Mindfulness Therapy for Anxiety
Have you experienced an anxiety attack? It feels like the walls are closing in. Our heart starts racing; palms sweating; breathing becomes shallow and we notice tightness in the throat or pit of the stomach. These are some of the physical symptoms that accompany the emotional reaction we call anxiety. In its most extreme form the anxiety reaction changes into a panic attack, and that is truly terrifying.
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Anxiety affects all of us at some time in our lives, but for many, anxiety reactions are so severe that we actually develop a phobia of the anxiety-panic attacks and the problem escalates even further as we become anxious about having an anxiety attack.
There are a number of principles that a good mindfulness therapist will teach you on how to manage anxiety more effectively.
Changing your relationship to your thoughts and emotions
All emotional reactivity is driven by habitual patterns of thinking, based on inner beliefs about self and environment. This is called the Cognitive Structure of the emotion. It is the story you tell yourself inside that completely distorts your perceptions of self and world.
Cognitive Therapy (CBT) tries to help you become aware of these unquestioned habitual beliefs and patterns of negative thinking. Once you uncover this negative self-talk then the therapist can begin to help you change these beliefs and thought patterns into a more positive and reality-based form that does not create irrational anxiety.
This is a very effective first step toward the successful management of anxiety. However, there is something even more fundamental that you need to do and that is taught during mindfulness therapy.
You need to change your relationship to the thoughts themselves.
Our habit is to blindly identify with our thoughts and beliefs and other mental formations that arise out of habit. This often described in Buddhist psychology as being enchanted by the thought forms that arise out of habit. They literally cast a spell over us and we blindly become the thought or emotion that arises. In mindfulness theory, this is called the problem of Identification. By themselves, thoughts and beliefs have no power unless we blindly identify with them and fall under their spell.
Mindfulness training teaches us how to break the Identification Habit. If an anxiety thought arises we learn to recognize it, to acknowledge it, but not become it. We learn how to hold the thought or emotion in our awareness just as it is but without reacting to it.
If you react to it (anything) you effectively feed the anxiety causing it to gain strength and proliferate.
By contrast, if you don’t react to the anxiety-thought form then it cannot feed. Instead it begins to lose steam and power and starts its process of auto-resolution. No emotion can sustain itself indefinitely without you feeding it through the process of identification and further reactive thinking.
Dr. Peter Strong, Director of the Boulder Center for Mindfulness Therapy Online http://www.counselingtherapyonline.com.