If you listen to your body when it whispers, you won’t have to hear it scream
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Surviving to Thriving – Mental Toughness (Steve Harris)
Chapter 2. SURVIVING TO THRIVING GUIDE
Hyper-anxiety which leads to an anxiety or depression disorder diagnosis.
Drivers for this are usually the negative legacy emotions of shame and guilt. These self-defeating emotions are triggered opportunistically after you experience the consequences of trauma. Tragically, hyper-anxiety is also associated with constant rumination about negative events in your past or about events that could happen in the future. This causes you to perpetuate depressive behaviours because you find new, imagined problems to be anxious about. In this state your reasoning capacity is impeded, and you become governed by a melodramatic, as opposed to a fact-based world view, or a consensus-based view. Thus, instead of rationally recognizing and logically analysing your feelings of regret or remorse caused by trauma, that could catalyse a change in your behaviour, you search for reasons to justify feelings of guilt and shame. Thus, you end up blaming others or being angry with them, or metaphorically cowering in a cave, as you try to navigate a constant sense of crisis.
People suffering from hyper anxiety tend to conflate what is a frightening, perceived threat, with a dangerous and real threat. There is then a dissonance between the life they expected and the one they have. This is mostly accompanied by a notion that they have less, if not, no choices. They often see bad over good, become prone to conspiracies while blaming others. They then struggle to accept responsibility. Their flight or fight response is on high alert which causes exhaustion and burn-out.
Substance dependence behaviour.
In this instance your brain depends on a pain managing, or recreational, substance that you see as a medicating, soothing or stimulating solution, and do not consider that the substance may be problematic. You can include misuse of your phone in dependency behaviour, or more specifically the attention-grabbing aspects of the social media you access on your phone.
With reference to substances you continue the use despite the adverse effects and consume more as the original palliative effect lessens. This is particularly hazardous when combined with a predilection for addiction. You often become righteous, polarized, irrational, have mood swings, renewed anxiety, fear, distrust, and extreme anger bouts. When challenged about irrationality, you revert to denial and counter accusations. Anti-social behaviours like lying, stealing manifest and personal hygiene deteriorates.
Extreme grief can contribute to depressive behaviour.
In this state of severe sadness, you experience anhedonia, lack motivation, feel left behind, experience chronic remorse, loneliness, irrational hopelessness, and despair. You become a ‘baby doomer’ dominated by believing you have lost touch with happiness. In my opinion, the concept of wanting happiness opens a can of worms. Firstly, we often confuse excitement and goal achievement with happiness. Secondly, the suffering and sacrifice endured in the quest for goal achievement highlights the opposite, i.e. it magnifies what you are not achieving. There must be room for reflecting on the role of lofty goals and considering cutting back on expectations if they are at the root of our suffering. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “the purpose of life is not chasing happiness. It is to be useful, honourable and compassionate”. Another, reference to the elusiveness of happiness is from Henry de Montherlant who claimed that “happiness writes in white ink on a white page”.
Finally, it’s worth contemplating, whether happiness should be our default position.
The cumulative effect of these states can trigger psychosis or psychosis like symptoms.
In this condition your brain seems to disable your ability to recognize your negative behaviours. You lack insight, you feel no sense of purpose, a loss of meaning and your once dearly held values are cast aside. This loss can often be combined with persecution paranoia where you lose your handle on consensus reality. Such is the consequence of your behaviour that you blame, demonize, and reject those who love you, and are trying to help you. Family members are accused of being the co-creators, or even the architects of your distress. You become hypersensitive to a range of contexts or words which trigger a default paranoia i.e. These contexts and words make you think someone, or something is judging you and out to harm you. You are constantly scanning for the next bad thing that is going to happen to you. Such false beliefs prompt you to self-stigmatize. In this risky state, you do not need others to torture you because your mind is already doing it for you. You inevitably develop hypochondria and are often convinced that you have contracted a dreaded disease.
Worsening behaviours are seldom apparent to the victim
No matter how obvious the behaviours are to others, the decline is not apparent to the sufferer who often refuses assistance, whether medical, psychotherapy, community support or spiritual guidance. In extreme cases this leaves families with concerns that the sufferer, in many ways, is not the person they knew. Having to accept these circumstances draws heavily on unconditional love. The conventional approach pushes family members, who feel compelled to help, towards involuntary hospitalization with medication as a lifesaving solution for their loved one, this despite the heart-breaking prospect of a “revolving door” or “Groundhog Day” scenario. This means the affected person may recover partially and get discharged, but relapses, and is readmitted.
Frog in hot water
I have no doubt you have heard about the frog in hot water experiment. Was it real? Surely not. Nevertheless, it is great imagery for the importance of awareness. It is claimed that if a frog is placed in a pot of boiling water it will jump out, but it will not jump out of a pot of cold water that is heated slowly. Apparently, the amphibian does not notice the incremental changes in its environment until it is too late. We need to be aware of the analogous changes in our situation before we find ourselves in boiling water. Of course, it also implies that it’s insufficient to merely notice the metaphoric increase in temperature. You need to act on it.
I recall international limited-overs cricket competitions where a hot favourite team adopted an overtly aggressive game plan. Despite the game plan patently not working, they seemed determined to stick to it rather than adapt it to respond to current conditions. It is not clear whether this team had not developed the awareness skills to recognise their plan’s weaknesses at the time, or if they were just ill-prepared and had no alternative plan. They stuck to a sub-optimal plan and exited the competition because they did not have the awareness to adapt to their situation.