Mindful Counseling for Complex Trauma: Anxiety, Shame, Stuckness
Anxiety can be considered a physical experience of misdirected energy – energy focused on protecting and preserving parts of self. It might include a racing heart, shallow or difficult breathing, decreased salivation, tics or twitches throughout the body. Not always, but often, patterned and ongoing anxiety includes some form of internal conflict – part of self wanting to come out while another part of self says it is not safe to come out.
While many people recognize anxiety by its physical symptoms — most often a tension or pressure around the base of the skull, including the head and shoulders — others may notice the quality of their thoughts including a drive to ‘do’, ‘fix’, ‘resolve’, ‘accomplish’. They may notice a focus on the future and an expectation that either something is wrong or is about to go wrong: “Something bad is about to happen.” It’s a sense of dread, sometimes low or minute, other times intense — a panic.
Anxiety is an internal call to action, often without an awareness of the action required.
One of the challenges with anxiety is our brain’s natural drive to learn, to make connections, to fix, predict, and protect. Without intentional intervention, anxiety has a tendency to expand (or ‘generalize’) over time as we associate the sensations of anxiety with new objects, people, or environments. What might have begun as a specific phobia can gradually become a generalized anxiety that seems to simply live with us throughout each day.
At this level, when anxiety becomes constant, many come to recognize a stuck, stagnant, empty life. This drive to ‘do’ (and often to ‘do perfectly’) eventually limits our ability to accomplish anything. When we believe we cannot succeed, we freeze. We give up. This is a basic function of our trauma defense system. When fight or flight are not options — or when they do not work — we freeze.
Anxiety, at some level, is a universal human experience. When it is focused, when we have the space and ability to follow a specific call to action, anxiety can be the beginning of movement, of some sequence of events that leads to a sense of accomplishment and completion. In this sense, some level of anxiety is healthy. When anxiety becomes generalized or constant, it drains our physical resources and limits our abilities to accomplish anything in life.
Hakomi Therapy provides a variety of tools to help calm your body, to eventually integrate conflicting parts of self, bringing you to the present moment, to a sense of ‘being’ versus ‘doing’, developing an embodied anchor to which you can return any time you choose. It often leads to an authentic knowing: “No matter what happens, I will be okay.”