Dare Response: A Hack to Break the Anxiety Loop
Today, we will continue our reading of the book Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks by Barry McDonagh. It says anxious contractions of life are a movement.
It’s dynamic and pulsating, like a swift moving river to be in a contented and happy state is to be in a state of flow. Where your thoughts and feelings follow a natural current and there is no inner friction or need to check in on your anxiety every five minutes.
Those of you who have a history of chronic pain, you can substitute the word anxiety with pain and you’ll get the same valid statement, okay so there is no inner friction or need to check in on your pain every five minutes when you feel in flow. Your body feels light and your mind becomes spontaneous and joyful.
The Implications of Fear and Anxiety
Anxiety and fear are the total opposite. They are contractions of life. When we get scared, we contract in fear. Our bodies become stiff and our minds become fearful and rigid. If we hold that contracted state we eventually cut ourselves off from life we lose flexibility.
We lose our flow. We can think of this a bit like pulling a muscle. When a muscle is overused and tired, its cells run out of energy and fluid. This can lead to a sudden and forceful contraction such as a cramp.
This contraction is painful and scary as it comes without warning. In the same way we can be living our lives with a lot of stress and exhaustion similar to holding a muscle in an unusual position for too long.
If we fail to notice and take care of this situation, we can experience an intense and sudden moment of anxiety or even panic. I call this an anxious contraction and it can feel quite painful learning how to respond correctly to this anxious contraction. It is crucial how quickly we release it.
Anxious contractions happen to almost everyone at some point in their lives.
We suddenly feel overwhelmed with anxiety as our body experiences all manner of intense sensations such as a pounding heart or a tight chest.
Then maybe an 8 or 9 out of 10, we recoil in fear and spiral into a downward loop of more fear and anxiety.
Some might say they had a spontaneous panic attack while others might describe the feeling as being very on edge okay and the words we use are very important.
What words should we use? The words that match your experience best while at the same time ideally you want to use words that have some form of ending.
Many times when we are experiencing something the idea that it’s chronic and forever and it’s never gonna leave can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, which is what we’re about to read and and what we and what the author calls the anxiety loop.
So, there’s a difference between I just had a random panic attack versus I am just feeling on edge.
You know feeling edgy today is like everything is pissing me off, everything’s getting to me, just not having a good day & right.
And, the good news is that when you’re aware that you’re in that state, my mentor calls it an unresourceful state when you’re aware that you are in an unresourceful state of mind and an unresourceful state of emotions.
It makes it a lot easier to deal with, but also keeps you from going overboard with those explosions that we’ve read about in the previous book about when anger scares you.
It keeps you from blowing up on the wrong person or finding an excuse or some story that isn’t really it. You know it’s as simple as I am not in a good mood today. You know there are so many factors that we can point to, lack of sleep, dehydration, too much sugar, etc.
You know there are so many things we can point to that can be the cause of that edge or that anxiety.
When It Rains, It Doesn’t Just Rain!
If we keep looking, we will be there forever and I mentioned that because those of you that use Dr Sarno’s journaling exercise specifically and you’re looking for what made you angry this time; this is where you get lost.
This is where your journey never ends because you’re looking for a cause to that feeling. When in reality it is a lot like weather. You know it doesn’t just rain and when it rains it doesn’t just rain. There are so many things that go into so many factors that determine.
How, when and where it rains, such as humidity.
You know I am not a meteorologist, but humidity is one of them and time of the year and season and temperature and all that extra stuff and then that determines when and how it rains. Your emotions are a lot like that.
I know why I feel this way. It’s because I didn’t have enough kitkat bars and I didn’t take a break.
Yeah, that could be one of the factors, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the factor because I guarantee you there comes a different day where you are having a great day. You had enough sleep, you had enough water and you had enough time.
Maybe you just came back from vacation and that day you didn’t have your kitkats and you didn’t have your break and guess what you didn’t even notice either did it trigger, did it make you anxious and do absolutely nothing.
So, clearly that one factor isn’t always the factor unless you have a history of trauma and you have a specific trigger that you can point to and say yeah that thing, every single time that happens, that’s how I feel about it.
We have closed the loop allowing you to think it’s not ongoing. That’s right, that’s how we close the loop we let go of the idea that this is something that’s infinite. You know the feelings themselves will come back. Absolutely they’ll come back. They’ll absolutely come back eventually.
But they come and they go, they come and they go, a kind of like the waves in the ocean. They come and they go , they come and they go, eventually you learn how to surf these waves to the point where you don’t even notice which is very different than being completely unaware of them.
You don’t even notice. They just come naturally, you’re there, you’re present with them. They come, they go. They don’t scare you anymore and they just become a natural part of life.
So, the anxiety loop. It’s at this point in time where people get split into those that develop an anxiety disorder and those that don’t mean after you had your panic attack. The real deciding factor is whether a person gets caught in the anxiety loop or not. The anxiety loop is a mental trap, a vicious cycle of fearing fear instead of ignoring anxious thoughts or bodily sensations. The person becomes acutely aware and paranoid of them for people who have ocd- like tendencies and as we discussed those for hla b27 have the tendency to have some of that.
They’re usually the ones who get caught in that loop. Obviously it can happen to anyone but they’re more prone, predetermined or predisposed to getting caught in that loop. What if I lose control and do something crazy.
What if those sensations come back again while I am in a meeting? What if it’s a sign of a serious health problem? If you remember I think it was session two of healing back pain the Dr Sarno book, I mentioned that the one thing that gets people to relapse once their pain goes away is their concern and their fear of relapsing.
The More You Fear, The More Intense It Becomes
What if those sensations come back again while I am in a meeting?
That doesn’t just apply to the emotional sensations of anxiety that also applies to physical tension and physical pain. So, when your pain disappears, the moment you find yourself what if that pain comes back. I get that question a lot. What if you relapse and your pain comes back. I will welcome it with open arms.
This trap is akin to quicksand. Our immediate response is to struggle hard to free ourselves, but it’s the wrong response. The more we struggle the deeper we think anxiety is.
Such a simple but costly trap to fall into all your additional worry and stress makes the problem worse, fueling more anxiety and creating a vicious cycle or loop. It’s like spilling gasoline onto a bonfire. The more you fear the bodily sensations, the more intense they feel. I will say it again because this is really important.
When I work with people who are looking to release their chronic pain, they’re super focused and super occupied. Oh my god, you know what if my spine fuses, what if my posture gets messed up, what if my joints do this.
You know they’re super obsessed with what if the pain does x y and z to me. My brain translates that as okay.
It’s just a little harder to catch for people who are having physical pain as opposed to the emotional experience of anxiety. So they’re having physical pain and tension, which is a manifestation of anxiety as we talked about in Dr. Sarno’s book.
It’s a little harder for them because to them they might go but I don’t feel anxious, I don’t understand I am just really scared that my pain could make me fused. If that’s you that’s what you’re working on releasing the fear of the pain, releasing the fear of the diagnosis or releasing the fear of your TMS symptoms.
Well, you know I feel so good, I feel great, but what if it comes back that’s what we’re working on.
What if it comes back. Well I will be so devastated and that’s what you’re working on. You are working on losing the fear of it coming back. Let it come so that it’s not gonna kill you. We already talked about that in three different books. The more you fear the bodily sensations, the more intense they feel.
The same is true for pain. The more obsessed you are, the more you try to manage and fix the pain, the worse it gets. I have seen so many carefree people go from feeling fine one day to becoming fearful of everyday situations simply because they had one bad panic attack and then got stuck in this anxious loop of fearing fear.
So, you can substitute the word anxiety with the word fear and that’s what you’re dealing with. You’re afraid of your fear like the sensation of fear in your body. You’re afraid of that. But there is great hope as strange as it sounds. The greatest obstacle to healing your anxiety is you. You’re the cure. Your body wants to heal your anxiety as much as you do.
All you need to learn is a new and better response. The kind of response that gets your anxious mind out of the way so that your nervous system can unwind and desensitize. You can do that with the dare response. This new response will enable you to step out of the anxiety loop and join with life again.
For those of you that are over analytical and like to dig really deep into stuff, the dare response is a form of exposure. Basically, you want to expose yourself and here’s the trick you don’t want to test yourself.
You don’t want to deliberately put yourself in situations where you think your anxiety might come because then you are just fooling yourself but you want to be able to be present when that anxiety shows up.
You want to go deeper into it. They call it exposure therapy, which is what most of this book is about and yes if you want to go Google or get a few other books and really understand it just to learn more even though we’re going to cover it all in this book.
Before we continue I want to compliment you on your commitment, especially those of you that are reading this post. I would like to compliment each and every one of you because as I mentioned in session six of the Dr. Sarno book, which is the first study group that we did.
This is very well known in the mental health profession as well that people with this personality trait. They don’t stick around long for therapy. They usually find an excuse to leave and continue their issues just because of their personality.
So, the majority of people struggling with chronic pain are avoiding personality types. These are the people that want life to be perfect. They don’t want to have problems. They want to avoid as many problems as possible, avoid their emotions, avoid commitment and avoid contracts.
In the following chapter I am going to share the dare response with you. It’s designed to end your problem for good, but I really need your full commitment from here.
Your level of commitment determines how fast and effective your recovery will be. Your commitment is needed for this one and remember the commitment is to eat yourself.