Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a lot about changing behaviors to achieve whatever we’d like to achieve, rather than doing what feels good at this very moment.
When we’re doing things… Shouldn’t we reason and reflect for a moment about why we do so? Reflect a second of if it’s a good or bad habit?
It’s not unusual for people to make choices with really comfortable short term results – and awful long term ones. Doing so might be what we’re wired to do. Candy and plenty of fattening food? Yes please! Dopamine from Facebook likes? Yes please! Opioids and other addictive, lovely things? Yes please! Avoid the things that gives anxiety and hard things that are initially hard or uncomfortable – but might be what’s actually important? Yes please! YES PLEASE!
… Thanks, evolution.
If we’re to try to be somewhat higher creatures than deer and rabbits that give in to the first spontaneous impulse – and flee at the sight of almost anything – we obviously have to make an effort. We ought to use that special part of the brain we mean when we say frontal lobes. That seems to be the part that makes us better at thinking ahead and really think things through better than most other known animals… as far as we know.
To change and make progress in these things we must use our higher cognitive reasoning. We must withstand hardship and sometimes quite outdrawn discomfort. Use the ability to stay put, think through a situation and reflect upon the consequences of the actions we do. It seems as if that ability is too often ignored to the benefit of something pleasant… in the short term. That something is done with dire consequences.
Isn’t it worth the effort to turn into something greater? A thinking being. Someone who reflects upon the consequences of your actions and what’ll happen when you do the right things?
Short term “pleasant” results and long term bad ones sure sounds like a bad habit to me.
Short term “unpleasant” results and long term good ought to be a good habit. Like Brussels sprouts.
Short term good results and long term good results AS WELL are ideal. Find them. Cherish them – if you’ve got the chance.
“I love broccoli – and responsibility!”
“Working out? A decent amount and without breaking things? Woho!”
Or just go to bed at bedtime…
This is where we get into the exposure therapy.
Don’t do what’s comfortable right here and now –
and you might very well get lovely long term results that’ll increase your quality of life.
That way you might very well get rid of the dread that contributes to nothing but a decreased quality of life by restricting what you can and will do.
By doing what’s really scary, challenge it and poke the fear you might get rid of the handicap your anxiety gives you. Regardless of if it’s from
Fear of the dark
Fear of water
Fear of needles
Fear of social situations
Fear of driving
Fear of snakes, spiders, rats or any other tiny creepy crawly.
Fear of your own thoughts, like ruminating and brooding might be.
Fear of… practically everything and anything, as with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.
Fear of what has happened before and thoughts of that horrible thing, like PTSD.
Fear of your own emotions, sensations or of having a panic attack.
I tend to use the word fear and anxiety quite synonymously. Anxiety is, in my opinion, practically to fear something. Add the emotions, sensations and thoughts on top and you’ve created anxiety.
Emotions are what makes us human, and perhaps what makes life worth living.
But they might also do just the opposite. Haunt, cripple and plague our minds – and if that’s the case you’re screwed. Life simply isn’t worth living if it’s bad enough. I get that. That’s why you might need to do what’s even more uncomfortable.
The choices are among these three.
- One. Pick the previous you just read about, mostly just… misery and anguish – stuck, no action, no progress and without any change whatsoever. Forever haunted by the misery of that anxiety and anguish.
- Two. Be completely super-human, fear nothing and be the equivalent of some sort of god. Do the right thing and be a sage, a story and something godlike like this Youtube video is an example of (just a couple of minutes long – click it!):
… I wouldn’t say I’m quite sure how to turn into a Stoic sage and role model at that level just yet. Sure, I’m doing my best, but until it’s fully clear how to, I’ll use other methods. The misery part where I’ll have to endure lifelong misery as the first example, where without getting ahead and fear and dread is what controls life sounds… dull – and I don’t know how to turn into someone with the courage of a BALROG as in number two.
- So… there’s number three. The human, pragmatic way of doing this. Work for the progress. Like we all do, generally. In these cases, with exposure therapy, you’ll bathe in your fear and dread – helplessly – and you will fear no more.
Fear of the dark
Remember Batman, where we learn that Bane knows this all too well? “Oh, you think darkness is your ally. But you merely adopted the dark; I was born in it, molded by it. I didn’t see the light until I was already a man, by then it was nothing to me but BLINDING! The shadows betray you, because they belong to me!”
Bathe in what ought to scare you and induce nothing but fear and you’ll get used to it.
I tend to use cognitive behavioral therapy with those I help if it’s necessary since it seems to work really well to extinguish irrational feelings.
Since that’s what I do… What do you think happened at the night of Halloween?
Graveyard at midnight with someone afraid of the dark… Bathe and embrace.
Fear of needles.
No difference. There’s a specific strategy and it’s necessary to do it with some finesse, sure, but the treatment for fear of needles makes quite the difference for those who get panic attacks from vaccines and anxiety from the thought or from accidentally seeing something related to needles on TV.
Just a few days ago I met a client of mine again who started out being uncomfortable when we spoke about needles.
She actually shivered from fear when she was close to them.
And there was panic attacks when she was poked with them.
That was the start.
Last time we met she casually stabbed herself in the arm while looking at it sloooowly get in further as she’s poking it more and more with barely any reaction. I stabbed her in the arm, shoulders, legs and abdomen. The shoulders and the leg was supposed to hurt. That was the point.
Not at all. To go from panic-level to mastering watching the needle penetrate things that are supposed to hurt [I was going for trigger points, the most tender part of a muscle, which is penetrated to treat pain and dysfunction in muscles] is kind of as close to heroism as we get in everyday life today… Though achieved through the pragmatic and quite human approach previously mentioned.
When people do progress like this, it’s impossible to be anything but incredibly proud as a therapist.
There’s a lot of work and plenty of emotions, not to mention tears, behind the progress. But the difference is huge. And I’m nothing but proud and amazed.