Anxiety is a state of unrest that our body experiences when in fear. It’s messages from our body that something is wrong. Anxiety is contagious and breeds in intensity when unrecognized. Couples and families suffer from anxiety when major transitions enter their time line or journey. Anxiety is the cross roads between what was and what is. So often so many of us get stuck in these crossroads…wanting to hold on to the past, or fearful of the future or sometimes the present. Anxiety is a natural consequence to the unknown. As humans we prefer living in a state of control or knowing. When we can expect, predict or control, anxiety is the message from the body to regain some influence or control because fear is the outcome.
So how does “control” show up? What does one mean by needing to be in control? Consider looking at control thematically. The need to be right. The need for one’s assumptions to be correct. The reactive response when wrong is a key indicator of the need to be in control. That reaction is actually fear even though many times it can look like anger. Anger is a secondary protective emotion. There’s almost always something under the anger, in this case, when not in control, it’s related to fear. The NEED to be in control is often related to a time when one wasn’t in control and the consequence of that. Some may refer to this as trauma. The body then wants to learn ways to prevent that from happening again, however, if an unresolved trauma response, many behaviors can trigger this. Anxiety is the natural consequence of that unresolved trauma and the triggering. The body can become hypervigilant or aware of similar behaviors and as a means to protect itself, shows anger when challenged to cover up the fear.
Those suffering from Codependency will also suffer from Anxiety. Codependency utilizes an external locus of control and limits the power one can feel. The perception becomes focused on all that is outside of one’s control and this creates obsessions and compulsions. Psychotherapy is highly effective at supporting one in developing an internal locus of control to create a sense of empowerment and reality based thinking. However without treatment, one forms an addiction to control. Read more about Codependency here in one of Amber’s blogs:
Our childhoods create the blueprint for how our lives will be as adults. If we experience trauma or a wound in a relationship at a young age, we can spend those impressionable years of life developing behavioral patterns or self-soothing techniques that become harmful over time.
How do such behaviors manifest? They often form from an unending need to chase after a feeling of wholeness or acceptance. You may struggle with social anxiety. You may experience isolation despite being surrounded by those closest to you. You may be unable to trust someone, even while longing for connection. Regardless of if you’re single, attached, married, or separated, you may feel as though you can never get what you need from your partnerships.
Unfortunately, codependency results in physical symptoms as much as emotional and interpersonal ones. When a person fluctuates between acute emotional pain and numbness, the person may stop listening to the subtle cues their body is giving them. The individual may experience chronic pain with no obvious explanation, or they may develop an addictive mindset when it comes to substances, technology, food, or exercise, all to suppress their emotions at the expense of processing them in a healthy way.
It’s an unfortunate aspect of our culture that numbing our feelings is more respectable than talking about them. Yet recognizing and acknowledging that codependency has driven your behaviors and impacted your relationships can help you begin the process of recovery while re-establishing healthier connections in your life. In therapy, there is an opportunity to safely explore emotions and understand where patterns of codependency originated and how to overcome certain behaviors. Our next post will dig deeper into that.
Until then, if you regularly feel unseen or misunderstood or are finding yourself incapable of developing close relationships in your life, learn more about our codependency therapy services and get in touch. You can move beyond living a codependent life. We are here to guide you on that journey.
The more our body lives with anxiety the bigger it becomes, the louder it gets, and the more we need to numb or medicate the body’s reactions to anxiety. Our culture tries to gain relief from anxiety through the use of any numbers or medicators. These tools become ineffective overtime and require a higher dosage, more in quantity, or higher intensity. The root of anxiety is fear of the unknown or lack of control. If one can re-establish this dynamic or heal the old wound of powerlessness, oftentimes the toxic levels of anxiety will improve and eliminate the need to numb.
The goal in treating anxiety is to reinstate the emotional self with the body, or treat the dissociation. Embodiment is vital to healing as one has to feel in order to heal. However, for so many who have survived trauma, being embodied is a huge risk and a learned behavior to not “be in the body”. As long as one is walking through life with unresolved trauma, it is safer to use dissociation until connection is made with someone for support. This is also why so many recovery programs highlight, “don’t do this alone”. Trying to do it alone and heal oneself through reading books or thinking oneself better doesn’t work. Healing comes from connection. There is definitely a benefit of reading and learning about trauma, anxiety, dissociation, however the pathway to healing can only be through connection.
So as your reading this, I know some will still say, “why”? Why does it have to be done in connection? Well the easiest way to share about this is by asking you to think about an event that creates anxiety for you. Not a “10” on a scale of 1-10, but maybe a 4 or 5. What happens? Typically when thinking of a memory that created anxiety, one’s body begins to re-experience those somatic responses as if the event were happening again. This is called a trauma trigger or stress response. It causes a part of our brain to come “on” (amygdala-responsible for fight, flight, freeze, fawn) and another part of our brain to go “off” (prefrontal cortex-responsible for analyzing, judgment, logic). This is related to that unresolved trauma, because when I’m becoming enraged at the lady in the fast food drive thru, once I regain logic, it probably NOT about the lady in the drive thru! So healing in connection always supports recognizing when those biological responses happen, re-regulate using tools to retrain the nervous system, and ultimately heal the old wound. Then I know a neural pathway has developed because my reactivity to people in the drive thru line dissipates.
Coping skills to regain embodiment include; exercise, healthy diet, healthy internal narrative, mindfulness, breathing tools, and self awareness. Research shows medication is no longer the most effective form of treatment for anxiety. Some clients will require medication in addition to therapy and coping skills to support behavioral changes. However, medication management treats only symptoms, not the cause of anxiety. Therefore, addressing the core issue is the most effective form of treatment and resolution for anxiety.
The sibling of anxiety is Depression. Long term depression and high intensity anxiety creates isolating behaviors and withdrawal from social activities. The more one isolates and limits interaction with structure and connection, the more likely one will also suffer from Depression. As Brené Brown states, “We are wired for connection”. If one is suffering from anxiety and withdrawing from daily activities, social interaction, the natural consequence will be Depression.