The Huddle Blog

Sharing thoughts on a cognitive-based understanding of anxiety and how online group support can help us get better, together.

Embrace uncertainty with response ability

By maggie

Here are a few questions to consider about this topic: In what areas of your life are you most sensitive to uncertainty?Does the feeling of uncertainty make it difficult for you to identify how you can take responsibility? That is, does uncertainty make you feel like you don’t have the ability to respond when you do? Does the feeling of uncertainty trick you into taking responsibility under conditions when you don’t have the ability to respond? What would help you differentiate these two reactions to uncertainty more effectively?  In Core Principle Module 4, we’re going to talk about embracing uncertainty with responsibility. To listen to this as a podcast, click here. The three concepts for today are: Uncertainty is an opportunity to take responsibility Negative reinforcement maintains anxiety Intentional and incidental practice should be frequent willing and flexible. First when we think about embracing uncertainty with responsibility, let’s differentiate between inflated responsibility and real responsibility. We’ve talked frequently about inflated responsibility and what we mean by that is when you take responsibility for something you don’t have responsibility for.  So, you don’t have responsibility for the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that show up. Other uncertainties that you don’t have control over include Other people’s …

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Prepare for the anxious moment

By maggie

Hi there, Group. Thanks for your time. I’m grateful for the chance to spend time with you. To listen to this as a podcast, click here. This week, we’re discussing how to prepare for the anxious moment. We’ve already covered the therapeutic attitude of willing acceptance and differentiating between anxiety and danger. Let’s quickly review. Remember that for all techniques, we’re always trying to orient towards the therapeutic attitude of willing acceptance. When we think about how to get to the therapeutic attitude of willing acceptance, we want to be thinking of our Wise Mind.  So your Wise Mind is your internal compassionate parent, both participating in and observing you throughout your whole life. Wise Mind has more experience in the part of you that is reactively or fearfully responding to whatever is happening in this moment. Wise Mind has been with you observing you your whole life. She knows the moments you’ve shown up with courage. And also when you’ve lived less than your best life. Compassionate parents have time and space for all of it and want to be there with you. We all have an observational self. Some of us didn’t know it was there and don’t pay attention …

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Distinguish between anxiety and danger

By maggie

Before we discuss Core Principle Module 2, several people wondered about whether or not their self-talk was compulsive or Wise Mind. I want to say more about that: The voice of Wise Mind is always orienting you towards a therapeutic attitude of acceptance of what you’re currently experiencing.  Sometimes Wise Mind is educational. He knows what’s happening. He might say, “You feel dizzy because your breathing changed rapidly. You aren’t in danger.” Sometimes Wise Mind is observational. She’s watching. She might say, “Notice that we’re having thoughts. We often have these types of thoughts when we do what we’re currently doing.”Sometimes Wise Mind is encouraging. He believes in you. He might say, “Uncertainty! Great! This is an opportunity for us!” If your Wise Mind is an internalized compassionate parent, she’s the type of parent that is always helping move towards what you value.  If the voice that is responding to your Worried Voice is arguing with the content of your worried voice, it is False Comfort, rather than Wise Mind.  Here’s another example:  Worried Voice: “Am I a good person?” False Comfort: “Yes, of course, you’re a good person.”Wise Mind: “You’re having a thought that feels like a problem because you feel uncertain.” …

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The therapeutic attitude of willing acceptance

By maggie

The first Core Principle Module is The Therapeutic Attitude of Willing Acceptance.This module is an introductory session and a summary of the next five which explain the therapeutic attitude of willing acceptance in greater detail.  Differentiate between anxiety and dangerPrepare for the anxious moment Embrace uncertaintyAvoid avoidancesFloat through anxious experiences mindfully Meet Wise Mind Do you have a toddler? When he reaches for the hot stove, do you yell “No!”? Consider yelling “Danger!” Kids, like adults, need to learn the difference between fear and danger. The problem with “No!” is that it doesn’t help you clarify that difference. If, when you feel fear and you think, “Oh no!,” not only are you adding fear to fear, but you also miss the chance to learn from it when it is teaching you that you are in physical or interpersonal danger.  Imagine if, when you were a toddler and a child and you felt scared, your parent noticed and explained kindly, “Your body is experiencing fear. Your heart is racing and you are sweating. You are feeling fear, but you are not in danger. Fear is just a feeling. Let’s observe it together. While you feel this feeling, how can you tell if …

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Uncertainty! Great! Now’s my chance!

By maggie

Hi there, Group. Great week. I loved hearing how you run after the bus. You’re sweaty. You’re embarrassed. Whatever. You got somewhere to be. Great! I want more of that. Tell me more!  When you’re anxious, you can think There’s the bus. I gotta run after it!You can also think, Great! Uncertainty! Now’s my chance! Your body and mind work great. We are all emotion driven. Feelings and urges cue us into our needs and wants. Our values guide our actions in relation to our feelings and urges. Here’s an example: Need to pee is a feeling that arrives with an urge to urinate. The feeling tells you what you need. Your values inspire you to hold it until you reach a toilet. Look at you and your values-driven behavior! Great job! So, your mind works great, but you have a problematic relationship with uncertainty that is negatively reinforced by obvious and subtle behavioral patterns. It’s thought-action fusion. Having the thought feels like the content of the thought is true. You don’t have to act right away. You have a thought, a feeling, and an urge but you don’t have to act. The urge to pee will not go away until you actually pee. …

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Run after the bus, sometimes.

By maggie

Hi there, Group. Great week. Question for you: When you are half a block away and people are getting on the bus you’re about to miss, what do you do?  Your answer helps us understand your experience during incidental exposure.  The short answer is run after the bus, sometimes. Flexibly. Humorously. Like your life depends on it. Group had a disagreement about this: Some of you feel empathic anxiety and embarrassment when you see someone running after a bus. You feel anxious and embarrassed on behalf of those that try. You would never do it yourself. You think, “Look at how hard they are trying. They’re going to fail. That’s so embarrassing.”  Some of you think, “Of course, I run after the bus. I would feel anxiety and shame if I didn’t catch it. I’m mad at myself already for being in that hypothetical situation. I should have planned better. When I see someone missing the bus, I feel empathy for them because of the harsh internal self-criticism they must feel.”  Calm down. It’s just a story. You haven’t missed the bus. Everybody’s okay. What’s happening here?  For those that have the first answer: We all know that your content doesn’t …

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Intentional Practice – Part II

By maggie

Good exposure and response prevention is like the fun and playful part of childhood. What comes to mind for you?  Young kids practice winning. Try playing cards with a four-year-old. They can’t wait to show you what they can do. First, they change the rules. Then, they change the game. It’s always fun because they always win.  As an adult in the external world, you will make mistakes and you won’t always win. Pursuits you attempt may not work out. You can still win on the inside. You can change your game if you change your rules.  Here is the new game: Internally, always ask for whatever is happening.  Here are the new rules:  Commit to the smallest next step towards what you value. If you want more, do more. Here is how this might sound internally when you are moving towards what you value:“I feel anxious. Great! I was hoping for that… There’s shame. thank u, next.I feel angry. Also, great! I need more practice with that one… Oh, sadness. It was under the anger… The sadness makes me long for connection. Interesting. Hm… I feel peace… How can I get more peace?”  So, you’re setting up your formal exposure and response …

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Intentional Practice – Part I

By maggie

You’re wondering if you are doing ERP correctly and if it will make you better. Great question. There’s a lot to discuss, so we’ll break this up over the next several weeks.  ERP stands for exposure and response prevention. It is a cognitive behavioral treatment technique. Anxiety is created, maintained, and intensified by experiential avoidance. We’re trying to do the opposite of experiential avoidance to recover from anxiety and OCD. Your past behavior helps us identify what will trigger your anxiety and in what way you will want to avoid. As an example, if you have previously felt anxious and stopped driving when you had a thought about hitting someone with your car, the next time you drive, you will likely have that thought, feel anxiety, and have the urge to stop driving. You aren’t having that thought and feeling anxious because it is more likely happen. You are having that thought and feeling because you acted as though it was threat in the past. For this example, exposure is driving and response prevention is not stopping. Easy, right? Just do the opposite of what your anxiety wants.  I hope this concept is actually easy for you to understand and …

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Paradoxical effort

By maggie

Try to remember that your present is a gift. Don’t try too hard. Let’s talk more about paradoxical effort.  As we’ve discussed, if you try to use mindfulness to suppress or control your thoughts and feelings, they will increase and grow stronger. Mindfulness in any given moment is not meant to alleviate psychological suffering. A habit of mindfulness practice over time will likely reduce your overall sensitization and make it easier to notice that your thoughts are just thoughts in any given moment. In the moment of suffering, though, mindfulness is a therapeutic attitude that helps you stay committed to what you were already planning to do without making your internal experience worse.  If this doesn’t seem to be working for you, you’re likely struggling with paradoxical effort. It’s not that you aren’t trying hard enough or being lazy about your mental health or your treatment. You’re probably trying too hard to use the right strategies and coping skills. Because you are also hoping that the strategies will make your thoughts and feelings go away, it’s getting worse. Oops. It was paradoxical effort.  Paradoxical effort can be the issue with your struggle with yourself. It may also be the issue …

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The present is a gift.

By maggie

Let’s elaborate on building a compassionate attitude towards the present moment.  While anxious, so many sufferers have critical thoughts like, I’m supposed to be mindful right now. I should be using my skills. I’m not doing this right. It makes everything worse. If this is you, try cueing yourself with My present moment is a gift I can offer myself right now, rather than a critical I must be mindful. When I see you, I think that as long as you have your breath, your present moment is a gift. Your breath is always there with you. It’s yours to have and yours to hold. You just have to close your mouth. Even when it feels out of control, you can immediately bring it back into your control. If you’re willing to play, you can even hyperventilate on purpose. Your breath is your friend. It reminds you that you are alive.  The present moment is a gift even and especially when you feel anxious.  When I can’t fall asleep or I wake up too early, my present moment is a gift: The memories I’m having are not presently occurring. The content of my worries has not yet occurred and may not occur. My sheets are comfy and my bed is warm. My heart is racing. I have a strong …

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