Saturday, November 21, 2009

Attacking symptoms at their weakest point

As a nervous person I tend to see danger everywhere.

I got to scrub the cutting board really well or I could get food poisoning the next time I use it.

I better double check that the car doors are locked so my car isn't stollen.

In the past, I was obsessive about these tasks, and this caused me great anxiety. Today, I am a little extra thorough in washing the dishes or in ensuring doors are locked, but I no longer repeatedly perform these activities and suffer the resulting distress. So being a bit more mindful about everyday tasks is my current average.

However, after reading Dr. Low's lecture on Frustrations, Emergencies and Beliefs, (1) I realized that I still have a long way to go in dialing down the amount of danger I see in my life.

True, I am no longer obsessive about washing dishes and parking the car, but a part of me ("the stranger in the brain") still sees some danger in these tasks. Dr. Low told us of the importance of not seeing our life full of emergencies:

"If you deal with everyday life, with routine work or routine existence, if you deal with the trivialities of the daily round, don't believe that they are emergencies.... [E]mergencies happen very seldom in the existence of the average person." (1)

And Dr. Low wrote that tenseness affects all body systems—from head to toe. Taking that idea a little further, I speculate that any tenseness in our lives can aggravate our nervous symptoms—especially those that give us the most discomfort.

So while I think I've conquered my issues with washing and driving, kernels of anxiety with these activities remain. And those seeds can grow and exacerbate my other symptoms. Of course, I've made tremendous progress, but to truly make my mental health a business I can't allow myself the luxury of even indulging in "small" symptoms. Thus, when I feel the urge to rinse something just one more time or just hit the keyfob's lock button twice, I need to move—actually, not move—my muscles, bear the minor discomfort, and continue with my day.

These are not my most distressing symptoms at the moment. In fact, they barely bother me. But Dr. Low said we need to attack symptoms at their weakest point. So if I want my major symptoms to abate, I need reduce tenseness in all areas of my life.

I endorsed for writing this post.

1. Low AA. Manage Your Fears, Manage Your Anger: A Psychiatrist Speaks. Glencoe, Il.: Willett Publishing Co.; 1995; 45-52.


JAY said...

I think that u have alot of gains to ENDORSE for...Just telling your story is a Gain and can help so many more...Thanks

Doug said...

Thanks, Jay. I appreciate that :)

pasunesainte said...

hi, Doug, I still can't get over Dr. Low's insight that working down our reactions to trivialities helps us cope with bigger issues. You illustrate it very well.

buurd said...

Dr. Low had amazing insights. The connection between tenseness and our thoughts is so true. It's amazing when I stop and sense myself and observe where I'm nervous in my body. I hold myself stiff, from all the fear and anxiety I've had all my life. I have to make conscious efforts to relax my muscles...and right now, to move my muscles to get me outside for a nice walk. Thank you for sharing your stories. You have a lot for which to endorse. Managing with our symptoms enable us to enjoy living. Thanks for reminding me. Marcia

Doug said...

Hi, Marcia. You're most welcome, and thank you for reading my blog. Dr. Low's teachings are changing my life!

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