In today’s fast-paced world, anxiety has become an unwelcome companion for many. The constant demands and pressures of life can leave us feeling overwhelmed and trapped in a cycle of stress. Recognising that you are struggling with anxiety may be difficult, especially if you are not someone who sees yourself as ‘anxious’. You can be a confident person and yet have to deal with anxiety. A person might be considered to be highly successful and yet still have to wrestle with anxiety. It is possible to be happy in so many areas of life and yet be weighed down by anxiety. Each individual’s experience with anxiety is unique, and it can manifest in many ways, such as overthinking, intrusive negative thoughts, persistent fear, catastrophising, and even physical symptoms like restlessness, chest pressure, sensations in the stomach, increased heart rate or muscle tension and poor sleep.
Anxiety is actually a natural protective response designed to keep us safe. Every single human being on the planet will experience elements of anxiety to some degree at some point in their lives. The part of our brain responsible for anxiety is deeply subconscious, and its only real purpose is to keep us alive. This part of the brain isn’t concerned about the quality of our life, just that we are still breathing! The problem is that it can overreact and distort our perceptions of the world around us, which can negatively impact our ability to enjoy life.
The human brain has evolved so much in the past million or so years; we can now do all kinds of things that would have been way beyond human ability several millennia ago. But, the instinctive, protective and very primitive part of the brain that our ancient cave-dwelling ancestors used to survive their daily lives still exists and will happily step in to ‘help’ in any situation it sees fit. The kind of ‘help’ it provides is far more suited in most cases to the lives of those ancestors, which were very different from our lives today. This primitive part of the brain is responsible for the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response, which aided our ancestors’ by helping them hide from, fight off, or run away from danger. It tends to be less helpful when dealing with a work email or when we are concerned about a loved one, but that doesn’t stop it from trying to ‘assist’.
Anxiety encourages us to think negatively and to assume the worst (best to be prepared!); it can make us obsessive and vigilant (best not to forget the threat exists!). It will also pump us full of the stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol in quantities that would enable us to run from a sizeable vicious animal, such as a polar bear, in the improbable event that one escaped from a local zoo. You can see how, in the case of a giant polar bear on the loose, negativity, vigilance and a load of stress hormones to help you fight or run away would be really quite beneficial. It would be best to assume that the bear was hungry. It would be sensible to keep checking where it was and to stay on high alert. But the thing is that this protective part of our brain is not very good at judging the criteria for ‘actual threat to life’, and it can get triggered by all sorts of other things!
Any situation in which we feel worried/threatened/unsafe in any way can trigger this primitive protective part of the brain. We may be very aware of some of the things that raise our anxiety on a conscious level, but it can also be triggered on a subconscious level by all sorts of things going on in the world around us. Even things we feel we are coping with well can contribute to our overall stress levels.
This primitive part of the brain can easily get the wrong end of the stick and confuse all sorts of things as a ‘threat’. Remember, I am not saying that YOU are mistakenly assessing situations, but that your subconscious might be, without you even being aware. A disagreement with a friend, financial worries, the news, or even someone rude in the supermarket can register with the subconscious as a threat in some way and prompt this primitive part of our brain to act. The primitive part of the brain can flash into action in an instant and then stand back down shortly after (often when we cringe and wish we had reacted slightly differently). It can also gradually get more reactive and responsive over time. How many of us can identify things that ‘never used to bother us’ but do now? Another spanner it throws into the works is that it’s not very good at differentiating between the present, the past and the future. So, suppose you are thinking about difficult events in our past or negatively forecasting what might happen in the future. In that case, this subconscious part of your brain can trigger responses like it is happening now. So, even though we can’t change the past or accurately foresee the future, such thoughts can contribute to an increase in anxiety.
As humans, we have a fantastic ability to think logically and rationally and solve problems using our brain’s incredible intellectual parts. The problem is, however, that the protective primitive part of our brain can trump rational thought, and it will do its utmost to shut down the logical part of our brain before we get a chance to think of all the possible (and more positive) options. The intellectual part of our brain gets shut down by our responsive, emotional, primitive brain in order to keep us alive in the face of imminent danger (or what it has interpreted as such). We don’t want to spend too much time thinking- we must act! IF we were dealing with an escaped Polar Bear.
It can just get out of control. And unfortunately, in this case, practice makes perfect; It thinks it’s doing a great job protecting us because we are still alive, so it just keeps on doing what it’s doing, and we have to keep dealing with the anxiety it creates.
So, what we need to do is to calm this primitive part of our brain—handing back power and control to our intellectual brain, which is FAR better equipped to deal with the trials and tribulations of modern day life and to make rational, logical assessments of situations.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy offers a unique and effective strategy to calm anxiety. Unlike some therapeutic approaches that delve extensively into the roots of a problem, Solution-Focused Hypnotherapy emphasises solutions rather than dwelling on the issues. It encourages clients to envision a future where their concerns have diminished and fosters a positive and forward-looking mindset. This shift in focus plays a pivotal role in breaking the cycle of anxiety.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy blends traditional psychotherapy (talking therapy) with hypnosis, which induces a relaxed state in which we can access the subconscious, where so many of our unwanted negative thoughts, feelings and behaviours originate. Ultimately, we cannot control much of what goes on in the world around us, but we can learn to gain control over how we respond to it. By using hypnosis, we can influence our thought patterns and change how we think and feel.
Developments in neuroscience in the past few decades mean that we now recognise that the brain can change. Neuroplasticity means we can alter how the neurons in our brain fire and change the messages they deliver. Solution Focused Hypnotherapy works to rewire ingrained subconscious thought patterns that lean toward the negative by introducing positive suggestions during the relaxed hypnotic state. Over time, this helps reshape the way we perceive and respond to stressors, fostering a more resilient mindset so that we can deal with anything we need to. Combining the power of relaxing hypnosis with a powerful solution-focused approach means we can gain the necessary tools to navigate life’s challenges with newfound resilience and positivity. In a world where anxiety can feel like an insurmountable mountain, Solution-Focused Hypnotherapy can offer a trail of stepping stones toward a calmer mind and a brighter future.