Posted on 30 April 2015
The Oxford English Dictionary defines anxiety as ‘A feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome’. An uncertain outcome and a lack of definable cause are the important and common themes of definitions for anxiety and it is also relevant to note that anxiety is intensified in most cases by the inability to define what the cause of the anxiety is and whether the perceived threat is actually real or not.
Anxiety is an increasingly common feature of modern life which can affect many of us at different times in our lives and in different ways.
Research indicates that the unconscious mind directs an individual’s behaviour up to 90% of the time with the remaining 10% being driven by the conscious mind.
The unconscious is the older brain system working on instinct and generating habits, based on a response to things rather than a decision making process whereas the conscious brain is responsible for logical and thought through processes to try and give meaning to things and a rationale for our behaviour. The conscious experiences itself as being in charge of our behaviour. A key purpose of our unconscious is to keep us safe and away from what we perceive as potential danger and it uses past experiences to give context to present situations. The unconscious also controls our behaviour during times of strong emotional response.
Even although our cave man days were hundreds of thousands of years ago, our brains are still evolved for an environment where our survival depends on our unconscious activating a ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response when we encounter a danger or a hungry predator. It is important to note that the unconscious is unable to differentiate between a perceived threat and a real danger.
When put in a modern day context, the unconscious is unable to tell the difference between an actual physical threat and the stresses and pressures of modern living and because of this, can misinterpret that a difficult or uncomfortable situation is in fact a danger, tripping the fight or flight or freeze response.
Anxiety is in essence how we experience the physical and associated psychological aspects of the fight or flight or freeze response in our modern day context. Anxiety is an unconscious response in the present to perceived and potential danger in the future. The unconscious uses past experiences to project likely future outcomes, whether the individual is aware of these projections or not.
Many people who experience anxiety feel in some way that they are going mad – the emotional feelings and physical symptoms can be over whelming, seemingly without cause and any explanation as to how and why they are experiencing anxiety can be reassuring.
At my clinics in Harley Street, London and Henley on Thames, Oxfordshire, I use specialist techniques such as EMI (Eye Movement Integration) as well as Cognitive Hypnotherapy to gently but clearly identify and respond to the actual root causes of anxiety. I work with clients to interrupt the unconscious problem patterns that are maintaining their anxiety in order to free them from the feelings and thoughts that are impacting on their lives.
Author: Fiona Nicolson is a practising and professionally qualified Cognitive Hypnotherapist and a member of the CNHC. She is co-publisher and author of The Hypnotherapy Handbook, a handbook for new practitioners and students of hypnotherapy and a published author on the topics of anxiety and trauma. Fiona is an Anxiety UK recognised therapist and a member of the Editorial Advisory Board for the National Council for Hypnotherapy. Fiona runs clinics in Henley on Thames and Harley Street, London.
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