PREVIOUS: CDs & the Unconscious (#3)
1. THINKING (Part 2 & 3)
• In general, emotions are stored as physical memories from our experiences & can be recalled by present events. These emotions may be comforting, pleasurable, relieving, exciting… OR scary, rageful, lonely…. We can’t directly choose what we feel, only what we think.
• Researchers tell us that anxiety* responses such as “fight or flight” originally had adaptive value in the development of the human species, & are still legitimate forms of protection. Active defensive measures such as over-sensitivity to sound, the startle response, shallow breathing & increased heart rate help people in their effort to escape real hazards. However we rarely face the external dangers our ancestors did, so now we are flooded with those same stressful chemicals from internal pressures (CDs), & without enough physical outlets to burn them off.
*Anxiety is the response of our nervous system to internal or external stimuli (self-hate, a painful loss, a fight with someone….) increasing the intensity of how we feel & then act, but needs to be triggered by negative thinking. This has been shown on brain imaging scans. Since CDs are conditioned over time & become habit, we simply don’t recognize the source of our fear.
NOTE the difference between an adult’s emotional response to the death of a parent:
— a symbiotically attached ACoA will be devastated, at least partly from the loss of hope, partly from the depth of abandonment, perhaps feeling guilt & anger at being left behind
— a healthy person who has sufficient S & I will mourn the loss & be aware of a permanent piece of their life is gone, but has a sound emotional & spiritual foundation so is ok.
• Cognitive (T) psychologists believe that some people are more biologically predisposed than others to ‘threat-sensitivity’ & the distress it causes. In such people, once anxiety (E) is aroused, it is maintained or even increased IF cognitive distortions are added into the mix. Extreme physical responses caused by our CDs can spread to and contaminate other parts of our lives that are not realistically dangerous, or only mildly uncomfortable. For example, obsessive worry (T) caused by projecting the end of a relationship – which is not actually imminent – can provoke a panic attack (E), the same bodily reactions as if being held up at gunpoint!
• As adults, ACoAs too often make the mistake of ‘Emotional Reasoning’, believing that if we feel a certain way, it must be true: “I’m really, really scared today, so it’s not safe to leave the house”! The WIC is having an intense feeling about something going on in our life (an exam, a new job, a break-up…) & wants to hide. But the sense of impending doom is way out of proportion to the actual situation. “If it’s hysterical, it’s historical”. And staying home, alone, may make it worse!
EXP: Your father may have beaten you only once when you were a kid, for stealing some change – but the pain, fear & humiliation will always be associated with thoughts like “Dad doesn’t love me”, or “Parents are so unfair!”…. So now, anytime the boss (parent figure) is annoyed with you for making a mistake, you’re convinced he / she has it in for you & you’ll get fired any minute!
ACCEPTANCE: We always need to remember that thoughts & emotions are 2 separate forms of energy, not to be rolled together, even though they are related sometimes as cause-&-effect. SO:
— we can feel (E) hopeless but know (T) that many things in the present are not hopeless
— we can feel self-hate but know that we are not bad, worthless….
— we can feel suicidal but know that we have a right to live!….. because WE ARE SAFE!
• When we have thoughts such as: ”Oh no, what if I fail this test… I’ll never remember everything I read…. I’m such a flake….” — we will feel FEAR. This causes various physiological arousals (tight stomach, heart pounding, headache….), which then cause more fear
• BUT if we identify & own the thoughts as cognitive distortions, & immediately replace them with positive statements, like “I’ve studied as much as I can & I’m really not stupid. I’ve done well in the past, so I expect to do well this time too, but no matter what the outcome, I’ll be OK”, we can expect :
— to feel uncomfortable, because the statements don’t fit the emotion we’re experiencing at this time (fear)
— to have the PP tell us we’re ridiculous “Who do you think you are?”
— the WIC absolutely not believe you (only the PP’s voice carries weight) – until the UNIT takes over
✶ This is to be expected! Remember from CDs & the Brain: introducing new facts contrary to stored info on a subject will automatically be discounted. The unconscious is very good at maintaining the status quo. As a built-in attribute of the brain, this is not a bad thing, as it allows it to retain consistency
• We have an example of how important the need is for our minds to be stable & predictable if we consider how crazy-making double-messages are! ACoAs got so many conflicting & confusing messages growing up that we wind up thinking we are crazy!
• This function of the brain obviously makes it hard for us to ignore the unhealthy things we’ve learned. So when we first correct distorted self- reinforced thought patterns, it FEELS like the new info is a lie OR dangerous (which it is – to the family system)! It’s so uncomfortable, we feel embarrassed by how sappy the statements are, & no way is the WIC going to believe them …. we just won’t want to accept the changes. However, we have to ‘act as if’. To not totally revert, we need a lot of support, the presence of the Adult & Good Parent ego states and ‘faith in the process’. Progress, not perfection!
RECOVERY: Correcting our thinking leads to a more peaceful inner world. It’s helpful to remember that this state is something we have to get used to – most of us find it boring at first. Eventually we come to appreciate & cherish the internal quiet. This is not boredom – which is an aspect of thinking, not feeling. It’s rather a sense of well-being!
NEXT: CDs – Consequences #1