Last month you learned it is normal to want to escape pain with behaviors that help you survive as well as the human race to survive. Behaviors such as fight, flight and freeze are hard wired in each one of us and we can be grateful for these responses. If you watch a young child or infant you can see their behavioral responses when frightened, hurt, or in pain. They pull back when hurt (flight), thrash about when in discomfort such as being too warm (fight) and startle as if frozen when frighten by a loud noise.
Dirty pain evolves as language skills evolve. We develop an ability to relate anything with anything and then believe the relationships define reality. We become more dependent and attached to our internal world of our mind and gradually lose touch with the evidence the physical world presents. We develop a dirty mind that creates a cycle of dirty pain. We try to escape the inescapable experience of our own mind. Consequently, we become trapped and stuck repeating with great effort and much “thinking about” solving the problem of emotions that are uncomfortable, memories that are unpleasant, thoughts that are punishing, and physical pain that is normal.
Our thoughts turn toward escape whenever we experience an unwanted and aversive internal state. The interesting part of this development of being able to relate or frame together any two things is that normal discomfort becomes something we judge as something that needs fixed.
Take the emotion of anxiety and dissect it into several components. Anxiety is a pretty normal reaction when a person goes for an interview or presents a speech. Take an inventory of the experience of anxiety.
- Thoughts about worry, being rejected, not being good enough, things may turn out bad.
- Memories about the past when you were laughed at or ridiculed and failed to perform well.
- Bodily sensations such as flushing, jitters, heart pounding, and sweating hands
- More thoughts:
- Why do I feel this way?
- Reason giving as – because you make me feel this way.
- If only I could calm down by having a glass of wine or smoking a joint.
- I can’t stand it!!
This is an example of how we use our language ability to combine words into defining our reality of being worse or bad and unacceptable. Often then, we experience our very essence of “me” as being unacceptable. The stuck cycle begins when we frame and relate the natural feeling of anxiety as being something that is wrong …with us. Our problem solving survival mind turns against us as the enemy. The dirty mind is now running the show.
Clean pain such as being anxious turns to panic attacks and can even develop into agoraphobia (fear of leaving the house). The dirty mind is sad about being sad which may look like depression. It is our mind telling us we can’t accept our own experience in our internal world. Thoughts, feelings, emotions and memories become something we try to get rid of at all costs including a narrowing and shrinking of life enhancing behaviors.
The fix is to learn how to relate to your thoughts in an open and accepting manner as a natural process of the mind. This is easier said than done. See if you can begin to see your thoughts as a product of the thinking mind rather than as the enemy you need to fight off. You can befriend your internal experience. Consequently, returning to a state of clean pain rather than entangled suffering at being at war with yourself.
I liked a boy for 3 month. I stopped liking him because I developed anxiety ( I was afraid if I told him I would be rejected). Along with this I began telling myself that something is wrong with me and I need to see a psychologist.
Brenda Bomgardner says
Hi Shanel, seeing a therapist if you are struggling is certainly a good idea. There are effective treatments, such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, for anxiety.