"I try to take one day at a time, but sometimes several days attack me at once." ~ Author Unknown
Stressed and anxious and depressed people tend to think thoughts that increase their anxiety in everday situations – these are known as ‘automatic negative thoughts’, and have the following characteristics:
Conflict modes: Competing, Avoiding, Collaborating, Accommodating, Compromising (middle ground between Competing & Accommodating)
"Catastrophic thoughts lead to fear, which leads to avoidance, which leads to more catastrophic thoughts"
While fear is a natural (and practical) response to danger, phobias are exaggerated responses to situations that, in the cold light of day, aren't really all that dangerous. A big reason has to do with the way most people respond to fear--by avoiding it. Whether it's closed spaces or packed audiences, the more you duck those tough spots, the more you'll fear them. Anxiety also often makes us hard to live with.
Regardless of the source, the effect of continued stress from negative programming is neurologically toxic... What this means is that when the brain is constantly exposed to worry and negativity, homeostasis (balance) becomes the priority and all other neural functioning suffers. In this situation, existing neurons are preoccupied with survival and the brain does not exert effort on creating new neurons. In other words, if you live with a steady-state of chronic stress then all kinds of imbalances occur due to the neuro-toxicity - causing neurological, physical, emotional, and spiritual degeneration (breakdown)...which leads to pain and more stress. Healthy-balanced living, on the other hand, leads to neurological, physical, emotional, and spiritual regeneration (growth) and ultimately health and happiness.
The dendrite connections in our neural networks are not set in stone as once thought... Every time we learn something new, dendrite connections are changed and new ones are made that didn't exist before.
So, the Internet of our mind is constantly changing - updating and adapting to the environment in which we place it. The purpose of this adaptation is to achieve and maintain a biological balance known as homeostasis or "Steady-State".
It appears that the brain likes predictability and consistency. Once we have acquired a certain steady-state our brain will act to maintain that state... even a state of chronic stress or depression!
The good news? - With discipline and repetition we can change our steady-state to a "new steady-state" - or neo-homeostasis. For example, if one prefers regular cola a switch to diet cola would initially be difficult because of the after-taste. However, when a switch to diet cola is made for three weeks or longer the taste buds - or more accurately the neural networks associated with them - adjust themselves for the diet cola... Now the person cannot drink regular cola without an after-taste.
Some examples may help - Taking a new job requires a bit of an adjustment period:
Remember the first day you got it? How good it felt? Remember how that new feeling wore off? And how it became just another car at some point. At that point the "adjustment" has been made - the new neural pathways have been laid down...and a new steady-state achieved...sounds easy doesn't it?
Whenever we try to make a significant change in our neural networks the effort is initially met with resistance. But if we persist with discipline and repetition we can make the changes we want. Some networks are so deeply ingrained that they do not go quietly. Consider the person who grew up in a dysfunctional, chaotic and alcoholic home - then later on fell pray to their own addiction. An inability to create an adequate relaxation response can be due to several factors, many of which may spring from the woundedness of unmet childhood dependency needs. Growing up in an abuse and/or neglectful home causes:
E.g: People who repress their feelings view themselves as "thinkers" and proudly use their intellect to process information. Talking and problem solving take preference over feelings. They often intellectualize which is trying to explain emotionally painful feelings through thought. Repressors remember fewer negative experiences from childhood. By minimizing the unhappy events, they distort reality and can even believe they had a happy childhood when they did not. The research literature suggest that they protect themselves from discomfort by superficially taking in negative events.
They spend less time processing unpleasant new events and have the ability to dismiss them. This defense allows them to experience unpleasant emotions less frequently than emotionally intense people. Regression is the reversion to an earlier stage of development in the face of unacceptable thoughts or impulses. For an example an adolescent who is overwhelmed with fear, anger and growing sexual impulses might become clingy and start exhibiting earlier childhood behaviors he has long since overcome, such as bedwetting. An adult may regress when under a great deal of stress, refusing to leave their bed and engage in normal, everyday activities. Anger is a substitute emotion for the hurt and disappointment they might feel.
Anger takes them out of the emotional flat line and becomes their dominant emotion. They are stressed by having to deal with others on an emotional level and change the subject or evade the issue to keep people who are upset from bothering them. They tend to be more aggressive and have a higher belief in themselves than most people. The assumption in the research literature is that repressors have a lack of emotional links in the brain which tie negative emotions to experiences. They need repeated trials to link a negative experience with negative emotions. On the positive side, Repressors are often less neurotic than those who express their feelings easier. They can see events objectively without emotions clouding up the issue.
Let's compare the opposite effect:
Our anger helps us set our boundaries so we can maintain our separateness or autonomy. Repressing our Angry/Defiant Child Ego State frequently leads to disowning a part of ourself and results in the polarizing effect of strengthening another reaction formation - our Vulnerable Child Ego State. With a Pronounced Vulnerable Child and a Repressed Angry/Defiant Child it becomes difficult, it not almost impossible, to set healthy boundaries and protect ourselves. The lack of connection with his or her Angry/Defiant Child is likely to result in an inability to be assertive or speak-up for him/her self -- it's our anger that gives us the power to do that. It's likely to result in this person frequently regressing into their Vulnerable Child who is scared, timid, and unable to set boundaries. He/she may even compound his/her sense of powerlessness with moderate-to-severe introjected Critical Parent messages by way of self-talk.
(The Critical Parent ego state is that network that has recorded on it all of the childhood messages of parents and other authority figures. Internalizers tend to turn their critical parent messages inward to create (introjection) and perpetuate what we know as low self-esteem and negative self-talk.)
The child in a less-than-nurturing family must use psychological defense mechanisms to adapt because it's not okay to ask directly for what you need, express certain feelings, or break certain unspoken rules. The Adapted Child learns, by way of the "Adult-in-the-Child" (aka the Little Professor, is that smart, intuitive, creative and manipulative part of us that helps the Adapted Child learn how to get what it needs), how to "configure" or arrange the following ego states and psychological defense mechanisms to get it's needs met. Being necessary for survival, these defensive maneuvers were appropriately termed survival skills. While useful and necessary during childhood, survival skills do not make good substitutions for the coping skills of a healthy adult human being.
The Little Professor is the network that later branches out and expands into the Adult. The Adult has data in the form of experience and wisdom on the hard-drive -- All the Little Professor has to go on is instinct and intuition. It's the Little Professor, with feedback from the environment, that configures the above childhood ego states...survival is its prime directive so whatever it takes to survive will become habits that follow us into adulthood. When a trigger comes along, the appropriate ego state is activated.
A mate who is "stuck" in his or her Angry/Child Ego State One moment expressing helplessness and hopelessness, the next throwing a temper tantrum. When the Victim can't get someone to persecute them, they turn their own Critical Parent inward and persecute themselves. When they can get someone to persecute them, perhaps by playing a game of "Kick Me", they can feel fully justified in their Victim role. The Rescuer subconsciously helps keep the Victim dependent on them, due to an underlying fear of abandonment, by playing into their Victimhood - doing everything for that person rather than allowing them to experience that they can do it for themselves. This person usually spent much of their childhood care-taking or unsuccessfully trying to please a wounded parent, doing for parent what they needed the parent to do for them (role reversal).
"Everyday brings a choice: to practice stress or to practice peace." ~ Joan Borysenko