiety, and yet do that in a respectful and healing way.
Understanding is only one part of the work, and understanding alone does not bring enough long-lasting results. What does bring results? PRACTICE brings results! Practice with FEELING your CORE EMOTIONS is what brings RELIEF to anxiety. Moreover, the true transformation happens when we can learn how to feel the core emotions, deal with whatever life throws at us, AND we can relate to one another—all at the same time.
How am I different than other therapists?
One of the main differences in how I work compared to other therapists is that instead of sending you home with homework that you have to do on your own, I want to create an experience WITH YOU in our session, so that you can take a piece of that experience and experiment with applying it in a way that fits.
What modalities do I use?
In my practice, I use two primary models of therapy—Emotionally Focused Therapy and Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy. These two brilliant approaches to therapy were created by Dr. Sue Johnson and Diana Fosha. Among others, Hilary Jacobs Hendel, Peter Levine, Daniel J. Siegel, Kristin Neff, Brene Brown, Tara Brach, and Gabor Mate also greatly influenced my practice.
Thanks to these wonderful approaches to counseling, I focus not only on the content of the stories that you will bring to me, but, most importantly, I focus on fostering awareness of your emotional world inside as it unfolds in front of us during our sessions. I will encourage you to pay attention to your physical body as it connects and organizes your mind and your body.
If you would like to start this fascinating journey with me of discovering together how your mind, thoughts, and emotions work, give me a call, text me at (303) 898-6140 or email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org