Emotional Resilience Blog from The Fear Course

The latest research, realisations and thinking in the world of emotional resilience, anxiety and fear reduction from around the world.

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Ever Have a Fear or Anxiety and Not Known How You Got It?

Do you have, or have ever had a fear or anxiety and not known how you ended up with it?

On Wednesday 3rd September 2014 I will be running a free live online seminar at:

19.00 / 7pm BST - UK time (20.00/8pm CET (Paris) - 14.00/2pm EDT (New York) - 11.00/11am PDT (Los Angeles))

entitled:

How We Catch Fear And Anxiety And What To Do About It

I will be sharing the very latest research with you on how we catch fear and anxiety and what you can do to deal with it.

There will also be time for questions and answers after the seminar.

As many of you know I lecture at a number of universities including Oxford, however don't worry; The seminar will be 100% jargon free and easily understandable.

I can only fit 200 people on this live seminar and once its full, I'm afraid that's it.

So if you want to book a place Click Here. It's totally free.

BookNowButtonSM

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How To Forgive And Let Go

I have heard over the years lots of people say how important forgiveness is and I never ever really understood what they meant. I didn't know how to do it and I certainly had no appreciation of what it was. In fact forgiveness became a word I would end up squinting at sideways, with suspicion.

"Forgiveness became a word I would end up squinting at sideways, with suspicion"

I have heard religious people talk at length about forgiveness and therapists (yes I've had a few) talk about forgiving myself to the extent that it had become a sort of non-word for me. I kept hearing the word but no-one told me how to do it.

It was only in the last few years that I think I have started to understand what it is and how to do it.

Most of us carry around hurts and anger about things other people have done or said and embarrassment, shame or even horror at things we ourselves have done or said.

It wasn't until I realised that at any particular time, everyone is doing the best that they can, with the thoughts, emotions and beliefs that they have - at that moment. At any moment in time they make the decisions they make believing them to be the best response right then. Even if the outcome has dire consequences.

I was a police officer for 18 years and over that time met many many criminals and people who had done terrible things including murder. When I look back on the long line of people I dealt with, every single one of them (even the odd socio and psychopath) were doing what they believed was a reasonable response given the way they saw, felt and believed the world to be at that moment.

When I think back to the hurts I have carried, inflicted by loved ones and others and perpetrated myself...

When I think back to the hurts I have carried, inflicted by loved ones and others and perpetrated myself, they were each and every one, responses to how they (and I) saw the situation at that moment. They (and I) were doing the best they could in that moment with everything they felt, understood and believed.

Now that's not to say they (and I) couldn't do better. It is only after the fact that we may (or may not) reflect on what happened and hopefully learn.

This realisation has helped me to 'forgive', let go of things and find peace.

This understanding is also the basis of another thing I never understood. Be gentle with/on yourself. For me, now being gentle requires forgiveness which in turn requires understanding the nature of the way we often decide to do and say things.

"The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong." ~Mahatma Gandhi

The problem is if we don't forgive and let go, we become prisoners, locked in the cells of our own making - with only our hurt, anger or shame as cell mates.

 

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Does it matter if your friends are online or face-to-face? How to be happy.

There are a lot of assumptions about the value of online friends versus face-to-face friends (in the flesh as it were) and the impact of these on our general level of happiness and well-being, what is known as Subjective Well-Being or SWB by researchers. Usually it is assumed that face-to-face contact is superior to online contact, but is it true?

A student researcher, Lena Holmberg at the Örebro University in Sweden looked at this very question and the answer may surprise you.

In her thesis, published yesterday, Holmberg examined the levels of social connectedness of 293 young adults aged between 18 and 48 and their levels of happiness. Social connectedness refers to three things:

  1. the desire people have to create and maintain relationships
  2. the social bonds you have with others, and
  3. the feeling of belongingness that results from these bonds

What she found was that there is no difference in terms of the amount of happiness that online or offline friends brought to the people in the study. She did however find that often the most happy people had what they would term as more genuine online friends than the others.

It would appear from this study that the the more genuine friends you have have happier you will be. It would also appear that it is easier to maintain relationships, build deeper social bonds and get a greater feeling of belonging through online social networking.

If anyone wants to connect with me on Linked-in my profile is here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/centrei

 

References

Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The need to belong: Desire for interpersonal attachments as a fundamental human motivation. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.117.3.497

Grieve, R., Indian, M., Witteveen, K., Tolan, G., & Marrington, J. (2013). Face-to-face or Facebook: Can social connectedness be derived online? Computers In Human Behavior,29(3), 604-609. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2012.11.017

Holmberg, L. (2014) Seeking Social Connectedness Online and Offline: Does Happiness Require Real Contact?. Thesis. Örebro University. Available at http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:736737/FULLTEXT01.pdf.

 

 

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Robin Williams 1951 - 2014

As I was posting my last blog about the problems Experiential Avoidance can escalate into, including suicide and addictions, a heart-breaking drama was playing itself out in the Californian home of the Oscar winning actor and comedian Robin Williams who was 63.

Robin had long been diagnosed with severe depression and had battles with drink and cocaine addiction for which he had famously received treatment for at a rehab centre.

Reporting the death of Robin in the early hours of this morning (UK time) the Marin County sheriff's office stated they suspected suicide by asphyxiation.

Robin's wife Susan Schneider said this morning "This morning I lost my husband and best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken,"

Robin openly talked about his battles with alcohol and cocaine in the early 1980s, and his relapse in 2006. He appeared to have recovered however last month he returned to rehab in Minnesota.

Suicide is often seen as a selfish act, however as one who had in the past seriously considered such action whilst suffering from depression myself, having dealt with depression and anxiety in many other people therapeutically and having attended suicides and prevented a number of suicides as a police officer, all the individual often wants is relief from the symptoms of the crushing depression.

In an interview in 2010, asked about his depression and had he felt happier, Robin replied : "I think so. And not afraid to be unhappy. That's OK too. And then you can be like, all is good. And that is the thing, that is the gift."

This comes back to the heart of the dangers of Experiential Avoidance.

My heart goes out to Robin's family and friends. We have lost a true talent and extraordinary fellow human being in very sad circumstances.

If you recognise and think you too may be avoiding feelings, thoughts, memories, physical sensations and other internal experiences please get help.

 

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Why the Fear of the Fear is More Damaging than the Original Fear

When someone gets anxious or has a fear the feelings, thoughts, memories, physical sensations and other internal experiences the the fear or anxiety bring about are frequently so unpleasant that the individual will do just about anything to avoid them. This fear of the fear, or more correctly the fear of the effects of the fear is so distressing for many people that even talking about the issue is a problem. The distress is often heightened when there is no apparent direct cause or fear as occurs with GAD or General Anxiety Disorder or SAD Social Anxiety Disorder. There is a fear that these feelings could strike at any time.

It is not surprising then that people with fear and anxiety often end up not just avoiding the object of the anxiety, if there is one, but also of the resultant feelings, thoughts, memories, physical sensations and other internal experiences. This second type of avoidance is known as Experiential Avoidance.

Recent research has shown that how one reacts to the emotions and feelings that result from the anxiety makes a huge difference as to whether the individual is likely to get worse or not.

A swath of research is showing that people who are unwilling to experience the feelings, thoughts, memories, physical sensations and other internal experiences associated with the anxiety are much more likely to find the symptoms escalating and deeper problems arising.

Part of the problem is avoidance can only ever be a temporary relief and will never 'fix or solve' the problem. It merely side-steps the issue, which means that it is left still to face later. This is one reason why people who engage in avoidance as an emotion regulation strategy keep having the same and often escalating problem.

Another issue is that avoidance of anything psychologically reinforces the idea that the thing, in this case the feelings and thoughts, being avoided are bad or even dangerous in some way.

In order to avoid something requires that you end up focussing on and in many cases often obsessing about the very thing you are trying to avoid. This then means that the individual is focussing and obsessing about a negative. This takes time and effort and in effect crowds out all the other experiences of being a human, many of which are positive and joyful. As the individual focusses more and more on avoiding the horrible feelings and experiences, less and less concentration is placed on the positive things in life. In effect it becomes a negative vortex, dragging the individual down, often resulting eventually in depression, OCD, resorting to drugs and alcohol, self-harming, restricting food intake and even suicide.
We are finding that all of these problems frequently stem from Experiential Avoidance.

This is one of the reasons I deal with the avoidance as a matter of importance whilst treating the presenting anxiety and help the individual develop better and more effective emotion regulation strategies.

 

 

 

References

Chawla, Neharika; Ostafin, Brian (2007). "Experiential avoidance as a functional dimensional approach to psychopathology: An empirical review". Journal of Clinical Psychology 63 (9): 871–90. doi:10.1002/jclp.20400.PMID 17674402.

Gámez, Wakiza; et al (2011). "Development of a measure of experiential avoidance: The Multidimensional Experiential Avoidance Questionnaire". Psychological Assessment23 (3): 692–713. doi:10.1037/a0023242. PMID 21534697.

Hayes, Steven C.et al (1999). Acceptance and Commitment Therapy: An Experiential Approach to Behavior Change. New York: Guilford Press. ISBN 1-57230-481-2.

Hayes, Steven C. Et Al (1996). "Experiential avoidance and behavioral disorders: A functional dimensional approach to diagnosis and treatment". Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 64 (6): 1152–68. doi:10.1037/0022-006X.64.6.1152. PMID 8991302.

Losada, A. etal (2014) Development and validation of the experiential avoidance in caregiving questionnaire (EACQ). Aging & Mental Health. Volume 18, Issue 7, 2014

 

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The Top 10 Fears / Anxieties And How Long It Takes To Treat Them

Every year I do an audit of the anxieties and fears we treat and how long it took to treat them. There are five numbers to look at.

  1. Frequency - the number of people presenting with a particular fear or anxiety.
  2. Control average - The average time (in days) it took to get the fear or anxiety to level 3 (0 = no feelings of anxiety or fear. 10 = Maximum anxiety and fear feelings). Level 3 is a definition of the disorder being under control by the individual. Most people present to us at levels 8-10.
  3. Control range - How long in days (quickest to longest) it took to get the disorder to get to level 3 (see notes above).
  4. Discharge average - the average time (in days) it took individuals to feel they had the fear or anxiety under control enough to discharge themselves from the programme. Usually at level 0.
  5. Discharge range - How long in days (quickest to longest) it took to get the disorder under complete control (to get to level 0 or 1) and to discharge themselves or leave the programme having been successfully treated.
Anxiety / Fear   Frequency 

 Control Av 

 Control Rng   Discharge Av   Discharge Rng 
1. General Anxiety Disorder 403 12 4 - 21 16 11 - 33
2. Social Anxiety Disorders * 368 9 3 - 16 16 13 - 21
3. Fear of Rejection 360 10 7 - 14 16 12 - 22
4. Fear of Failure 337 11 7 - 20 17 14 - 31
5. Fear of Meetings 324 9 5 - 17 15 7 - 20
6. Panic or Anxiety Attacks 211 7 2 - 9 10 6 - 19
7. Public Speaking Anxieties 209 8 5 - 16 15 7 - 19
8. Agoraphobia 194 7 3 - 22 19 8 - 34
9. Sexual Performance Anxieties  162 14 7 - 30 23 11 - 38
10. Fear of Flying 131 9 7 - 18 16 12 - 19

 

*Social anxiety disorders (SAD) include fears and anxieties around being in social situations, meeting people, dating, having to talk to people unexpectedly, going to gatherings etc.

Notes:

  1. The top three fears and anxieties tend (but not always) to be versions of a fear of rejection.
  2. When I started conducting therapeutic interventions the presence I was surprised about the predominance of a fear of meetings. At first I assumed a fear of meetings was a subset of public speaking anxieties, however over the years I have come to recognise both the prevalence of this disorder and its grounding in a fear of rejection, social anxieties and public speaking issues.
  3. The treatment times are only for the period until the disorder is brought down to levels 0 (no anxiety) or 1 (aware of a minor heightened sense of arousal) this does not include the confidence and assertiveness phases of the programme. I firmly believe that to just treat an anxiety or fear is not enough as it leaves the client susceptible to forming similar fears and anxieties at a later date. To prevent this I usually include a confidence and assertiveness skills course to prevent this occurring.

 

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Please let me know what you think. Is this useful?

 

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