People often ask my why they always seem to find their fear trigger in every situation. No matter how hard they attempt to stay away from what might kick start them off on the road to anxiety, it always seems to appear. Coincidence? I think not.
Our brains are extremely complex and easily trained to respond quickly to new threats. They work hard for us even when we aren't concentrating. How many times do you consciously check the traffic when you cross the road. Yet how many times have you suddenly pulled back from the kerb realizing a car is approaching. Of course the reality is not that you saw it randomly, but that before you got the kerb your brain was already scanning for the danger of cars approaching.
Now imagine you were afraid of spiders, it is likely that regardless of how spider free your environment, your brain will be working hard scanning the environment for potential threats. If it finds none, it might become more interpretive and suggest that the spiders may be hidden in cracks in the walls.
Depending on how stressed you are, your threat sensitivity could spark off the compulsion to run or avoid in the least threatening circumstances. Often people suffer form internalised threat sensitivity, responding to odd or intrusive thoughts. As soon as these appear, which they often will if they are sought, an individual may become anxious and try to push the thought away or perform a mental ritual to neutralise the perceived threat.
All of these patterns points not to an externalised threat coming in, but a threat detection system that is set far to highly. I will shortly be writing more on reducing threat sensitivity, but in the mean time I invite you to look objectively at how threat sensitive you have become. Try and identify trigger thoughts or situations and then, in the moment of anxiety ask yourself a new question? Perhaps, "Is this a genuine threat or is my system sending me a red light far too soon?" You may well find just through asking a new question your anxiety reduces and you feel more peaceful.
However threatened you feel, remember Isaiah 52:12, "But you will not leave in haste or go in flight; for the Lord will go before you, the God o Israel will be your rear guard".
Will Van Der Hart, 09/09/2008