The Huddle Blog

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

Embrace your fear of evaluation

By maggie

Social anxiety is maintained by resistance to the possibility of judgement and rejection, due to  intolerance of the feeling of embarrassment and shame and/or catastrophic thinking about the consequences of judgment. Let’s call this fear of evaluation.  Notice my focus on the possibility of judgment and rejection. It’s always a possibility. Remember from our discussion last week that one form of inflated responsibility is trying to control what other people think, feel, do, or say. One thing none of us can control is how other people perceive and respond to us. All the time. It’s always uncertain. We never have any control over it.  Some of us persistently having the feeling of certainty about relationships. What a gift. My sense is that a lot of people don’t have the good fortune to persistently feel safe and certain about all of their relationships across their life. As you reflect on it, can you tell that in some relationships, you do feel persistently comfortable? Do you have any relationships where you feel like you always know the type of interaction you are going to have and in that relationship you will feel safe? I hope you have that template somewhere, if only at Huddle. …

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Play with worry

By maggie

Let’s talk cognitive process. Your process for any task is your series of steps to achieve your end. Your process for brushing your teeth or cleaning your kitchen may seem to you like “that’s just how you do it,” but if you surveyed the next 10 people you encounter it is very likely that their process for those tasks are not as similar as you were expecting. For worriers, the mental process of worrying might otherwise be described as thinking. Where does your worry end and your thinking start? To sort this one out, first off, bring attention to and get control over any functional worry that you experience.  Worry as a function is a cognitive form of experiential avoidance, similar to thought control or thought suppression. In thought control and thought suppression, individuals make active attempts to stop thinking about the stimulating topic and distract themselves. When worrying as a cognitive avoidance, you might feel like you are thinking a lot about the topic and even feel completely preoccupied with it. This form of worry is problematic when you don’t feel like you get to choose to think about it and when the thinking you are doing is not becoming problem-solving. …

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Mental compulsions function like behavior

By maggie

The nature of obsessive thoughts is that they are unwanted and intrusive. They arrive with a spike of anxiety or uncertainty and the urge to do something that makes them stop. Behavior that you feel compelled to perform, against your conscious wishes, with the sole intention of ending a thought, feeling or sensation is a compulsion. Let’s discuss the nature of compulsions in greater detail so that we have shared language to understand mental compulsions. What is a compulsion? Here is a list of common physical compulsions:  Excessive hand washing or bathing Checking locks or appliances Checking that you haven’t made a mistake Checking that you did not or will not harm yourself or others Checking your body for sensations or your mind for thoughts and feelings Rereading or rewriting Repeating routine activities like moving a chair up and down Counting Excessive list making Needing to tell, ask, or confess what you are thinking Needing to touch or tap Needing to arrange or order objects Hand washing and all other behaviors listed above becomes excessive and problematic when the function of the behavior transitions from problem-solving to anxiety reduction. When your hands are visibly dirty or your body is sweaty …

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Redirect rumination

By maggie

Rumination as a repetitive negative thinking state is triggered by pervasive negative beliefs. It is a sticky thinking pattern that shows up habitually when triggered by certain environmental or internal states. Pervasive negative beliefs and rumination High anxiety isn’t the consequence of lots and lots of anxiety, but rather an anxiety state plus a secondary interpretation of the state as a threat itself (also called second fear). Similarly, depression isn’t lots and lots of sadness, but rather an uncomfortable feeling (like sadness, guilt, loneliness, anger) plus an interpretation of that feeling that you are hopeless, helpless, or worthless because of it. As an example, everyone feels lonely sometimes. Loneliness can be a clean or clear emotion if you notice it, and think “Everyone feels this way sometimes. It’s painful to feel isolated and disconnected.” If you don’t add any more to that, the feeling is likely to peak and pass or to give you information on an action that might be beneficial for you, like reaching out to a friend. A more common experience of loneliness is that when the feeling of loneliness shows up, you think “what is wrong with me? why do I always feel this way? I’m such a …

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Know your OCD

By maggie

This week, several members asked for strategies that help them decide whether or not they were experiencing OCD. Put another way, the topic is: “When I know it’s OCD, I know what to do. What do I do when I don’t know whether I’m bothered by a real problem or it’s OCD?” Let’s come back to this topic this week in Community Time. Here are some ideas to get us started: Is it a real problem? If the thought that you are bothered by hadn’t arrived in your mind, would you still have an issue?  You won’t always know that you are experiencing OCD when you decide to act as though you are. The nature of OCD is that you feel uncertain about something that is not a threat. When you decide to treat your thought as though it is OCD, you are saying, “The uncertainty I feel about this does not mean that there is something wrong. I’m going to act as though there is nothing wrong even though it feels like there is something wrong.”  Try using urgency as a cue for OCD. Real problems are still real problems regardless of when you think about them. If you have …

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Shame

By maggie

Shame is a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety. Although very painful, the capacity for shame is healthy and part of being human. The function of shame is to prevent us from damaging our relationships and motivate us to repair them if we’ve damaged them.  As Brene Brown explains, guilt says “I’ve done something wrong.” Shame says “I am something wrong.”  OCD is marked by hypersensitivity to uncertainty, disgust, and guilt. Those that experience the mechanisms that maintain OCD (that is, anxiety sensitivity + intolerance of uncertainty + inflated responsibility + experiential avoidance) not only have sensitivity to the feeling of guilt, but also feel guilt excessively.  Experiencing an unwanted intrusive thought doesn’t mean that you’ve done something wrong. You didn’t choose to experience the thought. If you didn’t choose it, then you are not responsible for it. A crucial belief that maintains OCD is thinking that you should have control over your thoughts and feeling guilty when you don’t control your thoughts. Rather than trying harder to force yourself to control your thoughts, you need to change your belief that you can control your thoughts in the first place. As long as you believe you can control your …

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Shame is my 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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Shame is my cue to connect

By maggie

There might be a reason that your anxiety or OCD content is stuck. It might not be due to 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 feeling of shame.  Your feeling …

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Uncertainty! Great! Now’s my chance!

By maggie

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. Uncertainty will go away if …

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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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