Unblock the boundaries - Debbie Featherstone | www.debbiefeatherstone.com

Cognitive Behaviour Therapy
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Unblock the boundaries

A new way of thinking is needed to change how you feel, whether those feelings are because of anxiety, depression or situation you find yourself in. Anxiety is by far the most common reason people seek help from me, so I'll focus on that here.  
Do you:

  • Perceive your anxiety as out of your control
  • Hate your anxiety
  • Want your anxiety to go away
  • Battle with your anxiety
  • Feel unhappy and frustrated by your anxiety

Let’s replace the words “you” and “your” with “I” and “my”:

  • I perceive my anxiety as out of my control
  • I hate my anxiety
  • I want my anxiety to go away
  • I battle with my anxiety
  • I feel frustrated by my anxiety

Whether you use those words as voiced statements, or internal thoughts or non-verbal feelings, you are creating distress (and more anxiety) for yourself.

1. I perceive my anxiety as out of my control

By all means, change the word “perceive” to something else if you want to, but whatever word you use instead, it is still your “perception”.

Definition of Perception: the word comes from the Latin verb percipere meaning to seize, to understand

It is your UNDERSTANDING of (your) anxiety that creates how you “perceive” it

2. I hate my anxiety

How does it make you feel when you tell yourself you hate something?

Take a look at the Emotion Wheel (Fig.1) below

Of the 7 groups of emotions identified (middle of wheel), what are the emotions generated by feeling HATE for something?

Happy? Probably not!
Surprised? Possibly
Bad? Probably
Fearful? Probably
Angry? Probably
Disgusted? Possibly
Sad? Probably

Emotion Wheel
emotion wheel
Fig.1 Emotion Wheel

Using the wheel, jot down TEN of the strongest emotions you feel about your anxiety and give each of them a percentage of how strong you feel the emotion:

1._____________________________         6.__________________________
2._____________________________         7.__________________________
3._____________________________         8.__________________________
4._____________________________         9.__________________________
5._____________________________        10._________________________

What are the top THREE and their percentages?

3. I want my anxiety to go away

I am quite sure you do! However, how realistic do you think it is that it's going to go away on it's own? Is it helpful to keep on with this thinking when you really know how unlikely it is to happen without making some changes?

4. I battle with my anxiety

I wish I had even a single penny for every time I have heard this come out of the mouths of the thousands of people with anxiety (and tinnitus that is exacerbated greatly by anxiety) that I have worked with over the past 26 years! I would be RICH!

I will say here what I say to the people I work with. “Pick a battle with anxiety (or tinnitus!) and I will guarantee that you will lose!

Why? When we have a sense of being “against”, or “fighting” or “battling” etc. we trigger neurotransmitter (brain chemicals) production that prepares us for “fight” (part of the “fight, flight, freeze” state). This produces a sharp increase in “arousal” (Sympathetic Nervous System activity) and where anxiety is already a problem, anxiety symptoms are simultaneously increased.

5. I feel frustrated by my anxiety

Search for the meaning of what you mean by this. A couple of definitions of "frustrated" from Oxford Dictionaries might help:

“Feeling or expressing distress and annoyance resulting from an inability to change or achieve something”

“Prevented from progressing, succeeding, or being fulfilled”

How can we create a new type of thinking?

There are many more than 5 common “perceptions” and thoughts about anxiety that people have. I have just skimmed the surface using the above five.

Near the beginning on page 1, I stated:

“Whether you use those words as voiced statements, or internal thoughts or non-verbal feelings, you are creating distress for yourself.”

The GOOD news is that YOU DON’T HAVE TO!

The distress – in whatever form it is taking in your life – stems from beliefs.

Although they may be your beliefs, where did you get them from?

Did they just “pop up” out of nowhere? – Absolutely NOT! You learned them at some point in the past, and your SUB-conscious created its interpretation of that learned experience.

Beliefs are created layer upon layer, experience on top of experience, and we rarely think of challenging what we think we know already.

Liminal Thinking

Excerpt from “Liminal Thinking” by Dave Gray

“Have you had moments in your life, when you suddenly saw things in a new and different way? A new way of seeing the world—and yourself—opens the door to change and growth.

You can cultivate a way of thinking and being that will allow you to have these breakthrough insights more often. Through that new way of thinking, you will be able to guide others to similar mind shifts that will give them the power to transform their lives. This way of thinking is a practice you can use to find and create new doorways to possibilities, doorways that are invisible to others.

I call this practice liminal thinking.

The word liminal comes from the Latin root limen, which means threshold.

The idea behind liminal thinking is that there are thresholds, doors of opportunity, around you, all the time. Most of them are invisible to you, because you are focusing on other things. But they are there, they are real, and they offer incredible potential for growth and change. Tuning your mind to liminal thinking will help you see opportunities that others will be unable to see or even imagine. It’s a kind of psychological agility that enables you to create change where others cannot.” (D. Gray, 2016 pp.xx)

“Liminal” means boundary, or threshold.

I recently came across the book “Liminal Thinking” by Dave Gray. I have read it from cover to cover and found it to be extraordinarily insightful! I also quickly realised that it is something I have been asking my patients to do for the past 26 years without knowing it!

In fact, liminal thinking is what ALL therapists – and doctors, teachers, trainers, coaches, bosses, supervisors, even politicians ask of others. Even parents when they are desperately attempting to change their child’s behaviour!

Fundamentally, we are all “trapped” in our beliefs by a bubble of “Self-sealing logic”.

Yet, when what has led us to being in this bubble is broken down in to its component parts, it was based on a single conscious idea out of millions of SUB-conscious bits of our total experience at any given moment in time. The reference for this goes back to a Neuroscientist called Manfred Zimmerman in 1973.

Quote: “Zimmermann estimates that your conscious attention has a capacity of about 40 bits per second. That’s a tiny, tiny fraction of what you can perceive: 40 bits out of a potential 11 million. That’s 10,999,960 bits of information that you sense but don’t notice, every second.” (D.Gray, 2016)

Here's a great video by Dave Gray explaining Liminal Thinking:

Or go straight to the video on YouTube:
The video is 12:28 long, so grab yourself a cuppa and enjoy!

After watching the video

Think of the Elephant as being “Anxiety” and what you believe about it.

And when you are ready to start making changes – coming OUT of your bubble escaping the self-sealing logic that’s kept you in it – start making changes.

Change your story, enrol on the online Anxiety De-Program to start making the necessary changes.

Debbie Featherstone
Hearing Therapist & Psychotherapist

Debbie Featherstone MSc Hearing Therapy | Psychotherapy & CBT Specialist

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