Blurry vision is my most distressing symptom. I have a hunch that most nervous people have one particular sensation that disturbs them more than others. While my vision becomes blurred, through Recovery training I’ve learned that my ability to function does not decrease.
For many years I thought my symptom was unique and that no one else suffered this way, but in Recovery I learned to reject this idea of exceptionality (and in several places in Mental Health Through Will-Training Dr. Low does cite nervous people who have blurry vision as a symptom, such as Harriette).(1)
Through Recovery I have learned to manage these symptoms by employing secure thinking and adopting the will to bear discomfort. This week in my Recovery group I learned another strategy: leadership. Just as how a political leader must have a clear message to his group and must not arouse their fearful or angry temper if he/she wants to succeed, a nervous person cannot send fearful messages to his/her muscles and then expect them to not react accordingly. As Dr. Low says:
“And if muscles get two contradictory orders at the same time, all they can do is to create tenseness or to begin to tremble or to stiffen up or all three together. And then there is no action. And you will understand that the patient can in this manner confuse the muscles, irritate them, throwing them into tenseness and spasms and in tremors. This means making them react like you react in temper: tenseness, stiffness. And that’s what the muscles do, and then there is no leadership. The person doesn’t exercise guidance, doesn’t give guidance. And if this happens, the person notices that the muscles don’t do as he wants them to do, so he now becomes more irritated, more suspicious that there may be something wrong with him, and therefore more temperamental. And a vicious cycle develops.” (2)
This concept of leadership relates to the Recovery principle of controlling one’s muscles, but it goes a step further in my opinion: It implies that we are responsible for controlling our symptoms. Not that we are causing them willingly, but that we can—and must—exercise the will to make our lives better. That’s what we would expect from a leader, and the leader of our bodies is ourselves.
1. Low AA. Mental Health Through Will-Training. Glencoe, Ill.: Willett Publishing Co.; 1997;65.
2. Low AA. Lecture 20. Leadership and muscles. In: Manage Your Fears, Manage Your Anger: A Psychiatrist Speaks. Glencoe, Il.: Willett Publishing Co.; 1995; 117.