Anxiety: How does your Surrounding Mimic the Fearful Imagery in your head?

Himanshu Dani 4 Replies

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You will agree with me on this! Today, I want to discuss something that is the personal experience of every anxiety sufferer. It had been one of the core causes of my anxiety and panic attacks. I don’t even have the slightest doubt that you have not experienced it.

When panic strikes you, you resist it hard but still it strikes on its own. When anxiety or a bout of worry strikes you, you experience bad and horrible things happening to you virtually. In reality, no scary thing happens to you but the experience you get with the anxious feelings is almost as scary and as horrible and real life-threatening incident. 

She said she would meet an accident—

I was talking to 44-year-old Lisa suffering from anxiety and worry. This is exactly what she told me:

Whenever a bad or horrible thing happens around me I instantly think that I am stupid. That is because I feel I have been ignorant to the fact that the same thing could have happened to me anytime and I am living every hour of my life in risk. I didn’t know I was always in the risk.

When my niece suffered a car accident I was scared to death that I had almost a week of sleepless nights. It was not because she was injured. I was scared because such a horrible thing happened to her! And I thought that what if I were in her place? If she had a car accident, I might also have one. Didn’t she have life threatening injury but what is the guarantee that I will not have one? If chances of accidents are always there then traveling here and there and enjoying driving is stupidity!

While talking to her I told her that her niece’s condition or the actual accident is not the real reason for her panic. The real culprit here is her “prediction” or “logical expectation” that she will suffer a car accident. Not that she wants a car accident to happen, but actually she is finding evidence that supports what she feels. I said that if she tries to give up on her need to find evidence she would be less anxious because it is impossible to find the evidence or a true logic that explains it. I emphasized that because she is so assured of an accident her surrounding “mimics” what she has in her mind. She will freak out when overtakers pass too closely,  or she will be alarmed every time she passes by a high-speed truck or a lorry, and she will also freak out when she passes by reckless drivers. Simply stated- the fear manifests (the surrounding mimics) because she expects a mishap to occur

After I tried to explain her, she said she would like to try out driving with a different mindset where she will try not to expect an accident. I told her “no matter how terrible you feel just give up the need to find the evidence or explanation for an accident.” She agreed and when she drove on a countryside road without any pre-assumed chance of accident she felt less anxious. Later when she met me, I told her that because she didn’t struggle to find evidence, high-intensity fear of an accident could not manifest.

That’s true. . . .

You feel that you were ignorant to the fact that actually, the chances have always been there for horrible incidents happening with you. Only that they didn’t occur! Either luckily or coincidently.  This sounds so logical to you that you cannot put a lie to it. But there is a way out!

Negative fearful imageries are a symptom of anxiety and panic attacks. When you are edgy or panicky you have those imageries continuously flashing in your mind and you interpret “your sensations and surrounding happenings” through or based on those imageries. And the worst part is that you take it too seriously! 

It is same as watching a horror movie. When we panic at the sight of the ghost in the movie theatre we don’t panic unknowingly. No doubt it happens automatically but it is important to understand that we freak out because we expect that the ghost will be flashed on the screen anytime during the movie. 

The surrounding “mimics” what you have in your head!

Now, that may sound illogical but if you make careful observation during your anxiety and panic episodes you will land on the same conclusion.

What commonly happens is– When a panic-prone person or a panic attack sufferer faces a situation where he gets freaked out, he experiences the pain of the people he is watching going through that life threatening situation. In case of the above example, Lisa is going through a phase where she perceives that she can fall prey to a fatal car accident anytime and at the same time she tries to feel what her is niece felt when the accident occurred. That’s why when she travels in her car she finds it difficult to drive, she witnesses reckless drivers who increase the risk of accidents on roads, she thinks about the brakes of her car and doubts whether they are properly working or not, she gets alarmed by a fast overtaking car, she keeps more than required distance from trucks and tankers. Note that the fear she feels during driving does not predict or control mishaps. 

In short: “She finds validations for the so called- chances of having an accident” because she is 100% sure that she will have an accident.

Finding validations for negativity is an important aspect of anxiety

1. A person is sure that she has some physical problem or a fatal disease that can be dangerous!

2. She struggles to find evidence for the problems and conclude their presence!

3. Finally, she fails in finding evidence and assures himself/herself that her problem is very real and very difficult to find!

 

He blamed his surrounding for his misery:

What if I pass out in public?

What if nobody helps me if i faint on the road? 

Lightheadedness is horrible!

See another case. When I spoke to Seth- a panic disorder sufferer he told me that he is scared of passing out in public or on the road. This thought invades him every time he goes out of his house despite the fact that he never actually fainted in public or anywhere. He was not agoraphobic but he had the fear of crowds. He said- what if I pass out on the road and a car or a vehicle hit me? What if I pass out due to the loud noise of honking cars and trucks because continuous loud noise makes me lightheaded and shaky. What if I pass out and I need to be hospitalized immediately? What if I pass out and nobody helps me? 

I explained to him that no doubt these fears that you have are very real but another truth is that you have those feelings and beliefs in your head first. You are so sure about it that you unconsciously expect to see the signs of it happening! When you are sure of something your surrounding mimics that because our brains are wired to do so. This is an established fact. I said that when you think of passing out you feel you are being overwhelmed by your surrounding. You see the honking cars, you feel lightheaded and dizzy, and beyond that, you get assured of some mishap that you think might happen with you- fainting or an accident due to passing out! So, practically all of this is in the head first and then the surrounding “mimics” it to scare you more. 

After we discussed for a while Seth got a new insight and he started working on his thought process whenever he got outside his house. Gradually he understood that his thinking had changed after the initial panic attacks and he had become very obsessed of some problem with his health that he found it very logical to think that he can pass out on roads and public places. 

I told him that now whenever he goes out he should step out of the house with a different mindset. I said-“Think of the feelings as just a discomfort or agitation, nothing more. Now you know that you cannot pass out or collapse anywhere, let’s see how the surrounding responds.” He agreed and when he did it with the changed mindset he found that he felt less terrible! This was because he was not expecting a “pass out or a collapse.” He said he found the honking cars and the crowds less disturbing. He had got a small demonstration of how some courage and a logical shift can bring change in how the surrounding mimics your mental states. 

Make a decision today!

No doubt how scary, panicky and agitated you feel, don’t struggle by reminding yourself that everything is okay and there is no problem. Instead just give up the need to find the evidence or logical explanation for fearful predictions. That will reduce the intensity of the fear you feel during anxiety and panic attacks. 

Don’t leave without commenting below, because I want to know your thoughts on this!

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4 comments

    1. Himanshu Dani Post author

      Nouman you need to understand that anxiety cannot cause heart attack. No matter how intense the feeling is you cannot have a heart attack. If you have anxiety you can get professional help.

  1. Sk

    Hello Himanshu, this is really awesome. That’s specifically true but not everybody develops that insight.

    The surrounding mimics and that is right. Everything is in the head first and then it is reflected in the surrounding.

    But I think this shift takes time to master. Since many sufferers just try to resist it they end up having more anxiety. Very nice post. Regards..

  2. Arvind Waghela

    This often happens with every sufferer, at least in the beginning. They forget that negative experience is the symptom and they believe it is the disease. You explained very well! Thanks.

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