Talking about giving up smoking, stopping smoking and/or quitting smoking while experiencing anxiety, panic disorder, panic attacks, agoraphobia, anxiety conditions and so on.
An introduction video and first video to be uploaded to the Somerset Adams YouTube channel. In this video, Mark briefly talks about his own experiences with panic disorder, agoraphobia, anxiety symptoms such as derealization and more. Mark is still in the process of recovering from this condition or these conditions and will go into more detail about personal experiences, alcohol use, drug use, smoking, exercise, getting fitter, healthy eating and so on in future videos and just brushes on some of these topics during this channel introduction video.
According to existential philosophy and many religious, and ‘spiritual teachings’, there may come a point in the individual’s life, where he or she may feel it imposed on them to question their own belief systems, which include the personal belief systems and the cultural inheritance of the individual. For the lucky few, this may be a smooth transition, but for many, may invoke a feeling of emptiness and existential anxiety.
The personal beliefs and cultural conditioning, no longer serve many individuals and to shed the skin of old belief systems and cultural or societal ‘norms’ may cause a feeling of intense unease.
With the confrontation with who you really are, which invariably comes into conflict to who you think you are, causes a conflict in the mind, of the old and the discovery of the real self, which lies hidden under the layers of conditioned thought or programs absorbed from the individual’s environment since birth.
It dawns on the individual that he or she, is alone in their own quest for meaning and truth, which maybe a task not easily taken, but once the seed of realisation has been sown, there is only one way forward, which is to embrace one’s own life and seek out their own meaning and values.
Not only will this cause an inner disturbance, the consequences will also cause an outer disturbance, with many personal relationships dissolving, but also a forming of new relationships, more in alignment with the individual.
With the individual’s relationship with their own inner world, will affect their own personal relationships on the outer level with kind and also their relationship with the world at large. What happens within, happens without, and vice-versa.
The steps in this painting represent the angst and anxiety when confronted with this realisation. Finding oneself in an abyss of nothingness, with a glimmer of light at the top of the steps, with each step needing to be tread, before walking through the door to one’s own true self and finally feeling secure with that union. A confidence with who you truly are, muting the self-sabotage of our own inner thoughts, while at the same time being unshakable in the face of the sabotage from the outside world. Nurturing compassion from the inside, reflecting to the outside. The ultimate goal.
‘Existential Steps’ – Painted around 2001/2002 by Mark Adams (Dramamask).
Focus and Refocus #2 Mind Exercise
To illustrate how the mind will give you, or reflect back at you from the outside world, from what you consciously focus on, here is a simple mind exercise which will demonstrate this fact:
Wherever you are, whether sat in a room, out and about, or wherever you may be, consciously think of a colour. While thinking of your chosen colour, notice how all the objects in your environment with this particular chosen colour, seem to ‘pop’ out or resonate with far more emphasis in relation to the objects which are not of the chosen colour. For example, if you choose to think of yellow, all the objects coloured yellow will seem to be highlighted, with everything ‘not’ coloured yellow, fading into the background. You may also notice that this exercise seems to take no effort to little effort to achieve the results stated here.
In essence, by practicing this technique for long enough and focussing on the colour of your choice, which in this case/example would be yellow, will result in seeing a world of full of yellow objects, or at least will be the dominant colour being reflected back at you from the ‘outside’ world. The conscious process of practicing focus on the colour will eventually transfer into the ‘automatic’ part of the mind, thus becoming a habitual ‘program’ or learned skill.
This mind exercise shows in a simple way, how what we focus on will affect how we see the world around us and applies to everything we choose to focus on. Unwittingly, we all use this method of thinking and somewhere along the line, all of us who developed anxiety conditions focussed on the feelings of anxiety at the expense of all the positive things which we have in our lives. We gradually, over time, created a world which reflected mostly or only anxiety back at us.
The good news is, we can use the same method to train our minds to focus on what we want reflected back to us. Again, this will take practice, in the same way we unwittingly practiced focussing on the feelings of anxiety and an anxiety provoking world at the onset of our ‘condition’.
Another wonderful aspect of this method and once the realisation of how this part of your mind works becomes knowledge through experience, is that you find you have a choice in how you wish to see the world, or your own world. Some of us choose to see beauty in the world, whereas others choose to see the world as a depressing place to live. Both view points in reality are most likely true and to ignore the ‘bad’ things (for example, injustice, cruelty, etc.) which happen in life would be morally wrong from my point of view, but what I am talking about here is strengthening the part of ourselves which sees the positive aspects of the world and of our lives at a healthy psychological level. I am not promoting apathy. I am promoting a healthy mind which benefits the individual and who/what the individual is associated with. I believe by developing a healthy mind, strengthening a positive view of ourselves and of the world around us puts us in a stronger position to deal with the ‘darker’ aspects of reality, including our anxieties, concerns and so on. This is the way I ‘choose’ to see things and of course everybody is different and everybody can choose their own realities in which they wish to live, for better or for worse – I choose the better!
Have a wonderful day!
Focus & Refocus
Since experiencing the agoraphobic condition along with panic disorder I have, over the years, employed the method of ‘distraction’ to avoid, or escape any feelings of anxiety and/or panic. Although distraction has served me on many occasion to decrease the feelings of anxiety, I have found it has limited effect and has only helped to ‘take the edge’ away from the ‘unwanted’ thoughts and feelings . ‘Distraction’, in this case, is of course, looking for something to keep one’s mind occupied to force one’s mind away from the thoughts and feelings of panic and anxiety. Most of us know how hard it is to try not to think about something, which maybe fearful, disturbing and so on. Distraction takes a lot of mental energy and the ‘unwanted’ thoughts/feelings pretty much always return.
I have always felt uncomfortable with the term ‘distraction’ as relating to a method to ‘deal’ with anxiety and here’s the reason why: To me, distraction suggests an avoidance, a ‘running away’ from, an escape from your thoughts and feelings and essentially an escape from your own self. The conscious mind seems only to have a limited amount of power to override any thoughts and feelings which are stored in the ‘automatic’ thinking part of the subconscious/unconscious mind. On a more ‘down-to-earth’ level, it may be easier to understand the automatic thinking part of the mind as a program, or an assortment of programs (see the post entitled: Retraining, Installing and Reinforcing Thought Patterns & Behaviours) which have been learned over the years.
Instead of using ‘distraction’ or avoiding unwanted thoughts and feelings which is in effect still focussing on what you ‘do not want’ and in essence keeping the thoughts and resulting feelings alive, I have found focussing on what you ‘want’, is far more effective. Look for things which excite you and interest you – something which is more interesting than the thoughts and feelings which promote anxiety. For example, think of all the positive attributes you have, what positive activities you want to do, where you want to be, what makes you happy, etc. Immerse yourself into an interesting hobby or topic and take it with you in your mind and if you can, into the situations which provide a stimulus for anxiety. For me, when I go out and push through my own boundaries, I think of where I want to be, what I want to do and the life I want to live. Alongside this, choose something which is interesting to take with you while you go out and about or are faced with situations which provoke anxiety. For instance, I have started taking a camera out with me, while pushing through boundaries. I can find something interesting and take photos of what I find interesting and focus on using the camera itself and at the same time, reminding myself of the life I want to live.
There is a difference between ‘distraction’ and ‘focus’. It may appear as if the focus method is the same as distraction, but there is a huge difference. In this case, distraction is avoiding, whereas focus is embracing. Focus is concentrating on what you ‘want’ whereas distraction is focussing on what you ‘don’t want’. So, focussing on what you don’t want, gives you what you don’t want and focussing on what you want, gives you what you want.
I have found, after years of using distraction methods, that the ‘unwanted’ thoughts or thought patterns do not change, but focussing on what is wanted does create new thought patterns, or programs. This is a skill and like any other skill which is to be learned, takes practice and repetition. Gradually, through effort and repetition, the new thought patterns, programs, neural pathways – call them what you will, will strengthen and override the old non-self serving thoughts, creating thought patterns, programs, neural pathways, etc, which will serve you!
Have a wonderful day!
PS: Will soon post a simple mind exercise technique which illustrates how your mind will give back to you what you feed it.
Retraining, Installing and Reinforcing Thought Patterns & Behaviours.
Thoughts, Emotions and Physical Body
When I first started to feel high levels of anxiety and experience panic attacks, many years ago, I learned how, and became aware of my thinking and thoughts which were affecting my emotions and feelings. I became aware of how thoughts, which often ‘run’ automatically, would appear, seemingly from out of nowhere and induce a corresponding ‘feeling’ state.
However, it hasn’t been until recently, I have ‘tuned into’ how my body reacts to my thoughts and emotions.
Over the years, I have ‘tried’ relaxation and meditation techniques, but I never seemed to come away with anything of therapeutic value, or anything which would reduce the feelings of anxiety in the long term.
Recently, I have decided to go back to relaxation and meditation ‘exercises’, or at least combining a tailor made method. I have been conscious of monitoring my bodily reactions to thoughts, during every day relaxation/meditation practices, as and when they arise. I have been practicing for about four weeks now and am becoming more and more aware of my thoughts affecting my emotions and the resulting bodily reactions, whether pleasant or unpleasant.
To become aware of bodily reactions (ie: heartbeat, breathing, tension, relaxed state, etc.) has been invaluable to me, as with this awareness, I can pick up cues from my body to highlight thought patterns, which may or may not be in conscious awareness at that moment.
I think people, prior to developing anxiety conditions, may either be out of touch with what their body is trying to tell them, or choose to ignore what their body is trying to tell them. I think, due to ignoring or being unaware of the body’s reactions, anxiety increases (or the body ‘shouts’ louder), until the individual has no choice, but to listen to what the body is saying. Of course, thoughts, feelings and physical reactions are all linked – they all affect one another.
The thoughts, whether automatic, or consciously chosen, obviously need to be changed to more healthy ways of thinking, if inducing unnecessary feelings of anxiety and the thoughts which evoke healthy feelings and a relaxed state, obviously need to be reinforced and employed.
Being aware of how my body behaves in response to thoughts and emotions has been a weakness’ of mine for ever since I can remember, but practicing the new techniques as I have mentioned, is increasing my awareness of what happens in my body, leading to more control or choice with how I think and feel.
I would certainly suggest to others’ experiencing anxiety conditions to find the connection between thoughts, emotions and the body, or mind, body and emotions, to become aware and to transform towards a healthier mind, healthier emotional state and calmer physical state.
(Written June 2015).
Walter the Pigeon, Fight or Flight & Desensitisation to Fear
Around a week ago, a pigeon landed in the back garden at the house where I live. The pigeon had an injured wing and was obviously in distress. I was in the garden at the time and was careful not to add to any more distress to which the pigeon was feeling. I went to go and get a handful of cornflakes to see that he had food. I walked slowly toward the pigeon, so as to drop the handful of cornflakes in front of him, so at least he would have something to eat. Even though I tried to be careful, not to make any sudden movements, the pigeon was very frightened and in a state of panic. He flapped his wings and ran into some ivy which was draping from the garden fence.
I made sure I kept my eye on the pigeon (who I named ‘Walter’), while he was in the garden, hoping he would make a full recovery. I looked on the internet to see if there were any animal/bird services who would maybe pick him up and take him into care, but the problem being, birds are very hard to catch, even if they are injured and are needing help. I decided to keep checking up on him while he rested in the garden, made sure he had food and to make sure he was safe.
Over the course of a few days, Walter was becoming less fearful, more used to me and it came to a point where he would no longer run away from me when I went to give him his cornflakes. He was still slightly on edge and cautious of me, but no longer as distressed as he was on the first day he flew into the garden. On the first day, I could see the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism in full operation, except poor Walter couldn’t fly with his injured wing and had to resort to running into the ivy and hiding amongst the leaves.
I could see, over the period of a few days, while I checked up on Walter, his fear of me was diminishing. I could see he was forming a new habit, or was learning through experience that I was not a threat to his existence. On the first day we met, I was an object of fear, but a few days in, I was transformed into being an object to be cautious about and not an object to cause Walter full scale panic. I noted, in a relatively short time period, the intense fear in Walter had diminished over a few days after being exposed to my presence at frequent intervals. I could see a desentisation to fear in progress, right in front of my eyes. Walter gave me confidence in my own ability to diminish my own sense of fear and high-anxiety triggered by certain situations through repeated exposure to the object/situation of fear.
After a few days, Walter’s wing had healed enough for him to fly and he flew off into the sunset to live his life again.
Life’s teachers can come from the most unexpected places, times and situations.
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/agoraphobicnomad
(Written June 2015).
Whether you are feeling low, unmotivated and sad, or in high spirits, motivated and happy, listening to music can be a good way to lift spirits or boost existing happiness and contentment.
I remember, when I was younger, I listened to quite a lot of ‘dark’ music and would play this music repetitively, thus creating a dark place in my mind. Conversely, listening to uplifting and positive music can lift the mood and make a person feel good.
It’s a lot easier, apparently, for a human-being to remember phrases if they sing them, rather than reading a phrase or talking a phrase. We probably all know this ourselves through experience. Marketers and advertisers know this, which is why we often see or hear many adverts on the TV and radio using medleys and sung catchphrases of their products to ‘get’ into our minds. For example, I, like many others, find the ‘Go Compare’ TV advert/commercial highly irritating with the operatic sung catchphrase of the company, but nevertheless, the advertisers have done their job very well as I will not forget who they are and what they do.
Knowing this and being aware of how music (and information) can affect our mind and well-being, we can choose what we wish to put into our minds. If we are aware of how our environment affects us at a subliminal level, we can choose what we want to be influenced by, whether that be negative or positive. For me, I prefer to choose the positive!
Here’s a song which lifts my spirits and feel free to add your own:
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/agoraphobicnomad
(Written June 2015).