Anxiety and The Wheel of Disaster

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One of the reasons I tell you that you have to get to “know” your anxiety is because for successful anxiety recovery, you have to be able to stay one step ahead of it.

Anxiety is truly one of the greatest allies you will have in life, but its like an overprotective mother in its desire to keep you safe from harm.   It loves you, and it means well, but it will use every trick in the book to make sure you are under its control and doing exactly what it wants you to do, which,  in your subconscious’ case, is to keep you safe.

Every since the day you were born you have always had a subconscious that was a bit overprotective and not terribly confident in your ability to fend off danger.   And something happened during the course of your life, whether it was chronic stress or one big stressful event, that really kicked this hyper-protectiveness into overdrive.  Whatever it was, it made  your subconscious say “That’s it!  Enough! I always knew this world was unsafe. I tried to trust you but nope, those days are over.  This world is too uncertain.  I am taking over from now on.”  And it pumps up the adrenaline and revs your nervous system up to the highest settings, basically keeping your alarm system on high 24 hours a day, to make sure you are able to handle the next round of danger when it comes.   This is the point in time when you start feeling anxiety symptoms frequently, if not all the time, and you, being unaware that all this has played out in your subconscious, start to wonder what in the heck happened to the old you.

After living in this hyper sensitized state for a while, some of us are fortunate enough to be able to take some time to heal from our previous stressors, or become so otherwise engaged with or distracted by life that we find we start “forgetting” about our anxiety for longer and longer periods of time.  We find we are getting used to our symptoms and they are either going away or we are becoming so habituated to them that we don’t  notice them anymore.  Great news for us, right?   But to our subconscious,  this is not great news at all.  It is losing control of us, and it can’t have that. If it loses control then we could get hurt and that would be very bad. So it has to find a way to get us back under its thumb again.  That is where the Wheel of Disaster  comes into play.




The Wheel of Disaster   is basically your subconscious mind’s  version of playing dirty pool.

It scours the world around you, looks at what is going in your life and tries to find something new,  and scary – the odder it is the better –  that will attract your attention and make you nervous again so that you will go back to your heightened state of awareness and stay safe.

Let me explain:

People don’t usually immediately recognize when their anxiety is getting better. Everybody envisions their recovery as though one day they will wake up and birds will pull back their blankets for them and they will think,  “I am cured!”   But it doesn’t really work that way.   Anxiety recovery is usually very gradual for those of us who have drifted into the “disorder” aspect of it,  and awareness of our recovery usually consists of the realization, often months into the process,  that you haven’t thought of your anxiety in days or weeks.  You realize you are almost starting to feel “normal” again!

Right about this time, quite often before your conscious mind even has a chance to realize you are improving,  your subconscious mind starts to pick up on the fact that your brain is becoming occupied with things other than keeping yourself alive.   You are no longer thinking you could go crazy.  You are no longer thinking your heart palpitations could be a sign of a cardiac problem.  You are no longer afraid to drive under that bridge.  You are thinking about social engagements, and what’s on TV tonight, and where you should go on vacation next year.  You are thinking about very casual things!   Your subconscious mind thinks “Casual thinking isn’t going to keep us safe!  It’s a war zone out there.  He can’t be thinking about buying tickets to a football game.  I’ve got to take matters into my own hands.”

 

 

In a desperate attempt to set your alarms off and take you right back to the hyper alert zone you had just begun to find your way out of, your subconscious spins the Wheel of Disaster  again and again, trying to lure you into a line of thought that will catch your attention.  At first, it might not be successful.

For example, your subconscious might try baiting the hook by throwing the thought out there of  “What was that feeling in my chest?” and the new, less anxious you might foil it by thinking  “Oh yeah, I had onions for lunch.  Its just acid, not a heart attack.”

So then your subconscious might whisper  “Did I unplug the curling iron?  I hope the house doesn’t catch on fire. A house fire could kill us all.”  And of course the new,  less reactive you says “Yep. I am sure I did.”

Keep in mind these often aren’t actual  thoughts you are having.  These are often split second little micro-conversations you are having with yourself that don’t use words…they use mental images and emotions.   These micro conversations are what make up the inner thought world of human beings a great deal of the time.   In this particular situation, these conversations  consist of:  image of something awful happening,  just a blip of fear, and then reassuring yourself and mentally moving on to another topic.   The fear never really ignites,  because the new mentally healthier you, doesn’t fall for these tricks.

But,

your subconscious doesn’t give up and it keeps spinning that wheel until it lands on something that sticks.   Quite often it is something odd and “out there” such as a quick little realization that you haven’t had any anxiety symptoms for a while.  You might take that bait, and emotionally respond with “It doesn’t feel normal to not have anxiety. This is freaking me out. ”  Because this is so new and strange it DOES catch your attention, and these little micro-feelings now become very big feelings that you are very consciously aware of and very distressed by.  You will want to analyze this new fear:

“I am afraid that I wasn’t afraid. But now I AM afraid and I am very upset and anxious because I am now afraid about the fact that I wasn’t afraid!  This makes no sense! Why am I feeling this way now? What does it MEAN?”

Once this particular thought seed takes root in your mind, it can last for days or weeks.  It is very, very common among people who live with anxiety disorders. In fact, this whole process is very common among people with anxiety and is actually a sign that you are making very good progress in your recovery.

How can more anxiety be a GOOD sign?

In this situation, it means that your subconscious now has to WORK to get you to over-react.  Before, it seemed as though anything could set off your anxiety.   But now, it’s not so easy to get yourself worked up.   You now have to play mental worry games with yourself to stay in your comfort zone of fear and apprehension.  It’s a sign that you are growing and becoming stronger and adapting to the metal games you unknowingly try to sabotage yourself with.

Remember, if you go through a period where you are doing a bit better, but now you seem to have really regressed, don’t think of it as regressing.  Think of it as leveling up.   You have passed the first test of being in control of your life, and now its time to show yourself what you are really made of.

Ultimately, your “nervous mother” subconscious wants YOU to win.  You win by proving that you are no longer an over reactor.  You win by proving that you can handle anything.  You win by proving that you don’t stress about things such as “I haven’t had anxiety in a while.” or “I have anxiety about having anxiety.”   You win by showing your subconscious that you don’t care about that Wheel of Disaster because you have it all under control.  If you stay calm and don’t get sucked down the rabbit hole again, you subconscious will say “Okay.  I feel better.  We seem really in control here.  I think maybe things are getting better. Maybe there isn’t so much to worry about anymore.”,    and it will settle down.  It will quit trying to keep you hyper-alert and it will quit testing you.

 

There are three of you in this anxiety disorder together:

To put it in a very basic, simple way,  there is your conscious self – which is basically, your active, aware self.

There is your brain which is your tech center.

And there is your subconscious self,  which is your inner voice, the “deeper” you…your emotional, protective core.

None of the three of you WANT you to be in the throes of an anxiety disorder.  The problem is that there is a real lack of faith and trust between the three of you.  None of you really believe that the other parts know what they are doing.  You are wondering if your brain is sick or “crazy”.  Your brain thinks you live with lions outside your door.  Your subconscious think if there ARE lions outside your door you will NEVER be able to handle it in a million years.  Its all kind of  a mess up there, but it is a mess like a dysfunctional family.  Not a mess as in “I have a disease and my sanity is slowly being sucked away.”  Its all totally correctable.

Have faith in yourself.  Have faith in your brain.  Have faith in that overprotective subconscious you have.  These are all great parts of you.  You just have to learn to get them under control and show them you are in charge of your life.

You are the leader of this trio of good-intentions.  You are the one in charge.   If you prove that by showing the other two some confidence, determination, and calm, in a consistent and persistent manner,  they will fall in line.  It may take some time, but they will fall in line and back off.

Do not give in to the bait your subconscious  throws at you.  If you start regressing back into anxiety again, pat yourself on the back and tell yourself  “I must really be doing well, if these are the kinds of games my mind is playing with me.”   Resist the urge to analyze whatever “brain junk” thoughts and phobias are thrown your way.  Carry on no matter what is being dangled in front of you, and keep telling yourself you are calm and in control.  That is how you win this worry game.  That is how you win ALL worry games.

The Wheel of Disaster  never goes away.

Your subconscious keeps it in a closet in the back of your mind and will cart that thing out on an “as needed”  basis.  I am 25 years into this, and mine still gets pulled out from time to time.  You just have to recognize when its being spun,  recognize when your subconscious is “testing” you again,  and when it’s starting to mistrust your world again,  and then look at your thoughts and your life and see what it is you can do to reassure it, stay in control, and keep moving forward as opposed to regressing back into your anxiety disorder.

 

 

 

AnnaLisa Scott
TheWorryGames.com

 

 

AnnaLisa Scott

AnnaLisa Scott is a full time blogger living successfully with GAD and OCD, who is passionate about helping people change their relationship with anxiety. TheWorryGames.com has helped thousands of people see their anxiety disorders in a new light and manage their symptoms through self empowerment, self care, and other natural methods.

9 Comments

  1. I totally agree with Alicia! I had the same things when I was a child! I was asking my parents what would they do if I die! and i was crying a lot imagining them with a broken heart after I die! I remember my first panic attack when I was like 5 years old when I was playing in the park under a tree and then I found a lot of ants attacking me! I remember the second panic attack when I was around 12 years old, when we were studying diseases in the school and then I had symptoms that were similar to one of the big diseases that we were studying! I can never forget that I was a child who never felt secured! My parents did what they knew back then! They did what they could! They did their best! But sadly I wasn’t secured and that lead to the my anxiety! But the good thing is that I tell myself that I had it since I was child but I never really cared that much about it! And I was happy and living in peace most of the time! So, what if i try to do that again! It’s easier said than done but I am trying my best

    1. I can’t remember if I commented on this before because from the page I am on I can only see your comment, but when I was little I used to fear my parents death, and MY death. But I never worried about my death making anybody else sad. That actually never even occurred to me one time in 45 years to look at it from their angle. So strange. I guess because they weren’t very loving. They loved me, but not in a way I could feel. I am always the one who seems to love the most in any relationship I am in, so never thought anybody would care much if I died I guess. I still wonder how much they would have cared. I relate so much to what you say here. Good comment!

  2. I’ve struggled with anxiety for 20 years. I know what the trigger was but only recently discovered there is more to the story. My mother was telling me some things I did that were “funny” as a child. She said if I had a nosebleed, I thought I was dying or if I had a cold, I would tell her I was going to stop breathing. Since my anxiety issues primarily revolve around obsessive thoughts about my health, I’m not sure why she didn’t think this was information I might be interested in. She said I was like that since I could talk. I don’t remember any of it so obviously there was a point in my childhood it stopped. So my brain is wired for this? It works for your theory but I almost feel like I’m battling all three parts all the time. I’m beginning to be a believer in the biological component, which I’ve never really thought about. I assumed what happened 20 years ago just triggered this severe response that I’ve had to find various ways to control. For the most part I do but when those thoughts start creeping in, I know I’m in for a rough few weeks. If I don’t feel like I can trust my brain, I may have to work more on the inner voice. When you said we’ve had a subconscious from the day we were born that was overprotective, I think my brain must have taken it to an extreme. I doubt I had any traumatic events prior to the age of 2, although I guess anything is possible. Great article. I’ll be re-reading a few times. Now that I have my new information, I’m trying to figure out if there are different interventions that will work better for me.

    1. You sound a lot like me, and your childhood sounds a lot like mine. (I am only speaking of your story with the idea that no trauma is involved.) Your childhood story tells me that you were a child who did not feel secure, who did not feel in control and wanted reassurance that she was safe. It tells me you were intelligent, aware of your mortality, and you were trying to stay on top of things. This does not mean you are abnormal. It just means that you were born with that kind of personality that doesn’t necessarily trust the world. Some people are born very positive and trusting. My daughter is one of them. She is the complete opposite of me. And some of us were born more cautious, more nervous.

      Every personality type is on Earth for a reason. Some of us in the tribe had to be the ones worried about danger, right? Otherwise mankind would be off dancing in the fields getting killed by wild animals. We are the thinkers. We are the worriers. We are the protectors. We are the ones wired to say “Is that okay? Should he be doing that? Can she get hurt that way? Should he be eating that?” That is our role. Its not a sickness. Its an evolutionary necessity in any civilization.

      When you are a child and you are born with these instincts, sometimes there IS something in your life to apply it to. Mom is mean, dad is mean, we might be sick…there is something to put that worry toward. In the absence of something traumatic going on, what are we going to do with that instinct? The only thing we can do. Turn it on ourselves…we look for danger in our bodies…we worry we might be hurt. Health phobias are so prevalent because they are so easy for those of us who are wired to worry. Our body is right there with us all the time. We feel that urge to worry, there it is…a twitch in our arm…a nosebleed. We easily feed that urge to worry. We easily give ourselves a “fix”.

      Now on top of this, we might become adults who understand this is what is going on and we learn all the right ways to think better and not turn our worry on ourselves, but then that is where this article comes into play. Just because we consciously know not to be so negative and overthink all the time…our subconscious does not like it when we ignore our urges to protect and worry and obsess. So the wheel spins..until we are back to our comfort zone, fulfilling our biological “purpose”.

      Hope that makes sense. Have you done MBTI testing? If not I recommend you give it a try. It helps you understand a lot about yourself. Here is an article about it.

  3. I had a conversation with a young woman recently, who told me she wouldn’t know how to survive without her acute anxiety. It was a revelation to realize that she didn’t wish to be rid of it! Thank you for the insight from an ‘insider’. Have a great week, my dear. Hugs and love, Sonali xx

  4. Such a fantastic article, and really good points, as well as a refreshing perspective. “Have faith in yourself. Have faith in your brain. Have faith in that overprotective subconscious you have. These are all great parts of you.” Love this bit as I agree that it’s important to remember why the anxiety is there, recognise it, appreciate it, then work with it to get it under control. Great work Lisa! 🙂
    Caz x

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