During the height of my anxiety disorder I dived right into my fears and if I would have known about a step by step gradual system called systematic desensitization back then, I definitely would have taken this less frightful road. Systematic desensitization assumes that fears and phobias are learned and they can also be unlearned through controlled exposure to the phobia, the process slowly takes away the persons sensitivity to the feared object. The process starts with clearly recognizing what your fear is and then making a ladder in the form of a hierarchy from least scary, to the ultimate goal with 10 action steps for each fear. In the case of claustrophobia and a fear of elevators your ladder might look like this:
1) Picture an elevator in your mind
2) look at a silly drawing of someone in an elevator
3) look at a real more serious drawing of someone in an elevator
4) look at a real photo of someone else in an elevator
5) find and look at a real elevator up close
6) take a step into an elevator and then step back
7) go up one floor with a friend with you in an elevator
8) go up to the top floor with a friend in the elevator with you
9) go up one floor on your own in an elevator
10) Finally, go up to the top floor by yourself in an elevator
As you can see the individual begins with the step that causes only small amounts of very manageable anxiety, and from there slowly exposes him or herself to more and more challenging scenarios. I’ve always been big on tattoos, and had a few from over the years. One day, after a yoga session I had toward the end of my period of anxiety, I read a quote on the wall that said, “All power is from within and is therefore under our control.” I couldn’t think of a better quote that portrayed the struggles we overly fearful bunch go through every day. As a reminder I decided to get it tattooed on my forearm, but have to admit during that time I also got tattoos so I could meet a very real need all humans need these days, the need to be significant in the world. As I carry the message around daily,
Recently I started to look back on my struggles and notice that in the end all the tools to change my past nightmares was really within me the whole time. Once I tapped into that power with the momentum I gained from the tools I used in my new daily life, I was in the end completely able to let go of my panic and generalized anxiety disorder. Of course I knew it wasn’t going to be a straight road to freedom from anxiety, my mind and body put up a huge fight determined to suck me back in to the old worry and fear of bodily sensations cycle. Again, this quote that I have tattooed on my arm is another form of the strength that I pull from if my past pops up again in the future. Of course, I’m not telling you to tattoo a meaningful quote on your arm, but I am telling you to surround yourself with things that will keep you on the right track In times of need.
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