It can be a little murky….

Photo by Edurne Tx on Unsplash

Anxiety, in its various forms, seems to be the most pervasive problem of the day.  But how do we differentiate conscious anxiety from somatic (sub and unconscious) anxiety?

The differences are important because we’ll intervene in different ways. 

If you have conscious anxiety — about driving in the snow, your wedding day is next week, an upcoming test or hiking amongst rattlesnakes — there are concrete actions you can do to increase your ability to successfully navigate the situation.  Take those actions and your confidence rises and the anxiety fades away, generally not immediately replaced with something else.

Not so with sub/unconscious anxiety. Mental health professionals call it “free floating anxiety” because it is just a vague feeling until it can find something to focus on.

There are four main causes of somatic anxiety:  

1.  Your basic mind/body connections are lacking, resulting in an inability to feel your body.  It sure is hard to keep your body safe if you can’t find it!

2. One of two safety and security reflexes from in utero life to a few months after birth have not matured.  This results in your trying to stay safe simultaneously both as an immobile embryo and as a fully-mobile person, or as a fetus/newborn — you can move arms and legs but not walk/run or communicate well.  The confusion from not having automatic responses that will relieve the danger is terribly disruptive and distracting.

3.  One or more of your baby reflexes aren’t fully set aside.  Again, they help you learn to transition to an independently mobile body who understands your environment and how to deal with it — but if any part of that isn’t automated, you’re still stuck between coping strategies.

4.  Trauma, either emotional or physical, has gotten chemicals stuck within your body’s bioelectric/unconscious nervous system.

Any of the above can show up at any time during your life, and most human beings alive today has SOME of this going on.   But how much does it affect your life?  Would you BENEFIT from intervening?  Read on!

Think about it: subconscious anxiety — anxiety that we MIGHT be aware of if we think about it, comprises a lot of this category.  Unconscious anxiety — anxiety that we’re not aware of even if we try to think about it — that’s harder yet, to wrap your head around.  And yet — it exists, can rule our lives, but also responds to treatment.

So how do you recognize if you have this?  If I listed all that this can show up as, you’d be overwhelmed.  SOME are:

*hypersensitive senses: motion sickness, easily dizzy; light sensitivity and easily overwhelmed in a visually complex environment; sound sensitivity (misophonia) and difficulty filtering out nonessential noises; picky eaters, those who can’t stand strong smells — essential oils, perfumes, butcher shops; tactile defensiveness — those who don’t like tags in clothes, seams in socks, need to have everything soft, don’t like haircuts.  This can also include those who don’t like going outside, wind or breezes.

*Need to control — self, others, the environment.  THINK about this one, because there’s SO much there!

*Lots of phobias and hesitancies: those who absolutely need to watch everything before trying anything.    Excessive shyness

*Negativity: those who say “don’t judge” may be harshly judging themselves.

*Lack of emotional control: anger, defiance, melt-downs, bullying


*avoiding activities, people or situations


*withdrawal into computers, alternate realities

*excessive daydreaming

*big emotions; fight/flight/freezing and withdrawal

There are lots of parenting tips that may or may not help — that’s not my part in this.

There are lots of coping skills that do help (breathing control, sensory distraction type things ) — that’s not my part in this either.

There are lots of tips for educators and others who work with kids (room clears, extra para coverage, etc) — not my part in this.

There are a lot of anger-management programs and counselors who help, but I’m not an expert there, either.

MY role is to teach techniques that build resilience and capability, so that the above are needed less and less.  Sometimes, they may not be needed at all.  IF we’re anxious because our sub/unconscious nervous systems aren’t functioning ideally — let’s give those systems the input they need, to function as well as possible!