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The Futility of Hypervigilance

Discussion in 'Mindbody Blogs (was Practitioner's Corner)' started by Danielle Szasz LMFT, Jun 1, 2017.

  1. Danielle Szasz LMFT

    Danielle Szasz LMFT TMS Therapist

    Hi all, here's a short video I made on the futility of hypervigilance. Oftentimes we think that if we worry about something enough then we will somehow be safe or be able to protect against all negative outcomes but, unfortunately, it's simply not true. Hypervigilance also takes a horrible toll on our physical and mental health. The better course of action is to begin to cultivate resilience, which allows us to respond creatively and adaptively when things do go wrong, as they inevitably will. I'd love to hear about your experiences with hyper vigilance and what you are doing to cultivate resilience.
     
  2. Penny2007

    Penny2007 formerly Pain2007

    I don't understand the part about worrying making you feel safe. I've lived through many traumas that either happened to me, someone I love or people I know. I think this is what has caused me to go through periods of feeling like something bad could happen at any time (I'm suffering from that now). I try to be prepared depending on the situation but the worry makes me feel overwhelmed because of all the pressure I put on myself to fix it or be prepared. I don't feel safe in any way - the opposite, I feel unsafe.
     
  3. Danielle Szasz LMFT

    Danielle Szasz LMFT TMS Therapist

    That's a very good point and maybe "safe" is the wrong word choice. Maybe the better way to say it is that worrying is an attempt to feel safe that actually has the unintended consequence of usually making one feel even less safe and more frightened. It is definitely a natural response to trauma, but one that has so many negative consequences when it becomes a long-term strategy for dealing with all the uncertainty in the world.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 8, 2017
  4. Penny2007

    Penny2007 formerly Pain2007

    I've never looked at worrying as a strategy. I guess you mean it's an subconscious strategy. Can you explain how worrying is an attempt to feel safe?
     
  5. Danielle Szasz LMFT

    Danielle Szasz LMFT TMS Therapist

    Yes, worry is a thing our brains do in an attempt to reduce activity in the amygdala, the fear center of the brain. You are right that it is not something that we generally consciously choose to do; it's a thing our brains do for us in an attempt to restore homeostasis when the fear brain is in high gear. So, it actually does work in the short terms because very temporarily, worry reduces activity in the amygdala because our brain feels like we are "doing" something about the thing that we are scared about. But, as you've noticed, worrying generally doesn't actually do anything because most of the things we worry about are not things we can actually control. Mindfulness can be very helpful in noticing when our brain are unconsciously pulled to worrying so that we can bring them back into the present.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 8, 2017
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  6. bman

    bman Peer Supporter

    I found myself nodding a lot in your video - you hit the nail on the head with me. I am suffering from peripheral neuropathy for 6 months - numbness, pain and burning in feet - especially when I am on my feet. I also have a "pinched nerve" in my back and neck for a little longer but most of those symptoms have resolved with my TMS work for the past month. I had neuropathy 15 years ago and again 3 years later but was largely symptom free for 12 years. I had a heart attack out of the blue two years ago. It was not caused by heart disease (I am 66 but have very little plaque in my arteries). I have always been hyper-vigilant and have had TMS most of my life. I am a Professional Land Use Planner and supervised 50 people. I feel like my heart attack made my hyper-vigilance worse because I had been eating right, exercised 5 days a week, controlled my blood pressure and all the other "good things." Yet I still had a heart attack! My heart is back to normal but my brain is not. I have traveled to Ireland and Hawaii since the attack but have been very concerned about having an attack on the plane. Since my symptoms started 6 months ago I stay active but I still have fears. We are going on a road trip in 15 days and I think that my feet are hurting more because I am going to leave my comfort zone. I am thinking about all the meds I need to take "just in case." It is weird - I have traveled to 40 states and 10 countries in my life, but I really fear travelling now.

    Any thoughts?
     
  7. Danielle Szasz LMFT

    Danielle Szasz LMFT TMS Therapist

    Great question! It makes a lot of sense to me that your fear brain would be on heightened alert because of the suddenness of the heart attack two years ago. It sounds like since then, it's constantly scanning for a threat. What it makes me wonder is if there's a way to re-frame having had this heart attack to liberate you rather than keep you imprisoned by fear. You can really see through your experience that you can do everything "right" and still, difficulties in life are unavoidable. And the problem is that worrying so much about what might happen actually prevents you from enjoying the good moments. Obviously it's one thing to see that clearly and it's another thing to try and reason with your fear brain. I think the research shows that the best way to tame fear when you notice you're in a worry spiral is to just name it. You don't need to argue with it. You just name, "oh, I'm feeling a lot of fear that if I go on this trip I might have another heart attack." Then see if it's possible to ground into the present moment either through taking a deep breath, feeling your feet on the floor, or looking around the room and noticing 4 or 5 things that draw your attention. Your fear brain will likely want to go right back to worrying but that's to be expected and it gives you a chance to practice kindly naming the fear again and coming back into the present. I hope that helps!
     
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  8. bman

    bman Peer Supporter

    I saw some of your other videos and I think that you have great insights. I watched the video on taming the fear and on dealing with vulnerability. I particularly like your approach to fear but I'm not sure how to bring it down to its smallest element. Part of the problem is that the fear of the pain overwhelms my thoughts at times and "crowds out" the other fears (which I guess is my unconscious brain distracting me). I am at a weird stage in life - I've been retired for 6 years although I still work a little. My kids are full grown and have their own lives, although they keep me very involved. I have a granddaughter who is an angel with a lot of developmental problems - difficult for a control person like me to deal with because I can't do anything to change her situation. I am financially comfortable and have a great wife. All of the stresses of my past life also distracted me - now I have too much time to focus on my fears! I have been working with a therapist for two years - great guy and I have shared the TMS stuff with him, but he doesn't know much about it. While I have brought up a lot of emotions over the past two years, since I started really working on the things in Alan's program I find that my emotions are constantly bubbling. I know that is normal but it leaves me feeling very vulnerable.

    I was always the "boss," the head of the family, the breadwinner (although my wife worked), the go-to-guy whenever there is a problem. I also worked three high level jobs for years. While I am active every day I feel that there are times where I have become irrelevant.

    I learned from my parents to hold in all emotions and to not show them. I have been trying to change that but it is hard and often hurts. The biggest problem with the neuropathy is that it makes it hard to leave my comfort zone for fear of pain. I guess that is what my unconscious mind wants.
     
  9. Danielle Szasz LMFT

    Danielle Szasz LMFT TMS Therapist

    I think you're insight that you now have more time to focus on all your fears is so right on! These huge life transitions are hard. So is creating the space for all these years of emotions to bubble up. You might feel very uncomfortable and raw and vulnerable for a time as you go through this. I have no doubt you are on the right path and I hope that you are able to meet yourself with lots of self-compassion because dealing with these buried emotions is so essential to having the life you want but not for the faint of heart.
     
  10. bman

    bman Peer Supporter

    Thanks for your thoughts and support. I will view more of your videos. I am trying to focus on the times where I don't have pain to get my brain to see that its not all doom and gloom.
     
  11. Danielle Szasz LMFT

    Danielle Szasz LMFT TMS Therapist

    I think that is very helpful. Our brains are so naturally wired to focus on pain and become especially focused on it with chronic pain so doing what you can to gently refocus the attention on the breath, on neutral parts of your body, or even on imagining someone you love in order to generate feelings of love or gratitude can all be very helpful.
     

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