At one point in my life I believed in the following myths myself. I was able to move past them once I was exposed to the body and nervous system’s role in emotional healing. I also see these myths show up every day in my clients.
Here are the five myths of overcoming anxiety:
- If I don’t remember it, I can’t heal it.
Many anxious people struggle to figure out why they are feeling the way they are. They wonder what made them feel so wound up or hyper-alert. They ask themselves, is this just the way I am? Did something happen to make me this way? If I had no traumas that I know of, why do I feel like this?
Behind these thoughts is a mistaken belief that until one remembers and becomes conscious of a past event, one cannot heal from it. The truth is that your body and nervous system can heal without you ever having to know what caused it to be that way. By tapping into the body and its wisdom, we can allow it to unwind and reach greater balance through being present to what is without having to know why it is.
We hold our past experiences and emotions in our body and not just our mind. Since the body still remembers, when you are guided to reconnect to your body on a deep level, that pattern can begin to shift. The beauty of a somatic mind-body approach is that it can help the body unwind and discharge emotional tension and stress that has never become a conscious memory. As Freud said, “The mind may have forgotten, but thankfully the body has not.” Even if the mind has no recollection of an event, if we can tap into the wisdom of the body, an unparalleled opportunity for healing can open up.
- Time will heal.
The passage of time does play a role in emotional healing. However, especially when it comes to trauma and anxiety, time alone is not able to mend the damage. When you have unresolved anxiety or an unsolved past traumatic experience, your nervous system keeps cycling the patterns of fear and overwhelm so that time cannot makes things better. In fact, symptoms often worsen as time goes on.
The body tries to regulate the heightened arousal (anxiety) by putting a brake on the nervous system. This then leaves you feeling lethargic or depressed and makes it difficult to experience anything besides heightened arousal or depressed arousal. The beauty and profound depth of a mind-body approach is that it is able to stop this negative and self-defeating cycle. This process helps you get in touch with the tension or emotions in your body so that the negative cycle can be broken. Most important, it is all done is in a very safe and relaxed way.
- The more I understand myself, the better I will feel.
Some therapists spend years helping clients look back into the past, connect the dots between their life events and better understand themselves and how they developed. Clients are helped to become more aware of their subconscious beliefs about themselves, life, and others and how those beliefs affected them and the decisions they have made.
This process is often helpful. Frequently, such exploration needs to be part of your healing journey and can be truly necessary. But plain cognitive understanding of your development often is overestimated in its ability to be helpful. For true healing to take place, you need to learn how to move out of the intellectual realm and into an experiential one. For instance, if you were hurt and afraid in your past, then you need to be guided to refind feelings of safety and security on an experiential and body level. Furthermore, you need to be guided to safety and gently connect to that hurt and fear again.
Challenging and painful experiences often cause people to disconnect from their emotions and feelings. With this in mind, it is not enough just to talk about an event. It is necessary to refind the ability to fully feel and experience life. A mind-body approach, with its focus on helping clients connect to their emotions and body more deeply, is ideal for such a process.
- Touch has little to do with emotional healing.
Touch is not used by many therapists. Some even go so far as to refuse handshakes and hugs. There is great benefit, though, to using the power of therapeutic touch for emotional healing.
On a surface level, therapeutic touch can be used to help clients feel more secure, less overwhelmed and more grounded when discussing painful subjects. However, on a deeper level, therapeutic touch can accomplish much more.
First, therapeutic touch helps direct you to connect more deeply with your own self and body. When exclusively talking about your issues, you can easily remain disassociated from yourself and your body. Healing touch, on the other hand, helps you drop more deeply into yourself and your actual feelings and emotions. This is where the gold of therapeutic healing lies.
The practitioner also can use touch to connect to your emotional tension and stress. When the practitioner is truly being present and fully listening to the body, that enables it to let go and shift in ways not previously possible. Every time I use touch with my clients, I am astounded at its power and effectiveness. Through listening to the body, tension and stuck patterns begin unwinding and the client experiences release and lightness.
- Only large traumas affect your emotional health.
Obviously, large traumas affect your well-being, and investing effort to heal from them is important. However, people frequently underestimate the toll that daily hardships have on overall well-being.
If you are stuck in a job that is draining and stressful or a relationship that is not working out, those daily realities can be toxic to your well-being and emotional health. Before everything falls apart, it is important to learn deep and effective emotional self-care tools. Without intervention, these daily stressors can create physical issues in addition to a constant sense of anxiety and overwhelm. Healing on a mind-body level and learning mind-body self-care techniques is an amazing way to give yourself the chance to refind balance and a sense of well-being during the inevitable ups and downs of life.
Levine, P. (2010). In an unspoken voice: How the body releases trauma and restores goodness. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.