At times we will feel tired, defenceless and vulnerable. These feelings don’t last. We will begin to know and understand why we are feeling this way. We will get to know quite a lot about our self, in fact, sometimes we will wish we didn’t know so much! It is a time of learning to listen to the inner voice of the self, which is more than willing to help us. If we stop and take the time to listen, the inner voice will be our guide. All too often we do not hear ourselves.
At some points it may mean rearranging things to make life a little more comfortable and a little bit easier while the integration with the self is worked through. Again, it is a time of learning what our needs are, perhaps learning new skills or trying things we have always wanted to do. Rejecting some, embracing others we didn’t know were there.
We have to become aware we do have a choice in everything.
In making the choice we need to be aware of its implications. We can choose and set limits if we need to. We can choose to move at our own pace. It is going to feel unfamiliar, we will feel vulnerable and the fear will be there, but so too is the self s determination to grow.
We must learn to trust our self. Getting to know our self helps us gain that trust. It is taking risks with our self.
Betty had worked extremely hard on her recovery.
She had been able to return to work three months ago and was really happy to be back in the workforce. Although she’d had the occasional bad day, Betty was able to work through them and she had begun to feel that she had finally recovered. That was until last week. Now Betty was beginning to think the disorder was returning. Her anxiety was increasing and the attacks had returned. She knew that returning to work had been stressful, but she was happy in her job. She couldn’t understand why the anxiety and the attacks were back. To all intents and purposes life was normal. Her husband and children were fine. Although Betty realised it was hard to run a household and work at the same time, she felt it was worth the extra effort. Her father’s death two months ago had been traumatic but she felt that couldn’t be the reason. Betty wondered if it was the argument she had had with her mother and sisters. The issues had still not been resolved and each time they were together the atmosphere was quite tense. She knew the anxiety and the attacks were making her feel tense, but she couldn’t understand why they had come back. Betty thought that she needed to be more aware of what was causing stress in her life!
The working-through process
Recovery is not as simple as we would like it to be. In the beginning, it feels as though we take one step forward then two steps backwards. This is why so many people feel they are never going to recover. It is also part of the reason why so many people become discouraged and give up.
We need to understand the step-by-step process of working through the various stages of recovery. Understanding the working-through process is of the utmost importance, yet it is rarely discussed as an issue.
One of the first things we need to learn is patience. Everyone, naturally enough, wants recovery now. Not tonight, not tomorrow, not next week, but this very second. This creates further stress which keeps the whole cycle going. Whether we like it or not, we all have to learn patience, with the working-through process and with ourselves. Learning to be patient with ourselves is learning to be kind to ourselves. Being kind to ourselves means we are not putting ourselves under any further unnecessary stress.
We need to direct our energy into the determination to commit ourselves, time and again, to the working-through process despite setbacks.
Just as depression tends to cast a grey pall over everything in your world and in yourself, so there is an irresistible tendency to project that gloomy view into the future. The depressed person will always find something to be pessimistic about. And as with one’s view of the present, these gloomy predictions are often without any reasonable basis in reality. And even when there are problems in a person’s life, there are many different ways to look at one’s future. A person with cancer, for example, may have a very optimistic and upbeat view of the future, whereas a depressed person in perfectly good physical condition may be full of gloomy predictions about his health. In fact, in one research study patients who had suffered from both cancer and depression were asked to rate which of their two conditions involved greater suffering. They rated depression as the more painful of the two conditions. In summary, there is not generally a very close correlation between the realistic prospects for a person’s future and how a depressed person is likely to view it. Pessimism is a cardinal symptom of depression.
If the future seems bleak and gloomy to you and this has been going on for more than a few weeks, consider the possibility that you may be depressed.
We have noted that the main reaction of the body to anxiety is one of preparation for action—the increased output of the heart, the diversion of blood to the muscles, and the liberation of glucose into the blood to provide extra energy. Of course any movement of the bowels would hamper this preparation for physical activity, so the normal response of the body to anxiety includes a dampening down of movement of the bowels. In this way a mild anxiety reaction extending over a long period may lead to chronic constipation.
A professional man in his early fifties started the relaxing mental exercises on account of mild general tension, without thought as to any possible effect on his bowel action.
He had been constipated all his life, and for the last thirty years had been given to relieving his constipation with suppositories and enemas.
After a few months, with the reduction of the general level of his anxiety, he found that he had established a perfectly normal bowel action, without physical straining, for the first time in his life.
The reduction of general anxiety undoubtedly helped by allowing the normal mobility of the bowel. But the patient himself lay stress on his being relaxed when actually at the toilet.
The anxious patient cannot sit still. He fidgets and wriggles about. He cannot settle to the task in hand; he starts one job but feels uncomfortable, leaves it and starts something else. He is less restless when there is something definite that he has to do, so he is more comfortable at work than at home. On weekends, in spite of happy relations with his family, it is common for him to wish for Monday so that he can go back to the fixed routine of work.
Sometimes people feel that they will be better if they take a holiday and have a good rest. Of course, these patients are at their worst in such circumstances because they have lost the ability to relax and take it easy. Other people with anxiety are benefited by such a holiday, but when restlessness is a feature the anxious patient only returns more tense and frustrated than ever.
A forty-seven-year-old foreman wrote for an appointment, and described his restlessness in these terms.
“I have an inability to relax, nervous tension, anxiety complex and constant apprehension, I cannot sit [without a flush of anxiety] in meetings, church, theatre, dentist’s chair, barber’s chair, public transport, or as a passenger in a motor car . . . My flush of nervous tension makes me leave whatever I am attending . . .”
If we are to learn to master our anxiety in an enlightened fashion, we must first know something of its nature. What is anxiety? Unfortunately there is no complete agreement among psychiatrists on this subject, but it is possible to make a number of general statements that help to define anxiety. The ideas which I offer you now are a summary of a theme which I have developed elsewhere.
Most people when they experience anxiety take heed of the warning and do something about it. We do a little less work and so reduce the stream of impulses to our brain, or we take a holiday and remove ourselves from conflicts that have been disturbing us, or we rest and so give our brain a chance to re-establish equilibrium, or we take sedatives and tranquillizing drugs which further aid its integration. This works well enough when the major inflow of disturbing impulses comes from outside sources, but it is generally ineffective when it arises in our unconscious mind. In these circumstances we need something more. We shall see how this can be achieved by helping our mind to sort things out in the relaxing mental exercises which we are about to discuss.