For years I was trying to explain to therapists, friends, and family that the reason why I had become so nervous in general, and all of a sudden, was because I had realised that, if I thought of failing in any task I needed to carry out, in any scenario, no matter how easy it "should be" my prophecies would come true and I would fail, and find the easiest task next to impossible. They would say to me can you not just relax and see how it goes? I would say "how can I relax knowing that all I have to do to make sure any task is to fail, is to imagine it failing, and knowing that how can I not think of the worst case scenario". I can't help thinking of the worst case scenario. The more pressure, the more ridiculous it was to find a task difficult, the more I would become fascinated by how difficult the thing was, and perplexed at how it was once seen as easy.
I would find the easiest thing to do impossible, I was great at playing pool, but now I knew that all I had to do to fail was to second guess myself as I was taking a shot, and then I would miss. Knowing this how could I not think of second guessing myself, particularly if the pressure was on? every time without fail I would miss the shot, when these intrusive thoughts popped in my mind. This was only one example of many things, or areas in my life, which I had once found effortlessly easy which had now become near to impossible. To name a few, Writing, something I enjoyed, I could no longer do with banging my head against the wall in frustration, trying to think of what word should come next. I used to go dancing all the time, now I could not comprehend how others managed to coordinate all of their muscles in such a way that could match the rhythm of the music, it seemed so complicated. Listening to people speak, to more I tried the more my mind would go off in every other direction. Sex went from being something great to being a boring and never ending and embarrassing chore. The list of things I found difficult goes on and on, and includes, things like, watching TV, Listening to Music, Remembering names (even my own
this actually happened once) Sports, Martial arts, Sleeping, Smiling, Laughing, Meditating, Reading, Moving my legs and arms etc
Basically any single thing that required some sort of flow, I would get the awkward stuck feeling that a writer get when they have writers block, but I had it in so many more areas. I even found explaining this to other near impossible. And the thing was a knew all these thing were easy, because I used to be able to do them, but now I couldn't. This was extremely frustrating
I'll explain how all this began,
Basically when I was 19 I had an anxiety attack, I had been under a lot of stress, being a only child, and my parents not around anymore, I had myself to rely on.
Although anxiety is kind of normal and many get panic attacks, I was very determined to find out everything I could about them to find a cure. I had to rely on myself in this world and nothing could mess that up. The more I found out about them the more threatened I was about them. My anxiety at this stage wasn't that bad but I was afraid of it getting worse. I started to become afraid of my anxiety spreading into new areas. Knowing the anxiety came from me, I realised that I could potentially become anxious or triggered by any situation even in ones I hadn't thought of yet. For example, "I'm not afraid of the outdoors yet, but if i worry about it enough, I might have a panic attack next time I'm outdoors, and then that could be the start of agoraphobia.
The thing about this type of worrying that I was doing, was that it had the effect that I was afraid of, as you can see from this article. Having a phobia about developing a phobia is the only fear, that will result in the feared outcome. For instance, if I feared having a heart attack, my fear of having a heart attack wouldn't cause me to have one, but if i feared developing a fear, my anxiety could cause me to develop that fear I was afraid of, meaning that it is perpetual.
Still at this stage I was okay, I was fed up with anxiety, but I still had a normal life, I had loads of really good friends, I was doing the best out of my department in the sales job I was in. Life was good. But I was afraid that I would discover an area of my life that I could become anxious in that would effect me greatly.
Take for instance this hypothetical situation. A man who drives cranes for a living, who has anxiety, but is at ease with heights. He is the sole provider of his family. He has a mortgage and has financial worries, and his partner is threatening to leave because for someone with more money. He has the stress of money and the stress of is anxiety. He realizes that if he develops a fear of heights, he will no longer be able to go up such heights, and will loose his, job, meaning his partner will leave, and he will no longer keep up payments on his house. This man realizing this becomes terrified of becoming afraid while he is at heights, until he eventually does, proving himself right, reinforcing his fear and therefore fulfilling his prophecy.
One day I went for a beer with my uncle, and for some god known reason, he and I both struggled for conversation. It was really awkward and uncomfortable. This for me was really odd, because I was so sociable at the time, I had only ever had a handful of awkward conversations before, it was rare for me.
On my way home rather than dismissing it, I reflected on it. I thought "Where did my personality go?" "Why couldn't I think of anything to say?" I then thought, "what if I worried about this happening again?" "what if this happened every time I met someone?" I knew that if I worried about it, it would happen, I couldn't see a way to stop this getting out of control, this made it more scary. I saw how this could stop me from being able to make new friends, I would loose my existing friends, I wouldn't find a partner, I would loose my sales job if I couldn't speak to people anymore, I wouldn't be able to express myself anymore. This was so unbelievably scary for me, as I had no family, and I all of a sudden, realised just how much I depended on me being able to be me, I was.
The next time I met someone I couldn't speak to them, I couldn't think of anything to say. It was the most frustrating thing. Then eventually the same thing happened when talking to close friends. Everything I predicted came true. I lost my friends, I couldn't hold down my job, I could no longer express myself. It was a very hard thing to go through.
When I explained it to others, no one could seem to help me. There more I explained it, the less people understood, the more lost I felt. I became fascinated by the fact that what I had once found effortless (socializing) Became impossible. I couldn't understand it. I thought what if that happens in other areas of my life, such as going to sleep, playing pool etc. This started to effect all areas of abilities, even watching TV, Thinking, Reading, the smallest easiest, most natural tasks became impossible.
I was fascinated by how any task could become so difficult. I became fascinated why I couldn't do these things that are so easy. I knew how to get myself into the situation, but had no way of getting myself out. It felt like life was one big Chinese finger trap
At the time I felt that this "law" could only work negatively, meaning that I could make myself tense/anxious by using my imagination, but that I couldn't make myself relaxed.
The fact that it could only work in the negative sense, and that I couldn't do it in a positive sense, meant that had only one direction to look at. I was trapped or compelled to look at the negative, I "couldn't" look at the positive. I'd instantly be drawn back to the negative. Because I believed that any positive imagined outcome, could be tarnished by a negative one.
Over the years, I realised that the more I fought the worse it got, so my only option was to give in and surrender, which helped, but it wasn't good enough, I believed that I couldn't undo the negative, or counter the difficulties I could only minimize the harm by not fighting it. But as you can imagine, if there were some if any pressure put on me to perform, (in work for instance) I would fight the fear automatically, reinforcing my lack of control over this. In a nut shell I could never gain confidence in anything.
For years and years, I sought advice from therapists, I read books, I searched the internet for days at a time, to find someone who could relate or understand, and had very little luck for years. The only thing that I ever found actually worked, was meditation. I could see and let go of my thoughts, and I was back to normal, but soon after, my mind started to see that if I couldn't meditate anymore, that would be it, back to square one.
Then 4 months ago, I came across Coue's Law of Reversed effect. When I hear this quote "When the imagination and will power are in conflict, are antagonistic, it is always the imagination which wins, without any exception. I genuinely felt like no one in the world knows this better than I do. I heard the metaphor of a plank, that if we look down at the drop and will for ourselves to cross it, we will fall. But then in the same description, he goes on to explain that if you want to cross the plank, you need to image of you walking across the other end safely. This will open the possibility for our minds to do so. This was the missing piece I had been looking for. I had been wholeheartedly telling myself that this was impossible for ten years. Now it was again.
Within a week I felt more at ease than I ever remember since childhood, I could talk to friends, I could watch telly, I could dance, I could have sex again, I could read, I could tell stories, I could listen. It was amazing. I was overjoyed.
I did this by imagining that I could do the things that I wanted. It worked amazingly
However a month later, the same fears popped in again. I started to worry that I would eventually find it difficult to imagine the desired outcome. I was afraid it would become to willed. If this happened wouldn't I be trapped in it again?
Since then to be honest, I am back and forth. One day I get really really stuck, I can't see a way out. and then the next I can imagine what I like, and thing go really well for a few week or so. So that's still major progress than from before. But from time to time I get stuck. I feel it's because when things are going well, I'm afraid of it going back to the way it was. I suppose it's a habit, but I would love to chat to someone about this and see if you have any wonderful words of wisdom.
To be honest, I feel that I will be fine and that I will be able to let go of the sticky way of thinking, for good, as I am getting loads of times when things are clear and easy, however I would like a bit of help understanding the concepts in further detail. So any support would be so appreciated.
PS Thanks a million for reading this massive email