Sunday, August 30, 2009

Spotting "danger"

I am currently reading chapter 40 in Mental Health Through Will-Training: "Failure to spot sentimentalism." In this section Dr. Low discusses the importance of having a secure outlook on life. Having a more confident and secure view of life is something I have struggled with for years. I always seem to find the "danger" in a situation—even the mundane aspects of daily living. You know, like forgetting to shut off a stove burner and the ensuring catastrophe I "know" would happen as a result (Although I have overcome that obsession, every so often it will cross my mind, but I strongly refuse to give it expression or duration). Much of my current "danger seeking" centers around perfectionism in both personal and professional life.

Yet when I apply Recovery tools I quickly see that these so-called dangers do not really exist, and that I can ride out these distressing—but not dangerous—symptoms by adjusting my thoughts and impluses—which are in my control. This attitude has helped me overcome my fears of riding in elevators and driving. Now, I look back at all the irrational thoughts I built into these activities and shake my head (but try to avoid feeling ashamed). It's a valuable lesson that I will be able to overcome my current fears.

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Pesky, persistent symptoms

I believe I have the will to bear discomfort.

And I’m trying to not work up my symptoms.

Yet my anxiety persists.

Someone recently asked me why I am not improving more quickly given my Recovery training. That made me stop and think. But I reminded her that my symptoms did not develop overnight, and they won’t disappear that quickly either.

Perhaps the way to orient myself to reality is to ask myself what I was like before learning about Recovery, as we do in every example at the group meetings. Before Recovery I was a lot less hopeful about living with anxiety. I’ve since learned that helplessness is not hopelessness. I’m beginning to understand that symptoms are just that—symptoms. It’s not how you feel, but how you function that counts. I try to not work myself up about uncomfortable sensations and feelings, as I can control only thoughts and emotions (the inner environment).

So I’ve made a lot of progress, and I’m looking forward to making more. :)

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Friday, August 7, 2009


Lately I've been pondering what exactly is a triviality. Dr. Low said there are no rights or wrongs in the trivialities of everyday life, so we should not let our fearful or angry temper take control in those situations.

In the current economic climate, is one's job a triviality? True, work is essential to daily living, and Dr. Low frequently commented on the importance of work. But in the grand scheme of our lives, is our current job really just a "triviality," not something to get worked up about? As I see layoffs mount and businesses fail, I have struggled with this question.

I worry about my employment status a lot. In fact, much of my daily distress centers around my work performance. I’ve been reminded that worrying accomplishes nothing, but controlling my fearful temper has been difficult. Any thoughts or tips from Dr. Low that can help?

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Spot! Spot! Spot!

When I'm whipped up into an anxious state or angry temper, it is so easy to forget Recovery training. But of course this is the exact time I need it the most. As Dr. Low pointed out, we must spot symptoms at their very onset:

"Clearly, the trigger symptom must be spotted before it has an opportunity to generate the panic and the vicious cycle. This is possible only if the spot diagnosis is established in the split second when the trigger reaction is born. Stating it otherwise, it means that the spot diagnosis must acquire a trigger quality."(1)

This is easier said than done. Yet I have found that as I practice Recovery, I learn to spot more frequently. Spotting doesn't remove the uncomfortable sensations, as we must wait for those to fall on their own. But it does help to control my reaction to them, as my thoughts and impulses are within my control.

1. Low AA. Mental Health Through Will-Training. Glencoe, Ill.: Willett Publishing Co.; 1997;307.