I got to work with somebody who was experiencing a lot of anxiety. Their anxiety had gotten so heightened in them that they were immobilized. They could feel a rumination inside of them where they were worrying, they felt anxious, they acknowledged that something just felt wrong, but they just couldn’t get clear on what it was.
They were on edge, yet there was an immobility that was happening that was keeping them stuck. Keeping them worrying about things but not clear exactly on what was keeping them stuck. They were wondering, “what is wrong with me? Why is this happening?” and their adrenaline kept increasing.
I want to acknowledge that when this happens, if we have anxiety as human beings, we don’t have clarity on which circuitry has been stimulated. We have different circuitry in our system that take care of us. But, the experience of anxiety we can tell the difference if it's because we are scared of something, or if it's because we are feeling alarmed and alone. Those are two different circuits that we have in our system.
Yet, it is possible to feel the relief, to experience relief. It’s possible for the anxiety to be resonated with so it can calm, and the miracle of that is we can do this with resonant language. We can feel felt in relationship with another. When we are accompanied right where we are, in the midst of the experience of our anxiety, we can be empowered to name how we feel. For there to be resonance with that and acknowledgement of that worst moment – what it was like – or what it is like in the moment for us.
Maybe we’ve had to live with really scary things. Or maybe we’ve had to live with a very deep sense of aloneness. When we’ve lived with that for most of our lives it can be unconscious and deep in our nervous system.
One of the things we can do is we can reach out and get support from another human being. Hopefully someone skilled with understanding around how the circuits of emotion and motivation work within us, to help us begin to co-regulate. Because all internalized regulation is possible by first having co-regulation with another. Our nervous systems sync up and we begin to discover something new.
When we can slow down and come into our body, we can notice what it’s like, and tap into the feelings of that anxiety. We can begin to notice our body sensations. Does it feel jittery? Do we have a dry mouth? Is there an increase in our heart rate and does our breathing get quicker? Do we have sweaty palms, and do we startle really easily like we are going to jump out of our skin? That would be more of the type of experience we would have when we are having the anxiety of FEAR.
Maybe our experience is different. Maybe we have a heaviness in our upper back and in our shoulders. We have a little bit of a downturned mouth; we might even have difficulty smiling. Or, we can find it difficult to meet someone’s eyes. We can have an experience of helplessness and hopelessness about ever being accompanied by another, and we can feel that physical frozenness, immobilized from the inside out. We can spiral down into a sense where we are worried, we don’t matter, or we are going to be left all alone, again.
I want to call a pause and hold that with so much tenderness and care. I’ll make a couple guesses, “Did you grow up without having your fear, or your loneliness acknowledged by another?” If so, then you may not even recognize that it’s fear or loneliness that you are carrying deep inside. For some of us our circuitry can get tangled with some of our other circuits. I want to pause right there too and acknowledge with accompaniment, “Of course you are scared. And, no wonder you feel utterly alone. Because, no one has ever acknowledged these things with you.” How important it is, to be able to be with another being that can get that.
When we have help to identify the blocks that get in the way of expressing our wholeness, of being who we came here to be, we can then begin that process of transforming our world from the inside out.