There's a lot of things that can lead to a dysfunctional relationship with fear...Regardless of where the fear comes from, the goal is to teach your primitive brain that it's safe.
Alan: You don't just want to go back to how things were before the pain came on because your primitive brain already felt shrouded in danger. We want to see if we could really help this primitive part of your brain learn to feel safe, once and for all.
Laura: Yeah, it doesn't help that I'm very hard on myself and very much a perfectionist. I'm always afraid of making a mistake at work or getting in trouble. Or in my artwork, it's not like loosey-goosey art, it's like exact botanical scientific illustration. I've been trying to be a little bit easier on myself lately.
Alan: Obviously when you're criticizing yourself, when you're pressuring yourself, when you're scaring yourself, your primitive brain is going to get more messages of danger, and it is the opposite of what you need. You're treating yourself the way these bullies treated you - "You need to do this perfect. You need to do this just so. What's wrong with you?" It seems like your go-to is either to criticize yourself or to pressure yourself or to scare yourself. And that's just going to keep this primitive part of your brain in a state of fight-or-flight.
So you said that you had a cat. We had a dog growing up and whenever there was fireworks on the 4th of July, our dog would freak out. Does that happen with cats too or is that just a dog thing?
Laura: Oh yeah. My cat (Kingsley) was raised by me and he's scared of everything. He's scared of his own shadow.
Alan: Sounds like Kingsley is a feline manifestation of your primitive brain. So I want you to see if you could imagine Kingsley during the Fourth of July fireworks. This poor cat is thinking, "What is happening? Fire is falling from the sky." This cat is so terrified. What does this cat need more than anything in the world?
Laura: He needs to be loved, and reassured that he's safe, and shown kindness and warmth.
Alan: Now what if this cat, in the midst of the aftermath of this crazy firework show and when he's terrified, if you instead of giving your cat love and support and care and comfort, you were to yell at the cat? Yell at Kingsley and start scaring him even more. What's going to happen to him?
Laura: It would get way worse.
Alan: This is what you need more than anything in the world. Forget the pain, forget the different manifestations, the switching of the symptoms. What your primitive brain needs more than anything else in the world is to be given that love and that comfort. Not messages of safety or understanding that your brain is misinterpreting signals and this logical stuff. I'm talking about actual authentic feelings of care and love and safety. Because this primitive part of your brain is like a tiny little kitten that does not know that the world is safe, and it is your responsibility to let this primitive part of your brain know you're safe.
[this is an excerpt only - for the full episode, listen to the podcast above]
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