One of the core convictions of my life is that addressing the root cause of problems is the best way to solve them. Another core conviction is that anxiety in the unconscious and subconscious nervous system causes most of our functional problems.
So why do we not root out all anxiety first? Because this is one time where we CANNOT treat the core problem first. It’s just too closely guarded, too personal, too frightening to have that anxiety just…gone.
First, we get people used to the very unusual feeling of a better-functioning autonomic nervous system. That system is so complex, that it gives an enormous array of symptoms when something goes wrong. And when it’s given better function? People are frequently immediately aware that something is different, somehow. They use words like “lighter” or “happier” but more often, “different somehow, and I don’t know how” or “I don’t have words for what this feels like.”
That makes sense, really! We don’t have words in our subconscious and unconscious selves, because it’s hard to think about the first, and impossible to feel about the second. But they CAN tell that something is different…..or that doing things is easier somehow (like “How is that freaking possible?” story or Sean’s story.
Taken slowly and in small bits, these changes are a new and pleasant sensation. In larger doses, it can be unsettling. For highly sensitive people in large doses, it’s upsetting. The more experience a therapist has with exercises and reading people, the more we can titrate the amounts of exercise to the person.
One of the biggest lessons a therapist learns is sometimes an exercise will help an area that startles the client into emotion. We can’t always see when that happens; sometimes it’s a really good thing, and sometimes it requires sensitivity to give the person the time to let it sink in. This is especially important when the person you’re working with doesn’t react in a visible manner. It’s helpful then, to go quite slowly with someone until you know how they react.