Anxiety: In You & Around You
1. Is anxiety your enemy? Do you live in fear of….fear?!
2. Do you worry about your future? Do you worry about everybody’s future?
Did you detect the difference between #1 & #2?
#1 is strictly personal—about the individual, about personal experience.
#2 bridges the personal to the collective.
“Why is that important?”
Well, let’s answer that by asking 2 follow-up questions:
1. Would you like to learn the source of your anxiety as well as how to accept it and what’s going on in your body when you are afraid or anxious?
2. Would you like to learn how to play a part in preventing a fearful future for all of us?
If you haven’t already detected this, these questions hint at the core of Mo’BettaLife.com. We believe we must address both the personal and the collective—in other words:
1. How to best foster individual development, as well as:
2. The necessity to contribute to a positive future for all people (not to mention the environment that sustains us all).
We outline in our main pages and in our free article, “How to Get Unstuck Without Feeling Like a Schmuck,” (available to you when you register for your free membership) how we came to believe this integration was necessary to increase your chances to get Mo’ Betta. We address the fact that, even when individuals improve their lives, they often do it in a way that’s not sustainable—especially when it’s done at the expense of others. Furthermore, even those of us doing well now will eventually feel the blowback of outdated and dangerous social, economic, and political systems (Trump, anyone?!).
Throughout history, it’s taken a lot to become inspired (“infused with spirit”) and remain inspired, living wholeheartedly and with purpose in the face of a corrupt, crazy, and oppressive world. So many of us are now feeling demoralized, dehumanized, rejected and dejected, that becoming cynical is extremely difficult to avoid.
No matter how cynical you get, it’s impossible to keep up. (Lily Tomlin)
And it’s not just the poor, the working class, oppressed minorities and “third-world,” underdeveloped and exploited countries feeling the brunt anymore: traditionally protected middle-class and upper-middle class people are feeling much more vulnerable and scared.
So how can a person become as healthy as possible in order to:
1. model leadership and courage,
2. mount resistance to reactionary forces, and
3. contribute to progressive, evolutionary (and revolutionary) change as we face the onslaught of the Trump era?
Let’s start with some general recommendations:
An Integrated Life Practice
It’s best to address all major domains of life: physical/medical, psychological/spiritual, social, and environmental including economic and political systems. We’ll address the first three for now. (Of course, all these areas are interrelated, and this is just a brief overview.)
Diet & Exercise
OK, so you’ve heard you should eat well and you should exercise regularly a million times before and there’s a reason for that: Finding an optimal diet and exercise routine is critical to overall health and well being. There’s no getting around this fact.
That said, it’s often assumed that there’s a “magic bullet” diet or exercise regimen works for everyone. Wrong. In fact, it’s increasingly recognized that individual differences must be taken into account (such as genetic differences, your current medical conditions, disabilities, your personal preferences, cultural aspects, what food and exercise facilities and equipment is actually available to you, etc.).
And, of course, you should consult with a physician such as general pracititioner and/or orthopedist as well as a dietician or nutritionist, physical therapist, fitness coach, or other professional that focuses on physical health to obtain a holistic diet and exercise plan.
In fact, “going on a diet” and jumping into a major change in activity level isn’t likely to work, no matter what you see in those weight loss ads and reality TV shows. It’s about changing overall lifestyle habits. Start with adding good habits rather than just focusing on getting rid of bad ones. Start small. If you can get others to join you in both areas, you increase your chances of success. Regarding exercise: if you’re out of shape, start slow and make sure it’s a plan you can stick to for the long haul.
Mental Health and Personal Development
The single most important factor for personal development is the willingness to be comfortable with discomfort. This includes, of course, anxiety. Moreover, we will attain higher levels of development if we’re willing to actually seek out discomfort (“get out of your comfort zone”) and make it part of our lifestyle.
The amateur believes he must first overcome his fear; then he can do his work. The professional knows that fear can never be overcome. (Steven Pressfield)
There are 2 steps to this:
1. Identify what you’re afraid of—what makes you anxious and what you’re avoiding. You may not even realize you’re fearful and/or engaged in “avoidance behaviors,” but most of us are, at least at some point in our lives.
2. Turn down the “avoidance dial” and turn up the “willingness to suffer dial.” This is the heart of the most advanced form of Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), “Acceptance & Commitment Therapy” (ACT).
All great innovations and, indeed, the general progress of human evolution is because enough people got out of their comfort zone at one point or another. My paternal great-great grandparents came over from Sweden on a boat with 2 small children and one on the way, for example (and today’s immigrants need way more courage given the current political environment and scapegoating of immigration etc.).
Therefore, we must realize that fear and resistance inside of us are telling us something and it’s often that we’re actually on the right track, that we’re moving in the direction of something significant and life-changing. We believe that, if we get support for facing our fears not only for the life-changing impact it will have on us but also because it will have life-changing effects on others, it supercharges the likelihood we’ll take the necessary risks!
Before we move on to bridging the personal to the social, a quick primer on #1:
How To Identify What’s Causing Your Anxiety
- First, take a few deep breaths to slow your system down and focus. Inhale slowly through the nose and down, down into the belly (your shoulders and chest should not move, just the belly). Hold your breath for several seconds, then exhale slowly through the mouth, taking twice the time to exhale that you did for the inhale. Put your tongue on the roof of your mouth for the whole exercise (don’t ask me why on that tongue thing, just do it–it’s hundreds of years old, so it must work, right?!). Even better, use this classic sequence, called the “3-Stage Deep Breathing Technique:” Inhale for count of 4, hold for count of 7, exhale for count of 8. (For step-by-step instructions on this great deep breathing exercise, listen to this episode our podcast, The Mo’ Betta Life Show.)
- Now do a body scan and see where anxiety is showing up. Take your time. Try not to judge it as bad or try to get rid of it. Keep breathing.
- Ask yourself what is causing that sensation. Take your time and see what answer comes up.
- Now, once you have an answer, ask yourself what would happen next. For example, if the first answer is: “I’ll be embarrassed,” then ask, “What would happen after I feel embarrassed?”
- Now take another deep breath and ask again and keep repeating that sequence until you seem to get at the most basic, primary fear you can identify. Some common answers are: fear of rejection or not being liked or loved, fear of being alone, fear of embarrassment, looking foolish, incompetent, or stupid (for the perfectionist, fear of not being perfect), fear of being a nobody and not special or unique enough, fear of being abused or controlled by someone, fear of missing out or not getting basic needs met, fear of going crazy, etc.
- Finally, ask yourself “Is that [primary fear] likely to occur anytime soon?” (“My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened.”–Michel de Montaigne)
- If you answered “No,” turn up the willingness to suffer dial and accept the anxiety and sensations that go along with it. This is easier said than done, of course, but it must be done. If necessary, seek out a psychotherapist who is experienced in helping people do just that, such as a person trained in CBT & ACT. (I often use clinical hypnosis to help clients learn this and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Short of professional help, I recommend this ACT manual for the general public: “Get Out of Your Mind & Into Your Life.”)
- If you answered “Yes,” do the same thing as in #7 to learn to accept it and also ask, “What needs to be done right now?” This is the basic question of Constructive Living and is a reliable way of “getting out of our heads” and back into the present moment, empowering ourselves with an action-oriented way of addressing stress and fear.
You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time. (Pat Schroeder)
If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying. There is no benefit in worrying whatsoever. (His Holiness The Dalai Lama XIV)
If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying. It’s the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep. (Dale Carnegie)
I’ve experienced a sense of freedom and confidence from years of working this process. Instead of dreading anxiety and sudden panic-like symptoms (often from having post-traumatic stress triggered), my ability to accept the arousal in my body when it happens has greatly increased. This has led to a sense of emotional freedom and confidence I never knew was possible. It’s not easy, but it’s worth the pain and frustration of retraining our patterns of avoidance and, moreover, our relationship with anxiety itself. Instead of an enemy, it slowly becomes our teacher.
Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know. (Pema Chodron)
I am now much better at quickly changing my habitual thought of “Oh, oh!” to taking a breath and accepting the shot of arousal (adrenaline/increase in heart rate etc.). At that point, it’s not so painful because I’m not resisting it or trying to get rid of it, and I can focus on “what needs to be done right now.” (Quick tip: if you have social anxiety, focus on the other person instead of your inner experience and self-talk. Listen carefully and try to understand or help them.)
It’s important to realize that neurotic behavior (behavior patterns that repeat but don’t give us the results we want) is likely to occur when we refuse to fully experience our emotions, especially anxiety. In other words, we must learn to fully feel our pain and discomfort–to “embody” it (fully feel it in the body), allowing all those sensations we’ve been dreading. What leads to true psychological and emotional freedom is the ability to experience emotional intensity and the intensity of all experiences which come our way.
What does a fish do when it feels turbulence? It goes deeper. (Akira Omani)
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror… Just keep going. No feeling is final. (Rainier Maria Rilke)
OK, this brings us to:
Social Support on Steroids
To varying degrees, IQ and talent are often cited as necessary for success. However, recent research suggests otherwise: Angela Duckworth found that passion for something, deliberate practice and perseverance through tough stages of growth and learning (conscientiousness or grit), and purpose or finding meaning in what you’re doing are the main factors leading to accomplishing difficult goals.
Coming across a great idea—creativity—also counts, but creativity itself seems to be dependent on passion, persistence, and meaningful activity, not just some lightening bolt of divine intervention we’ve often assumed is necessary. Others, such as Carol Dweck, emphasize establishing a “growth mindset” versus a “fixed mindset.” A fixed mindset is the idea that, once an adult, your traits and talents are fixed and unchangeable; in contrast, a person with a growth mindset believes that their abilities can be developed through dedication and hard work.
Then there’s optimism. It’s not easy to stay positive these days–we’ve alluded to cynicism already; however, it’s important to note that a pessimist and an optimist can both see the state of the world accurately–it’s just that the pessimist is resigned and paralyzed while the optimist goes out and does something to change things.
The places where you hurt are the places where you care. Conversely, if you’re not willing to hurt then you can’t afford to care. (Steven Hayes, creator of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy)
The Difference that Makes a Difference
Worry ducks when purpose flies overhead. (Terri Guillemets)
Let’s take a closer look at “purpose or finding meaning in what you’re doing.” It turns out that being part of something greater than yourself and making a contribution to the well being of others is the secret sauce for long term, deep satisfaction in relationships, work, and life, overall. Duckworth explains:
Three bricklayers are asked, “What are you doing?” The first says, “I am laying bricks.” The second says, “I am building a church.” The third says, “I am building the house of God.” The first bricklayer has a job. The second has a career. The third has a calling.
Now we’re getting closer to what we’re all about here at Mo’BettaLife.com. We can see the importance of being connected to others, of being a wholehearted person willing to be vulnerable and fully present with other people. In the mental health business, this is related to having“social intelligence” and “a social support network.”
For many of us, intimacy with one or a few people where we allow silence and unpredictability can be more frightening than speaking in front of hundreds of people. Due to technology, we are more connected these days than ever, but not necessarily in a way deeply resonates, that lasts, and/or that meets our most basic need for social contact and intimacy. We believe people are hungry for open, genuine contact with people who are embracing authenticity and risk with others. We also believe that this is how social change will sustain itself in what promises to be a very difficult period in the next 4 years, if not 4 decades.
(We’d like to see y’all connect here on Mo’BettaLife.com, but we would also like to see people find a way to meet each other face-to-face. Would you like us to eventually arrange Mo’BettaLife.com meet-up events? Let us know in the Comments and Forums!)
“That’s all good for other people, but I’m Not Worthy“
Jeffrey believes “it’s impossible for anyone to change their station in life if they are not feeling worthy of change.” You might imagine that what you have to offer others is nothing special and is unworthy of our attention. On the one hand, what kind of work you do or things you make may or may not be valued by the people you know—we have no idea; however, we believe your very presence and kind, loving attention all people can provide is always valuable. Do you?! We think the world won’t survive unless progressively minded people take the risk to find out!
Make no mistake, what you try might not work right away, but we want Mo’BettaLife.com to be a safe place to keep trying, to make mistakes, and to get support along the way.
Don’t reach the end of your life with your music still inside you! (Unknown)
You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. (hockey great, Wayne Gretzky)
To avoid situations in which you might make mistakes may be the biggest mistake of all. (Peter McWilliams)
There’s no use denying that what we create might not work out or might not be appreciated, but here at Mo’BettaLife.com, even if your ideas are not readily accepted nor acted upon, and even if others disagree with you, we will still accept you and we will still value your effort and risk-taking! Besides, trying to make a difference in this world isn’t supposed to be about making a difference to absolutely everyone we meet! Jeffrey and I know Mo’BettaLife.com and our podcasts are not for everyone, but that ain’t gonna stop us! If what you do makes a difference for just one person, that’s enough!
(So, let’s have a rule here in our community: the person who makes the most mistakes and posts up the most failures, wins!)
Mo’BettaLife.com’s Meaning & Mission
Mo’BettaLife.com’s philosophy adds something more to becoming connected to others beyond just because it feels good and gets us more of what we want in our personal lives: making connections with others and working together to change the world is a social responsibility. Personal growth and development, then, is a moral imperative, not just an interesting finding in social science that will help you be more successful and happier personally. No, working for a Mo’ Betta Life is required to save our collective skins! We’re in an unprecedented period of history, a tipping point that will determine the future of our species, and the “most powerful man in the world” is a reactionary buffoon and bully.
We believe this is a great time to step out and take a stand. Simply expressing your unique take on what’s going on and offering suggestions for positive change is most welcome and needed!
(I once had a client who was homebound and very disabled by mental, emotional, and physical problems. This person felt terrible and very ashamed they couldn’t do more to help others and change the world. Given I only provide home- and community-based services, I often come across people with this predicament; so I asked a well-known spiritual master and healer who had once saved my life about what the client said. He quickly responded, “Tell them that even if they only sincerely and deeply send out positive vibes and love to those that suffer in the world, that makes a big difference!” I told my client this and, eventually, the person healed to the point of becoming active in the community and doing more direct change work.)
We need your feedback, input, and participation to make this community effective and and to support each other as effect agents of change!
Do you have something to say? Write a comment below or start a thread in the forums! Send us an email! (Marty@Mobettalife.com or Jeffrey@MoBettaLife.com) We’ll also consider publishing an article you send us for the web site! Thank you!
By the way, we’re not going to cover that last domain, “environment,” right now—check out our other articles for more on that. Also, remember that we recommend you focus much more on your strengths and resources rather than shortcomings or liabilities. Sure, it’s important to have insight and awareness about your “areas for development” (we prefer that term to “weaknesses”) so they don’t trip you up and take away for your strengths, but we also believe there’s way too much emphasis on pathology in traditional mental health literature and treatment. Please check out our .pdf, “How to Get Unstuck Without Feeling Like a Schmuck” (it’s available with your free membership) for more details on identifying your strengths and goals for development. It includes two specific exercises to get you started.
Please join us and tell others about what we’re trying to create here at Mo’BettaLife.com! As Jefferey says, “Imagine, if things were Mo’ Betta over on my side of the fence AND Mo’ Betta over on your side of the fence, eventually just get rid of the fence and it’ll just be ALL Mo’ Betta!”
What happens when Republicans take over government?
Marty: Since the 1990s and 2000s, Republican governors and state government majorities here in Minnesota have done their best to gut the social safety net and critical services, and our current governor, a Democrat, can’t do much about it in the face of Republican opposition. These two recent reports are the chickens coming home to roost: as a provider of home-based services, I’ve long seen it coming. I often work with vulnerable adults and people with disabilities, and substandard care or even the lack of necessary care is something I often hear about from my clients (and sometimes witness) regarding personal care attendants and other needed services. I regularly speak to other health care and social service professionals, and it is agreed that this state of affairs is no less than a major scandal in the “richest country in the world.” The inadequate “Affordable Care Act” (“Obamacare”) was a boon to health insurance companies more than anything, but at least it helped a little. Now what can we expect with Trump and a Republican controlled congress in Washington? Will the Democrats put up a fight?
Please comment below on what’s going on in your state. Do you have any ideas for addressing it?
Psychologists for Social Responsibility Release New Statement the Right to Rehabilitation for Survivors of Torture
PsySR has been one of the organizations on the forefront of combating human rights abuses, particularly the participation by psychologists in torture during the George W. Bush administration. On February 2nd, they released a new statement: “Among the human rights abuses and violations of international law committed by the United States at Guantanamo, the denial of the right to rehabilitation must be recognized as significant, and as remediable to at least some degree. In addition to calling for an end to the practice of torture and abuse, PsySR is committed to recognizing and advocating for the right to comprehensive rehabilitative services for torture survivors, including current and former Guantanamo detainees.”–Psychologists for Social Responsibility Statement on the Right to Rehabilitation for Survivors of Torture, 2/17
What is Hypnosis?
Mentioned in the article above, here is the definition and description of hypnosis that was prepared by the Executive Committee of the American Psychological Association, Division of Psychological Hypnosis:
“Hypnosis is a procedure during which a health professional suggests changes in sensations, perceptions, thoughts, or behavior. The hypnotic context is generally established by an induction procedure. Although there are many different hypnotic inductions, most include suggestions for relaxation, calmness, and well-being. Instructions to imagine or think about pleasant experiences are also commonly included in hypnotic inductions. People respond to hypnosis in different ways. Some describe their experience as an altered state of consciousness. Others describe hypnosis as a normal state of focused attention in which they feel very calm and relaxed. Regardless of how and to what degree they respond, most people describe the experience as very pleasant.
“Some people are very responsive to hypnotic suggestions and others are less responsive. A person’s ability to experience hypnotic suggestions can be inhibited by fears and concerns arising from some common misconceptions. Contrary to some depictions of hypnosis in books, movies, or on television, people who have been hypnotized do not lose control over their behavior. They typically remain aware of who they are and where they are, and unless amnesia has been specifically suggested, they usually remember what transpired during hypnosis.
“Hypnosis makes it easier for people to experience suggestions, but it does not force them to have these experiences. Hypnosis is not a type of therapy, like psychoanalysis or behavior therapy. Instead, it is a procedure that can be used to facilitate therapy. Because it is not a treatment in and of itself, training in hypnosis is not sufficient for the conduct of therapy. Only properly trained and credentialed health care professionals who have also been trained in the clinical use of hypnosis and are working within the areas of their professional expertise should use clinical hypnosis.
“Hypnosis has been used in the treatment of pain depression, anxiety, stress, habit disorders, and many other psychological and medical problems. However, it may not be useful for all psychological problems or for all patients or clients. The decision to use hypnosis as an adjunct to treatment can only be made in consultation with a qualified health care provider who has been trained in the use and limitations of clinical hypnosis. In addition to its use in clinical settings, hypnosis is used in research with the goal of learning more about the nature of hypnosis itself, as well as its impact on sensation, perception, learning, memory, and physiology. Researchers also study the value of hypnosis in the treatment of physical and psychological problems.”
Marty: There is no question about the effectiveness of clinical hypnosis, but the one thing I find with trance work is that it is underutilized by health care professionals. I find it particularly helpful when clients complain about pain. I’ll write more about clinical hypnosis in the future.