The Huddle Blog

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

Shame is a cue to connect.

By maggie

There might be a reason that your anxiety or OCD content is stuck. It isn’t because of the content. It’s never because of the content. It might be because of shame. It’s okay to feel shame. It’s a feeling, not a fact or prediction. Let’s go towards it.  Shame is the feeling you have when you think you are on the outside. Marginalization makes people feel shame. It gives you the urge to hide.  Even if you grew up in a homogenous environment, there’s all kinds of reasons why you could have felt as though you were on the outside of the group you grew up in. Into adulthood, we are all constantly swimming through groups we fit into and groups into which we do not fit. Even more subtly, there are some dimensions of you that fit into some contexts you live in and some dimensions of you that do not fit in. You might feel shame when you notice that. Great job noticing. It’s a feeling, not a fact or prediction. You have a good body. Your mind noticed something and your body gave you a feeling in response. Feelings don’t have to mean more than that, especially the …

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Of course I suffer.

By maggie

Let’s talk more about self-criticism and self-compassion.  Your suffering isn’t just because of recurrent unwanted intrusive thoughts, chronic worry, a depressed mood, or another uncomfortable private experience. The interpretation that you shouldn’t have such an experience and that there is something bad, weak, or crazy about you for such experience creates, maintains, and intensifies your suffering too.  This type of self-criticism hurts. Perhaps it started as the voice of a critical parent or some other significant person. Sometimes you continue to receive criticism from that person and that hurts. Self-criticism, though, is you against you. The critical voice is no longer someone else’s. Now it is yours. You aren’t on your own team. The game isn’t fun and none of you is going to win.  You might criticize yourself as an attempt to control a thought or feeling that you don’t like. I suspect it “works” every once in a while, especially if by “working” you mean that you can avoid your thoughts and feelings to get relief from them for a short amount of time. It doesn’t work to alleviate suffering long-term for anyone ever. Trying to make thoughts go away will make them more likely. Suppressing feelings will make them …

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When in doubt, write it out.

By maggie

 I suggest writing as homework frequently. There are different types of writing exercises that are likely to be helpful for different types of suffering. Here’s a working list. We can add to it when we talk more about it.  Writing for OCD and anxious doubt Self-monitoring for daily anxiety and OCD. This writing has a really specific format because I want you to orient yourself towards observing your experience rather than get caught in your content in the anxious moment. Focus on what is happening, rather than figuring out why it’s happening. See this infographicfor questions to answer in your anxious episode or on a daily basis when you are tracking your anxious experiences.  Scheduled worry time for habitual worry and insomnia due to worry. If you chronically worry about all kinds of different things, try scheduled worry time for 14 days. Try this also if you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early. You might not be worried all day long, but if worry is interrupting your sleep, you should work on it during the day.  Modified self-monitoring for mental compulsions. In the groups that we discuss Harm OCD, many members have already done effective exposures to their feared content. You …

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I get to do that.

By maggie

Over-responsibility of thoughts about the futureA few weeks ago, we focused on over-responsibility in both the present and the past. Several people asked about over-responsibility in the future. Thanks for the reminder. I forgot to worry about the future. The short answer is that it’s the same answer minus content plus anticipatory anxiety and emotional perfectionism. Got that?  Thought-action fusion reviewSo, remember that over-responsibility of thought is when you have thought-action fusion. You have a thought that arrives with a spike of uncertainty and you interpret the thought as meaningful because of the accompanying feeling.  For instance, I might have the thought “What if my mom dies?” and then no spike of anxiety, uncertainty, guilt or sadness.“Not an important thought,” says my mind, “she’s not going to die. I don’t need to worry. Back to my other thoughts.” Notice that I have no more or less certainty about my mom’s mortality now than I did before I had that thought. I just had a thought about it. That’s a catastrophic thought without thought-action fusion.  Comparatively, I might have thought, “What if the barista put drugs in my coffee?” and then a SPIKE! of anxiety and uncertainty. “Very important thought,” says my mind, “Did you see that spike? I …

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I’ll do that slowly.

By maggie

Anything worth doing is worth doing slowly.Think of the most miraculous of your accomplishments.Getting yourself created. Nailed it. It took 9 months. Walking. Nice job. Another 9 months at least. Talking. You babbled your way through it. Most people didn’t understand you for years. Reading, writing, and learning to code also took years. These are just external milestones. You were still myelinating until you were 25.  What are you working on now and are you willing to take your time?  Whether it’s your mental health, your physical health, your relationships, your schoolwork or career, or all of it, it’s all worth doing slowly.  Many of us like the “I’ll do it scared” concept. It shifts our attitude away from waiting to feel right to pursue what we care about. An “I’ll do it scared” attitude means that we get to grow and change now, regardless of how we feel. Its empowering.  But, also, you don’t always have to be brave. And, in fact, sometimes we should stop being brave, especially if you’re forcing yourself to be brave. Slow down long enough to take care of yourself. Notice that you’re actually already safe.  It’s exhausting to be anxious all the time. It’s exhausting to hang out between bracing against and dreading …

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I’ll do it scared.

By maggie

“I’m not sure what will kill me, but it won’t be shame.” The content typically matters when you’re feeling is shame. If you think a component of your suffering is shame, find a way to get some words around that, either by talking or by writing or both. Then, share it with someone you trust. Use shame as a cue to connect. It’s okay if your shame story changes or it seems like you are saying contradictory things while you’re sharing your shame story. Part of the reason you feel shame is likely that you have an idea about how you or some part of your life is supposed to go, and what’s actually happening is not fitting that narrative. Try to figure out how you think the narrative is supposed to go and how that’s different from what’s actually happening. What’s actually happening is My mind perceived a difference between what is happening and what I think is supposed to be happening. I judged that difference as bad and inferior. I felt shame and worthlessness. If you understand the difference between what’s occurring and what you’re expecting, and you accept what’s occurring, you won’t feel shame. And, then you’ll have options. Then, you can use your shame to connect and …

I’ll do it scared.Read More »

Shame is a cue to connect

By maggie

There might be a reason that your anxiety or OCD content is stuck. It isn’t because of the content. It’s never because of the content. It might be because of shame. It’s okay to feel shame. It’s a feeling, not a fact or prediction. Let’s go towards it.  Shame is the feeling you have when you think you are on the outside. Marginalization makes people feel shame. It gives you the urge to hide.  Even if you grew up in a homogenous environment, there’s all kinds of reasons why you could have felt as though you were on the outside of the group you grew up in. Into adulthood, we are all constantly swimming through groups we fit into and groups into which we do not fit. Even more subtly, there are some dimensions of you that fit into some contexts you live in and some dimensions of you that do not fit in. You might feel shame when you notice that. Great job noticing. It’s a feeling, not a fact or prediction. You have a good body. Your mind noticed something and your body gave you a feeling in response. Feelings don’t have to mean more than that, especially the …

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Getting stuck because of over-responsibility

By maggie

You’ve noticed that the thoughts that you’re stuck in are related to your sense of responsibility.Great! Good noticing! Here’s your plan:  Start with the Huddle 5. The Huddle 5 is a break when you’re stuck. Huddle 5 when you notice that you’re in your head, rather than in your life. Huddle 5 when you have urgent, anxious sensations that you are afraid of, you want to neutralize, or that are causing you to avoid something you care about. Take a Huddle 5, meaning a 5 minute break. There’s nothing magical about 5 minutes. Just break long enough to pay attention to yourself, make a values-based decision, and then take action. We’ll continue our conversation about your options for how you can relate to yourself during the Huddle 5 in group.Are my thoughts about the present or the past? Over-responsibility intrusions in the present:  Is this thought-action fusion?Individuals with anxiety sensitivity get sticky, catastrophic thoughts when they are sensitized. Thoughts feel like they are true, regardless of if they are rational or irrational and regardless of their truth. Thought-action fusion is when having a thought feels like its the same thing as behavior. Thoughts and behavior are not the same thing. Our minds can have thoughts …

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Relationships are long conversations

By maggie

When you’re living with a healthy body, you don’t have to think much about your body. You can fall asleep or wake up when you need to be awake or asleep. You can eat a variety of foods and stay nourished and energized. You can move easily and use your body for activities you enjoy. You can decide whether you want to use substances to alter your consciousness and in what quantity. Your relationship with your body isn’t a relationship you have to spend much time on. It’s a relationship you live in, rather than work on.  Living with a healthy mind is similar. With a healthy mind, you can choose what you attend to and what you ignore. You can perceive all kinds of information from your environment and then make conscious decisions about how you want to respond. You can experience sensations, feelings, and thoughts, accept their existence, and either redirect your attention away from them or use them as data to inform your decisions. You get to decide what you think is valuable and meaningful and how you want to act on that which is valuable and meaningful to you. Like a relationship with a healthy body, …

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Clinical perfectionism

By maggie

Let’s come back to the concept of clinical perfectionism as a problem of strategy, not outcome. We’re not challenging your high standards and desire to do a great job. We’re challenging the strategies your mind uses to achieve your goals. Perfectionism shifts from being workable and effective to unworkable and ineffective when: You prioritize achieving a feeling like certainty, completeness, or control rather than prioritizing solving the problem.  You flip back and forth between procrastinating starting tasks and reaching diminishing returns on tasks you start.  You avoid decisions, feel paralyzed when making decisions, and/or become filled with doubt and regret after making decisions. You think there is actually a right answer for questions that are inherently uncertain.  This week, we’ll review what we’ve already discussed and expand on it based on your questions and experiences.  What we learned last week: Call an audible. Rather than taking a guess when you feel indecisive, I love the concept of calling an audible. Like a football game, it implies that you’ve done the work to practice a strategy, but during game time, the specifics of the situation require that you make an unexpected call as best as you can with the information you have. You are not irresponsibly guessing, …

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