By Jenny Peterson
(For an audio version of this blog, listen to episode #39 of my podcast)
If you experience anxiety regularly, you know how debilitating it can be. It can stop you in your tracks immediately. Completely throw off your day or plans in a matter of seconds.
The world tells us that there are many reasons for anxiety. Anywhere from deficiencies to improper diet, gut health, PTSD, 5g, genetics, and the list goes on. You can spend a fortune on all the remedies to try and fix it. But most often these recommendations only help with the symptoms short term. Does addressing anxiety have to be this complicated?
Absolutely not! Society is over complicating anxiety. I’m here to tell you that addressing anxiety is simple when you focus on just one place, the subconscious.
Anxiety is not the problem. It's a symptom of old subconscious patterns. Like all health issues, anxiety is connected to old survival programs that we have carried with us for many years. Most of them starting in childhood.
Today I’m going to discuss the subconscious patterns that are connected to anxiety, where they come from and what you can do about them.
The thing about anxiety or any symptom is that the subconscious patterns are specific to you. Anxiety isn’t going to look the same for you as the next person.
The symptoms can be a list of many, including:
Butterflies in your stomach
A racing heart
A disconnect between your mind and body
And much more.
All these symptoms are an indication that the body is on high alert. Your body isn’t doing this out of the blue, there is a reason for it. It's gotten a message from the control tower (your subconscious) that there is a threat. Its responding this way because your survival is at risk based on the message its getting.
The message that its getting could be completely made up or 100% real, it doesn’t matter and it doesn’t know the difference. All it knows is that there is a threat to survival.
ROOT TO ANXIETY
Anxiety is what we call a frontal fear conflict in the GHK world. Its an obsessive fear of what is ahead. The purpose of the hyper-anxiety is to be on guard when one is confronted with a situation that was previously perceived as threatening or dangerous.
Anxiety is all about lack of feeling safe on a deep level. And on an even deeper level its about not having trust and safety within yourself. Those with anxiety are never in the present moment, they are always thinking about the future from a place of fear and feel powerless about it.
The moment you perceive that you can’t protect or defend yourself, your nervous system automatically shifts into survival mode.
In order to experience anxiety symptoms there needs to be the perception of fear and powerlessness at the same time about a situation.
These 2 go hand in hand. Like I mentioned, the deeper connection to anxiety is about self trust and safety. If you don’t have trust and safety within yourself, you will feel powerless, and fear is going to be best friends with it.
These 2 perceptions, fear of the future and powerlessness can be present with so many things, hence the reason why anxiety has so many connections.
Basically, anxiety can be connected to all “what if” questions. What if I don’t get better, what if I fail, what if I say something and they don’t like it, what if I am not good enough?, etc.
The “what if” is future based thinking. Your never in the present moment. And you also feel powerless about not being able to do something about it.
When I was dealing with chronic health issues, anxiety showed up in many places.
A few include:
In the shower
Walking to the chicken coop
To most people these things seem harmless. But for me they caused anxiety. Now the reason these things caused me anxiety was all back to my own mind.
When I was taking a shower I feared passing out, hitting my head and dying in the shower.
Walking to the coop was the same thing, I convinced myself that I was going to pass out in the coop and the chickens would eat me to death.
Being alone meant that something could happen to me and no one would find me until it was too late.
None of these fears are rational. They were all made up in my own head, but to my brain and body it didn’t know the difference. It felt real and my body took action as its designed to do.
Each of these situations had fear of the future and powerlessness wrapped within them. I was fearful of something possibly happening in the future and I felt powerless because I couldn’t control what “might” happen.
But on a deeper level, I wasn’t able to create my own safety. I felt like I needed someone outside of me to give me that. My husband or even my son.
I lost trust in myself with having chronic illness. I was no longer the powerful woman that I was a few years prior. I was scared of everything, including my body.
Everyday I experienced anxiety because everyday I was in fear and felt powerless about my health, my future, what I could or couldn’t eat, being alone and so much more.
If I’m describing you, its because this is a normal part of the chronic illness journey.
Everyone that comes to me with chronic illness has lost trust and safety within themselves.
It happens over time due to what we go through. In the beginning we have trust in the doctors helping us and we are left discouraged, then we are told that our bodies are failing us so we lose trust in that, then we try many protocols that don’t work or only work for a short period of time and we lose trust in ourselves for making decisions.
Its a domino effect and by the time people reach me, they are big balls of fear, fearing everything. Their anxiety is through the roof and they have no idea how to fix it.
For some, it may feel like this is the only time in their life that they experienced anxiety and for others they have been experiencing it their entire lives.
Either way, I’m saying with 100% confidence that anxiety whether you experience it just during this time that you have chronic illness or your entire life, that it all started at a young age.
Why can I say this with 100% confidence? Because how you do anything is how you do everything. As an adult, the way you respond to life now is a programmed survival pattern from childhood. We are reflections of the survival patterns we formed as kids.
This pattern of feeling unsafe and not trusting yourself is nothing new. When the hurricane of chronic illness comes, it just gets amplified. Over time, thinking patterns attract other similar thinking patterns. They start to form “gangs” in our mind of similar thinking. So when we have chronic symptoms those thinking patterns become best friends with other similar thinking patterns that you have from childhood.
I’m going to use myself as an example here again.
When I had chronic symptoms I was in fear of everything. Years before that, on the outside I looked fearless because of how things looked externally for me, but on the inside I was fearful of speaking up, saying no, being myself, and judgement from others. My business reflected these fears because I was playing small in everything I did due to these fears.
Go back years before having my wellness center, back to highschool time. The same fears were present. Then go back even further, all those fears were present in my childhood.
I was in fear of speaking up to my mom because that led to unpleasant consequences. I was in fear of being in the car with my dad because I rarely saw him sober. I was in fear of what others would think about my life.
Going through the timeline of my life, the person I was at the age of 35 was really no different than my 7 year old self. I was just an adult now but responding to life like a 7 year old.
Thats what we are all doing unless we become aware of our subconscious patterns. The survival patterns that we used in order to simply survive.
Anxiety is rooted in not feeling safe. If you are experiencing it now, the core of where it started was in your childhood.
Safety doesn’t have to mean just physically safe either. In fact most of the time, it's way more than that.
So many people will say to me that they had a great childhood and they still don’t understand why they have anxiety.
I’m going to tell you about one of our students, Paula. She was so full of anxiety that she couldn’t be alone, she would go to her moms everyday when her husband was at work, just so she didn’t have to be alone. She worried about everything, was an overthinker and perfectionist.
When we talked about her anxiety, she initially thought that nothing in her childhood could have created this. She had a great life and her parents were wonderful people.
Now sometimes there can be resistance to finding the connections to anxiety when we feel guilty for saying “bad things” about our parents. This was the case for Paula. She didn’t want to put either of her parents “under the bus” because she felt so loved by them.
But when we explained that this isn’t putting her parents under the bus, this is simply trying to unwind the connections to her anxiety. Her parents did the best they could with what they knew at the time.
So once we started digging we were able to make some great connections to her anxiety.
One is that her mom and dad were both extreme worriers. She was constantly surrounded by fearful thinking patterns her entire childhood. If you're a parent, you know how this works. You talk a certain way and then all of a sudden your kids are talking the same way too! These are learned behaviors that the brain has programmed from repetition.
Paula was just repeating what her parents did with her thinking. So that explained her never ending worry cycle that was playing 24/7 in her head. As an adult Paula didn’t even have to try hard to worry because the brain was now on automatic pilot already doing it for her.
Her perfectionism and overthinking were also connected to her anxiety. Underneath those behavioral patterns was the fear of failure. This fear of failure prevented her from taking on anything new, or doing tasks to the point of exhaustion because they needed to be so perfect. Fear of failure causes anxiety because it is connected to both fearing the future and powerlessness. If you are fearing failing, you are not in the present moment, you are fearing something in the future and you feel powerless because you can’t control if you fail or not.
We discovered that the fear of failure was connected to Paula's dad. Her dad was a perfectionist as well and she had many examples of situations that happened as a kid where he made harsh comments if she didn’t do things perfectly.
These were the subconscious patterns connected to Paulas anxiety. This was how Paula “survived” as a kid. She learned to think like her parents because that was familiar and safe. She learned to avoid making mistakes and to do things perfectly because not doing that meant feeling rejected by her dad. As a child all we want is to be loved and feel safe so we don’t get “kicked out of the pack”. We will do everything to avoid feeling rejected, even if that means creating harmful survival patterns like perfectionism.
So for Paula, it all came together. Her subconscious patterns connected to anxiety were fear of failure, fear of the future, and a general feeling that the world wasn’t safe. As you can see these patterns didn’t come from a “bad” childhood. They simply were generational survival patterns that were passed on to her.
Once Paula saw this, she was able to start building trust in herself. Every time she caught herself doing something perfectly, she reminded herself that she didn’t need to do it this way anymore to ensure that she wasn’t rejected by her dad. She gave herself reassurance and love in that moment that she was good enough. She learned to take imperfect action. She slowly started building trust in herself being able to be alone and by the end of the program no longer needed to go to her moms everyday. She committed to do the program work daily which built trust in herself day by day and eventually let go of the fear of the future knowing that she could handle anything that comes her way.
Day by day her anxiety symptoms got less and less because day by day she built trust and safety within herself.
MAKING THE CONNECTION
Making the connection to early childhood experiences that are connected to the subconscious patterns of anxiety, helps to see why our mind is doing what it's doing. It helps us to see that there is nothing wrong with our brains or body, they are simply acting according to the survival programs that we have.
The great thing about this is that then we have the source of the problem and that's all we need to focus on. That's why we can let go of all these other external fixes that don’t work and just focus on the subconscious.
When we understand that our brain and body are only working based on how they are designed, we can no longer be mad at them for what they are doing. Instead we can come from a place of understanding and make the inner changes that are necessary to have the body and brain respond in a different way.
Our parents are the ones that are supposed to provide safety for us as kids. Safety in our environment, in being able to speak up, set boundaries, be ourselves, etc. But they are not given these tools. They are doing the best with what they know and what they know are their survival patterns that are most likely passed on from their parents too.
They often don't teach us to provide trust and safety within ourselves because they don’t even know how to do it for themselves.
So when we become adults, we look to external things to make us feel safe. Controlling everyone, pleasing everyone, working, food, shopping, addictions, etc. These behaviors are all connected to anxiety.
The way to break this pattern as an adult is to re-parent yourself. Give yourself what you needed as a kid- safety. Trusting in yourself provides that safety.
You're not a child anymore. Those old survival patterns are keeping you alive but they are also keeping you sick. People live for years functioning with old survival programs but they are often unhappy with their life and have chronic health issues.
What are the subconscious patterns that are connected to your anxiety?
Ask yourself what things you are fearful of.
Do you fear speaking up to others?
Do you fear failing?
Do you fear judgment of others?
Do you fear being alone?
Do you fear your future?
Everything that you fear has a subconscious pattern connected to it as proof for why you are avoiding that thing.
Look at your family patterns, what thinking patterns are playing out in your life that were passed onto you? Were your parents big worry warts and now you are too?
When you feel anxiety, ask yourself what were you just thinking about or triggered with?
Once you have your fears, then you have to find your proof. The proof are the memories that are connected to those fears. Keep in mind that sometimes there aren’t specific events but simply passed on family thinking patterns.
Once you identify your fears and what they are connected to, then its about building trust.
For example: If you fear failing, how can you let go of the fear of judgement/rejection from your parents if you fail and instead build trust within yourself that you will learn from your choices rather than beat yourself up about them?
If you fear judgement from others, how can you build trust in loving yourself as you are and setting boundaries with yourself for not allowing other people's insecurities become your own?
If you fear your symptoms, learn about your body, build trust in it. Rather than seeing all the things its doing wrong, see how all along its been doing everything right, keeping you alive.
Society tells us that its the event, person, or thing that is causing anxiety. But that is not true. Its your perception of the event, the meaning that you are giving it that is causing the anxiety. Your perceptions are based on what patterns are within your subconscious. If you want to stop anxiety from taking over your life, then those subconscious patterns need to be cleaned up. Once they are cleaned up, then its about building trust and safety within yourself.
I call anxiety the glue that holds symptoms together because your body can’t heal if its constantly thinking that a bear is around the corner. Your body can’t heal in a heightened state.
Being fearful and powerless takes away your inner power to create your life, and live your dreams. If you're in fear and feel powerless you will never take chances or make the necessary changes that are needed to facilitate change in your life.
People are full of anxiety now days. Kids are being put on anxiety meds at young ages and never given the tools to truly help them. Parents are full of anxiety and don’t have the tools to help themselves or their kids. The anxiety label is being over used and frankly keeping people be victims. When you are a victim to anxiety (which is fear), you let it control your life and health.
Now Its normal to have fear around new things. That type of anxiety even though its uncomfortable, is healthy and is there to help us grow. But when anxiety is taking over everything you do, your body and mind get taxed. They were not designed to be in survival mode all the time.
The truth is that you are powerful. You have the ability to create safety within you. As children we are born being fearless. Year by year that power that we naturally have is taken away from us by suppressing our needs and denying our true desires. We become a false version of self. Living life for external validation. And we wonder why anxiety is so prevalent.
Want to start working on your anxiety today?
Start with baby steps.
Set boundaries around where you allow fear in your life.
Get off illness groups that are often flooded with fear based thinking,
Don’t engage or set boundaries with that friend that always talks about all the bad things going on in the world
Stop googling your health issues looking for the next answer.
Stop talking about your symptoms to other people.
Start thinking about your future with a new set of thoughts. Only allow what if thoughts that are for the good. Instead of what if I never get well, say what if I do get well? Instead of what if I fail, say what if doing something is worth it rather than doing nothing at all. This kind of thinking will not feel natural to you at first. Your brain may even resist it. That is ok, that is what happens when you start to make changes in your thoughts. It wants to go back to a place of comfort.
Build your awareness muscle.
You can’t do any of the big subconscious work until you build your awareness muscle.
Build your awareness around what happens before you experience anxiety.
I’m sure you have been told by practitioners to “journal and keep track of the foods you eat and your symptoms, so you can try finding connections, right?. Well that only causes more problems and never gets to what is really causing your symptoms.
Instead, I want you to journal what triggers/thoughts are connected to your anxiety. When you feel anxiety, go back a few minutes before it and identify what you were thinking about. That’s what you write down. Do this for several days and you will see all your thought patterns that are connected to your anxiety.
You’ll be amazed at what you see on paper after this exercise. Fear of the future and powerlessness will be at the core of most of these thoughts.
So lets recap:
Anxiety is a biological survival reaction in your body that stems from feeling fearful of the future and powerless about a situation. That situation doesn’t even need to be real, it can be completely made up in your head in order for your body to react.
Its connected to “what if” kind of thinking. What if I fail, what if they don’t like me, what if I’m not good enough, etc.
The deeper connection to anxiety is all about lack of trust and safety within ourselves. This often is connected to survival patterns from childhood and passed on generational patterns.
Anxiety is the glue that prevents symptoms from healing because it constantly interrupts the healing process.
The ultimate goal to resolving anxiety is to build trust and safety within yourself. This happens by reparenting yourself by giving yourself what you needed as a child- safety. Safety in all ways which can include safety in failing, safety in speaking up, safety in being worthy of love, etc.
When we understand why our body is doing what its doing from a biological perspective, this whole healing thing gets much simpler doesn’t it? Its all about survival.
Don’t let anxiety get in the way of living your life and fulfilling your desires. Wait……actually I should say, don’t let your subconscious patterns get in the way of living your life and fulfilling your desires. These patterns were once programmed into your brain and body, and they can be unwired!
If you're ready to identify and resolve the unconscious patterns connected to your symptoms so you can finally heal for good, fill out an MBR application to see if you're a good fit for MBR.
You can also Download my free healing guide, “Why Can’t I Heal” where you will learn the 5 reasons that you haven't healed despite everything you've tried. These are the missing pieces to your healing and the key to resolving your symptoms for good.
Jenny Peterson is the founder and CEO of Mind Body Rewire (MBR). She helps those that are overwhelmed with trying to heal chronic symptoms simplify their healing by focusing on one area, the subconscious. Learn more about MBR here.